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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to No. 1 after Talladega

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The chaos of Talladega has come and gone and with the dust settling the NBC Sports Power Rankings have a familiar face at the No. 1 spot.

Denny Hamlin is back at the top of the mountain after his third-place finish in a battered No. 11 Toyota.

Hamlin returns to the top spot after previously having a five-week reign there, which ended in September.

This week’s rankings have two different ties, including a three-way tie for seventh.

Here are the power rankings ahead of this weekend’s playoff elimination race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC).

1. Denny Hamlin (37 points): Third-place finish gives him three top fives in the last four races. He’s surging just like he did on the last lap before Ryan Blaney broke his momentum.

2. Ryan Blaney, (34 points): Followed in Kyle Larson‘s wake as a playoff driver earning his first win of the season in the playoffs. Has three tops 10s in the playoffs

3. Chase Elliott (26 points): Like Hamlin, bounced back from a wreck to finish in the top 10, but he’s still outside a transfer spot to the next round. Likely needs to win at Kansas to stay alive in these playoffs. He won there last fall.

(tie) 4. Joey Lognao (21 points): The 18 stage points he scored at Talladega created the gap he has over those outside a playoff spot. Kudos to his team for the repairs so he could finish the race.

(tie) 4. Kyle Larson (21 points): Despite a 39th-place finish at Talladega he has eight top 10s in the last 11 races and he’s already set for the next round.

6. Kevin Harvick (20 points): Even with a 17th-place finish at Talladega, he has 10 top 10s in the last 12 races. Don’t overlook him.

(tie) 7. Martin Truex Jr. (12 points): Steak of four straight top 10s ended at Talladega. Kansas provides a chance to start a new streak for this team, which has won two of the last four races on 1.5-mile tracks.

(tie) 7. Ryan Newman (12 points): Still showing some fight despite being eliminated from playoffs. Has three top fives (none in 2018) and 12 top 10s (nine in 2018).

(tie) 7. Kyle Busch (12 points): Has had a less than stellar playoff run so far, but a strong regular season has him in position to advance to the next round.

10. Brad Keselowski (9 points): His 25th-place finish was the first time in the last five races he’s placed worse than 11th.

Others receiving votes: Aric Almirola (5 points), William Byron (4 points), Alex Bowman (3 points), Michael McDowell (3 points) and Clint Bowyer (1 point)

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Where Cup playoff drivers stand heading to Kansas

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The tumult of Talladega is behind and that final lap changed things significantly.

Had Ryan Newman won the phone finish instead of Ryan Blaney, then Blaney would not have secured a spot in the next round and it would have changed the cutline, putting Alex Bowman in the final transfer spot.

Instead, Blaney won, secured a spot in the next round and moved the cutline up, creating a gap between Joey Logano, who holds the final spot, and those behind.

Now, the focus turns to Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

 

DRIVERS WHO CAN ENJOY THE WEEKEND

Ryan Blaney (Talladega) and Kyle Larson (Dover) don’t have to worry about anything this weekend because their wins in this round have put them into the Round of 8. Enjoy it now before the next round begins the following week and the pressure intensifies.

 

FEW WORRIES INDEED

Denny Hamlin is 56 points ahead of Alex Bowman, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the next round. It would take quite a series of circumstances for Hamlin not to advance to the next round.

 

SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD

Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch, also are in a good spot to advance to the Round of 8. Truex is 48 points ahead of Bowman and Busch is 41 points ahead of Bowman.

 

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

While Kevin Harvick didn’t have a memorable Talladega — few playoff drivers did — his 17th-place finish left him 36 points ahead of Bowman. Harvick also should be in good shape to advance provided nothing catastrophic happens to his car at Kansas.

 

JUST AVOID TROUBLE

Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano hold the final two transfer spots entering this weekend. Keselowski is 20 points ahead of Bowman. Logano is 18 points ahead of Bowman. Keselowski won at Kansas in May.

“Brad and I are l looking OK,” Logano told NBC Sports after the race. “It’s better than being 18 behind. We’ve just got to be smart (at Kansas) … and no crashing.”

 

NO HOLDING BACK

Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer and William Byron are the four drivers outside a transfer spot heading to Kansas.

Bowman trails Logano, who holds the final transfer spot by 18 points. Elliott trails Logano by 22 points. Bowyer is 24 points behind Logano. Byron trails Logano by 27 points.

All can get in via points but realistically, it’s going to take a win.

“I think we need to go and try to win,” Elliott said after Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

POINTS STANDINGS

3114 — Denny Hamlin

3106 — Martin Truex Jr.

3099 — Kyle Busch

3094 — Kevin Harvick

3078 — Brad Keselowski

3076 — Joey Logano

3069 — Kyle Larson (Dover win moves him to next round)

*3058 — Alex Bowman

3056 — Ryan Blaney (Talladega win moves him to next round)

*3054 — Chase Elliott

*3052 — Clint Bowyer

*3049 — William Byron

* Outside a transfer spot to the Round of 8

Preliminary entry lists for Kansas Speedway’s playoff weekend

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The NASCAR playoffs continue this weekend with the second visit of the year to Kansas Speedway.

The Cup Series holds its second elimination race as the playoff field will be cut to eight drivers.

After a week off, the Xfinity Series will open its second playoff round.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races.

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

There are 40 cars entered.

Parker Kligerman is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

No driver is listed for Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Chase Elliott won this race last year over Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski won the May race over Alex Bowman and Erik Jones.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 38 entries.

Ryan Truex is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Ross Chastain is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet. It’ll be his fifth start with the team this season.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota for the seventh time this season.

Bobby Earnhardt, the oldest son of Kerry Earnhardt, is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Toyota. It will be his fifth career start and first since the Texas playoff race last year.

John Hunter Nemechek won this race last year over Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Joey Logano’s crew chief: ‘Really fortunate’ Talladega is next race

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Anyone expecting crew chief Todd Gordon and Joey Logano‘s No. 22 team to throw in the towel on their playoff hopes after Sunday’s pre-race mechanical issue that led to 34th-place finish is in for a shock.

Gordon admitted Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” his team sees the second race of the Round of 12 playoff round at Talladega Superspeedway through what others would consider “backwards logic.”

“Really, really fortunate we got Talladega coming up,” said Gordon, who has three wins at the superspeedway with Logano since 2015.

“With Roush Yates horsepower and the cars we build here at Team Penske and Joey and (spotter) TJ (Majors) do a phenomenal job at that place,” Gordon said. “If you look at the speedways this year, we’ve been in contention to win in two of three of them and we were running up front at Daytona (in July) when we got damaged and then the rain delay. I feel good about going speedway racing and executing a great race.”

Logano heads to Talladega tied with William Byron in points for the last transfer spot but Byron owns the tiebreaker (best finish in this round). Logano’s car experienced a gear issue during the warmup laps, which forced him to the garage for the first 23 laps of the race.

Gordon said even if Dover hadn’t been an impound weekend he’s not sure the gear issue could’ve been caught.

“We haven’t delved through everything that happened here,” Gordon. “I don’t know that we get to the point that even on a non-impound event, we’ve only got three-and-half-hours to get our cars ready from practice to presenting them in the (inspection) line. You do what you can and we do a great job, the gear shop does a great job here. Obviously, this is an outlier for our organization to have an issue. I don’t know if we were parked on pit road a little funky, backed up the hill. It shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t know what happened. Something broke.”

Gordon explained to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the team’s approach for the rest of the event after Logano returned to the race. He finished 25 laps down, with Garrett Smithley the next car in front of him by two laps.

“You never know in those situations,” Gordon said. “Every position’s a point and every point matters. … We just put ourselves into making every lap we could, because at the end of the day as we kept going it almost became the carrot to dangle there were a couple of those cars that were off the pace and losing laps and we just kept trying to catch them. We needed about 50 more laps, I think we could’ve passed another car.”

Chasing that carrot would lead Logano to receive criticism from Denny Hamlin for the way he raced him while Hamlin led late in Stage 2.

Gordon pointed to Logano’s narrow points position heading to Talladega as a defense for Logano.

“It’s no different than chasing for a stage win because it’s a bonus point,” Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Any point you can gather in this round is going to make a big difference. If you look at the points right now, if you just said the round ended yesterday, we’d be out by one point. Because we’re tied with William Byron and they out finished us. That’s what the tiebreaker goes to, the best finish within that round.”

With the chaos of Talladega looming, Gordon doesn’t expect to change his team’s approach to the superspeedway.

“The best way that I know to avoid being caught up in the wreck at Talladega is be in front of it,” Gordon said. “If you start playing your game differently that’s when you make mistakes, because it’s not doing the things you’re used to doing. I think we’ll go to Talladega and race the way we’ve raced (all) along. Race hard, race smart and get ourselves into position.”

Penalty report from Kansas Speedway

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NASCAR has issued fines to two Cup Series crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts during the Kansas Speedway race weekend.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief for race winner Brad Keselowski, and Peter Sospenzo, crew chief on Quin Houff‘s No. 77 car, were each fined $10,000 for having one unsecured lug nut each.

There were no other penalties.