NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch back to No. 1, Kurt Busch to No. 3

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When it comes to this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, all we can say is, “Oh brother” … as in siblings Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Younger brother Kyle once again regained the top spot in this week’s rankings, knocking Joey Logano from the No. 1 perch after Logano held it the last two weeks.

And after not being ranked in the top 10 last week, older bro Kurt rockets up the rankings to No. 3 by virtue of his come-from-behind win last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Also making a big move is Erik Jones, who goes from unranked last week to No. 4 this week. By contrast, six drivers from last week’s rankings dropped out of this week’s tabulations.

Here’s how this week’s rankings shape up:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Tenacious performance at Kentucky puts him back atop the rankings. Last week: 2nd.

2. Joey Logano (36 points): Car wasn’t wide enough to block all those behind him on the final restart. In his last three races on a 1.5-mile speedway, he’s finished seventh (Kentucky), third (Chicagoland) and second (Charlotte). Last week: 1st.

3. Kurt Busch (32 points): What a difference a win makes. But Busch’s ranking isn’t a total surprise. He’s been knocking at the door all season. Had he not pitted at Daytona two weeks ago, he may be riding a two-race win streak now. Last week: Unranked.

4. Erik Jones (23 points): Returns to playoff territory and seems to have momentum for a finishing kick. Third-place finish was his fourth top 10 in the last five races on a 1.5-mile speedway. That includes a third at Kansas and Kentucky and a fourth at Texas. Last week: Unranked.

5. Denny Hamlin (22 points): His pit crew has been called for an uncontrolled tire violation five times this year, tying the series high. That’s unacceptable. Despite the penalty at Kentucky, Hamlin finished fifth. Last week: 7th.

6. Kyle Larson (20 points): Top 10s in three of last four races – including a second (Chicagoland) and fourth (Kentucky) – have solidified his standing for the playoffs. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Newman (16 points): Is in full grind-it-out mode for solid finishes exactly when he needs them. Finished ninth at Kentucky after starting at the rear because his car failed inspection. While he fell out of a playoff spot, he’s only two points away after scoring his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races. Last week: 8th.

8. Cole Custer (9 points): Kentucky victory in the Xfinity Series was his series-high fifth win of the year. Last week: Unranked.

9. Clint Bowyer (7 points): Ends four-race tailspin but still needs to work on amassing stage points. Last week: Unranked.

10. Chris Buescher (5 points): If all the tracks on the circuit were 1.5-milers, he’d likely be ranked higher. All four of his top 10s this year have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been sixth at Charlotte, ninth  at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas and Kentucky. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Christopher Bell (4 points), Martin Truex Jr. (4 points), Tyler Ankrum (3 points).

Cole Custer cruises to Xfinity victory at Kentucky

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SPARTA, Ky. – Cole Custer scored his series-high fifth Xfinity victory of the season Friday night, winning at Kentucky Speedway.

The series’ three dominant drivers this season all finished in the top three. Christopher Bell, who won the first two stages, finished second. Tyler Reddick was third.

Michael Annett and Chase Briscoe completed the top five. Only the top five cars finished on the lead lap. Custer led 88 of the 200 laps.

MORE: Click here for race results

MORE: Click here for driver points

This is Custer’s second consecutive victory on a 1.5-mile track. He won at Chicagoland Speedway two weeks ago. This also is Custer’s third victory in the last six races.

“This one just goes to my team,” Custer said. “The car was unbelievable at the end. They knew exactly what to do with it when the track changed and I was just lucky to drive it there at the end.”

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Christopher Bell

Who had a bad race: Austin Cindric started on the pole and was running in the top five when he got loose underneath Justin Haley‘s car and backed into the wall in Turn 3 on Lap 55. Cindric went on to finish 14th. … Brandon Jones ran in the top five much of the race until an engine issue on Lap 106 ended his race. Jones finished 30th.

Who had a good race: The Big 3 (Cole Custer, Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick) went 1-2-3. Michael Annett’s fourth-place finish was his third top-five in the last five races. … Ryan Truex finished eighth in just his second start of the season. … Ryan Sieg‘s ninth-place run was his first top 10 in the last six races.

Notable: All five of Cole Custer’s wins this season have come in the last 13 races. He had two wins in his first 75 series starts.

Next: July 20 at New Hampshire at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Austin Cindric wins pole for Xfinity race at Kentucky

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SPARTA, Ky. – Austin Cindric, whose crew chief was ejected by NASCAR on Thursday for a body modification to the team’s car, will start on the pole for Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

“This is an awesome start,” Cindric told NBCSN. “Starting from the right spot. Hopefully finish in the right spot.”

Cindric won his first pole of the season with a lap of 180.030 mph. Christopher Bell, who won this race last year, starts second after a lap of 179.623 mph.

They are followed by JR Motorsports teammates Noah Gragson (179.551 mph) and Justin Allgaier (179.342). Cole Custer starts fifth after a lap of 179.277 mph.

Click here for qualifying results

Also, the car chief for Custer’s team was ejected after Custer’s car failed inspection three times before qualifying.

NBCSN’s coverage of the Xfinity Series race begins at 7 p.m. ET. The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 84 degrees and no chance of rain.

 

Tonight’s Xfinity race at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images
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Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer have combined to win the last nine Xfinity Series races heading into tonight’s event at Daytona International Speedway. Each has won three races during this stretch.

Will their dominance continue? Or will there be a new winner? Michael Annett scored his first series win in February at Daytona. Can he sweep Daytona?

Here’s all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: David Morgan, vice president of Circle K, will give the command to start engines at 7:23 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 1 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 3:25 p.m. Qualifying is at 3:45 p.m. Driver introductions are at 6:45 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:16 p.m. by Sonny Gallman, pastor, Central Baptist Church, Daytona Beach. Kelly Parsons Kwiatek will perform the National Anthem at 7:17 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 100 laps (250 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 30. Stage 2 ends on Lap 60.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with NASCAR America. Countdown to Green airs at 7 p.m. The Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 7 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 84 degrees and a 17% chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won this race a year ago, finishing ahead of Elliott Sadler and Christopher Bell. Justin Haley was the first to cross the finish line but was penalized for passing below the double yellow lines. Michael Annett won in February, finishing ahead of Justin Allgaier and Brandon Jones

STARTING LINEUP: Defending series champion Tyler Reddick will start on the pole. Click here for the starting lineup.

New No. 1 emerges in NBC Sports Power Rankings

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For the second consecutive week, the NBC Sports Power Rankings saw significant upheaval.

Joey Logano moves to No. 1 after he was fourth last week. He replaces Martin Truex Jr., who had been unanimously selected No. 1 last week. Truex falls to second.

Kyle Busch – who has dominated the standings much of the season – dropped to fourth. On the flip side, Chicagoland winner Alex Bowman made the biggest jump, vaulting into the No. 3 spot after being unranked after Sonoma.

Here’s how the NBC Sports NASCAR writers voted this week:

1. Joey Logano (37 points): The points lead is no mirage: He has been the most consistently excellent performer. Has finished seventh or better in eight of the last 10 races, including his Michigan win and a third at Chicago. Last week: 4th.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (32 points): Workmanlike day led to a ninth-place finish. Team struggled all weekend and still got a top 10. Last week: 1st.

3. Alex Bowman (29 points): Didn’t back down against Kyle Larson and dropped the hammer to his first win in convincing fashion. Now he needs another win to show he’s a real title contender. Last week: Unranked.

4. Kyle Busch (19 points): Suffered second-worst finish (22nd) of season. Still, has had an outstanding year with four wins and 15 top 10s. Last week: 2nd.

5. Ryan Blaney (18 points): Quietly putting together a nice run. His sixth-place finish was his third consecutive top 10, tying him with Martin Truex Jr. for the longest active streak. Last week: 6th.

(tie) 6. Brad Keselowski (14 points): Even when he doesn’t have the best car, he’s able to have a decent finish. Fifth place at Chicagoland marks his fourth top 10 in the last six races. Last week: Not ranked.

(tie) 6. Kyle Larson (14 points): Would be good for him – and fans – if he could run worn-out tracks more often. So who wins first this year, Larson, Harvick or Johnson? Last week: Not ranked.

8. Denny Hamlin (13 points): We agree, Denny: An unnecessary rule ruined the strongest Toyota’s race Sunday. Last week: 3rd.

(tie) 9. Kevin Harvick (9 points): Eventually the floodgates will open if he keeps leading this many laps. Last week: 5th.

(tie) 9. Jimmie Johnson (9 points): Earned a fourth-place finish for his best result of the year. Now, can he build upon that with an even better showing Saturday night at Daytona? Could that 75-race winless streak soon be history? Last week: Not ranked.

Others receiving votes: Cole Custer (8 points), William Byron (7 points), Erik Jones (6 points), Chase Elliott (4 points), Austin Dillon (1 point).