Denny Hamlin will start from the Cup pole position at Talladega

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Denny Hamlin will lead the field to green in a NASCAR Cup Series race for the second time this season, starting first Sunday in the starting lineup for the playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway

Kurt Busch, who won the Round of 12 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, will start second. Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman will form the second row.

Here are the starting positions for the rest of the 12 playoff drivers (in order): Kevin Harvick (fifth), Kyle Busch (sixth), Brad Keselowski (seventh), Joey Logano (eighth), Clint Bowyer (ninth), Chase Elliott (10th), Aric Almirola (11th) and Austin Dillon (12th),

STARTING LINEUP: Where everyone will start in the Yellawood 500

Hamlin, who will be starting first in a Cup race for the first time since June 14 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, was awarded the Busch Pole Award using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, the driver’s finish, team owner’s finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led a race-high 121 laps and finished third Sunday at Las Vegas.

Since the end of the regular season, playoff cars now fill the top starting positions, according to how many remain eligible for the championship. In the Round of 12, the top 12 starting positions will be playoff cars; in the Round of 8, the top eight starting positions will be playoff cars, etc.

NASCAR previously had used a random draw to set most of its lineups since returning in May during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has eliminated practice and qualifying on nearly all race weekends.

Click here for the Talladega Cup starting lineup for Sunday.

NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega 

Race time: 2 p.m. ET, Sunday

Track: Talladega Superspeedway; Talladega, Alabama (2.66-mile speedway)

Length: 188 laps (500 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 60. Stage 2 ends Lap 120.

TV coverage: NBC

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Truck race: Saturday at Talladega (94 laps, 250.04 miles), 1 p.m. ET on FS1

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Talladega (113 laps, 300.58 miles), 4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Chicagoland, Kentucky not on 2021 Cup schedule

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Chicagoland Speedway and Kentucky Speedway will not be on the 2021 Cup schedule, both tracks announced Tuesday.

Chicagoland Speedway posted a statement on its website Tuesday announcing it will not host any NASCAR races next year.

“The move away from NASCAR racing at Chicagoland Speedway is one of many changes reflected in the 2021 schedule, and by no means a reflection of the support our fans have demonstrated,” stated a note from Scott Paddock, track president, on the speedway’s website. “Rather, it is a desire and an important step for the industry to incorporate new markets and new courses into the schedule, and expand the variety of competition.  … As far as NASCAR racing at the Chicagoland Speedway, it’s difficult at this time to speculate on what 2022 might bring. We will continue to work with NASCAR on potential future opportunities beyond 2021 and will keep you updated. “

MORE: Recalling 19 seasons of NASCAR at Chicagoland Speedway 

Chicagoland Speedway hosted Cup races from 2001-19. It was on this year’s schedule but its date was moved because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Alex Bowman won the 2019 race for his first career Cup victory. Tony Stewart was the track’s all-time winner in Cup with three victories.

Mark Simendinger, general manager of Kentucky Speedway, stated “Of course, we’re disappointed the Bluegrass State is not on NASCAR’s schedule for 2021, as the past two decades have been filled with memorable moments that will last a lifetime. “This has been a tough year for so many, but there are still wild adventures ahead.

“We will evolve into a multi-use rental complex and also seek additional entrepreneurial prospects. Kentucky Speedway is open for business, and we have the potential to host special events, commercial television production, music festivals, other racing series and stand-alone RV rallies and camping events. Change is sometimes hard, but I’m looking forward to the many opportunities that lie ahead for our facility.”

Kentucky Speedway hosted Cup races from 2011-20. Rookie Cole Custer won the July race, going from sixth to first on the final restart. Brad Keselowski was the track’s all-time winner in Cup with three victories.

Kentucky is where Joey Logano won his first NASCAR national series race. It came in his third Xfinity Series start on June 14, 2008. Logano was 18. The track also was the site of one of the bigger upsets in recent NASCAR history. David Gilliland won a 2006 Xfinity race there with a part-time team. That victory helped Gilliland land a Cup ride with Yates Racing.

The 2021 Cup schedule is set to be announced Wednesday afternoon.

 

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings

 

 

Las Vegas Winners and losers

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WINNERS

Kurt Busch Winless in 21 previous attempts at Las Vegas, Busch scored an emotional win at his hometown track. Busch took advantage of a strategy call by crew chief Matt McCall and a timely debris caution to take the point and led the final 26 laps. He earned his first win of the season. “This is 20 years of agony and defeat and now today with triumph,” Busch said after the race.

Matt DiBenedettoStill seeks his first career Cup win and the 100th series victory for Wood Brothers Racing, but DiBenedetto finished second in both Las Vegas races this season.

Alex BowmanHe finished fifth but scored more points (43) than any driver except Denny Hamlin, who had 53 points. Bowman holds the final transfer spot to the next round.

Chris Buescher — His ninth-place finish is his second consecutive top 10 and third top 10 in the last five races.

Chase Briscoe Had a dominant car and scored the win in the playoff opener for the Xfinity Series at Las Vegas.

LOSERS

Austin DillonHis race was going well — he scored 10 stage points — until overheating problems sent him to pit road. He lost nine laps as his crew made repairs and went on to finish 32nd. That drops him to last among the playoff drivers with two races left in this round.

Chase ElliottWas 10th on the overtime restart but got shuffled back and finished 22nd.