Austin Hill wins Friday night Truck race at Kansas

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Points leader Austin Hill secured a playoff spot by winning Friday night’s NASCAR Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway for his first victory of the season.

“It’s just a big relief to be locked into the playoffs, just to have that momentum going forward,” Hill said after his fifth career series victory.

Hill led 65 of the race’s 134 laps. Brett Moffitt finished second and was followed by Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton and rookie Derek Kraus. With the top-five finish, Kraus moved into what would be the last playoff spot. He leads Tyler Ankrum for that spot by four points after Ankrum fell out of a playoff spot with his 33rd-place finish.

The top 15 finishers will be inverted for the start of Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brett Moffitt

STAGE 2 WINNER: Austin Hill

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Tyler Ankrum had to go to the garage early because of brake problems after he had a right rear tire go down. He returned to the race 22 laps down. Ankrum finished 33rd. … Ross Chastain, who won last year’s Truck race at Kansas, had to pit twice for flat tires under green. Chastain finished 34th.

NEXT: The series races the second half of the weekend doubleheader at Kansas at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Look who is back in NASCAR for a race…

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Travis Pastrana, the founder of the Nitro Circus franchise, will make his return to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series on Saturday at Kansas Speedway. It will mark his first Truck start since 2017.

Pastrana is scheduled to drive the No. 40 Niece Motorsports truck Saturday. Ross Chastain will drive the truck in Friday night’s race at Kansas. Chastain will compete in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Kansas and skip the Truck race earlier that day.

MORE: Kansas Speedway weekend schedule 

The action sports star ran the full Xfinity season in 2013 for Roush Fenway Racing. Pasrana ran 42 races in that series and three Truck races in his career.

Pastrana announced his return on Instagram and the team confirmed the change.

 

NASCAR stock market: Ups and downs heading to Kansas

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On a recent edition of the “Positive Regression” podcast, racing analytics expert David Smith and broadcaster Alan Cavanna asked what was the third-best team in Cup behind those of Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin.

It was an interesting discussion with no clear-cut answer as they examined the pros and cons of Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

It showed how up-and-down this season has been with teams struggling to find consistency in a time where there is no practice. You might see one driver rival Hamlin and Harvick for a couple of weeks and then be replaced by someone else before they fade back to the field.

MORE: NASCAR to speak to driver for “very poor decision” at Texas

MORE: Cup Series playoff grid after Texas

Cup teams again will have no practice before they race Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Kansas Speedway. NASCAR is not scheduled to have any practice for Cup teams for the next month.

Logano won two of the season’s first four races but then struggled after the series returned in May. His third-place finish Sunday at Texas was his best result since winning at Phoenix in March — the last Cup race before the season was suspended for 10 weeks by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s harder to recover,” Logano said about when teams fall behind the top teams. “When I said lost puppy, that’s what we are, that’s what we were. You don’t have a chance to fix anything, right? You get done with the race, this, this, and this we need to make better on the racecar at least. We’ll try this, this and this next week, but it’s a different track. We’ll go and race, have no practice. Who knows if we’re going to make it better or worse, right? How do you find direction out of that?

“That’s where practice was so important. You could go out there, make a run, make one change, go back out and say, ‘Was that better or worse? Now we’re done with the race, we have things we want to fix. Let’s go to a track that’s nowhere near the same as we just went to and make some changes to our car and tell me if it’s better or not.

“You can’t. You can’t. You only can tell just by overall finish compared to the field. That’s kind of what we worked on. Seems like there was some progress made.”

Lack of practice is something Kyle Busch has mentioned as to why he’s winless in 18 Cup races this year. He also has yet to win a stage this season and has no playoff points. Last year at this time, he had a series-high 25 playoff points. At this time in 2018, he had a series-high 30 playoff points.

Level of respect declining in Xfinity?

It has been a question asked throughout this season as more incidents take place on the track. The Xfinity Series is back on track at 5 p.m. ET Saturday at Kansas Speedway on NBCSN.

Last weekend at Texas saw Noah Gragson, who has already had issues with Myatt Snider, Harrison Burton and teammate Justin Allgaier this season, run up on the back of Riley Herbst, making contact and causing Herbst to crash before the race was six laps old. Herbst said afterward that he “got absolutely drove through” by Gragson.

“I don’t get it,” NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte said on the broadcast after the incident. “I just don’t get it. Five laps into the race why you have to be that aggressive on a slick race track with Riley in front of him. I know Noah didn’t drive in there with the intention of wrecking (Herbst) … but definitely pushing the issue early.”

Said NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr., who also is Gragson’s car owner, on the broadcast: “To me, it looks like Noah got in the back of (Herbst) and didn’t give him a break. Just ran into the back of him. … I’ve got to put that on Noah. This early in the race Noah had a chance to cut that 18 a break.”

Kyle Busch says he’s seen a big change in the Xfinity Series in how drivers race each other.

“Nobody races with respect anymore,” Busch said after last weekend’s race at Texas. “They all just run as hard as you can every lap and when you’re running on ovals and stuff like that, you have to give room and you have to be courteous sometimes.

“Yeah, there’s going to be times you have to run hard, but other times where – like I was getting blocked down the back straightaway today by (Anthony Alfredo) on the second restart or something like that. What are we doing? It’s a long way from the end of the race and if you want a crashed car right now, I’ll give you one and you won’t even make it to the end of the race. I guess that’s what everybody else is kind of thinking too.”

Ross Chastain, who has built a reputation as someone who is hard to pass, says losing any positions can be too difficult to overcome in the shorter races.

“Track position is key in any series now,” Chastain said. “I definitely think there are some things that I’ve had some run-ins with and we agree to disagree on about everything. That’s just part of it.”

Busch said he understands that “you try to make it as hard on your competition as you can possibly can” but there are times to be smart about it.

“I learned from the likes of Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart and Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon and in that era,” Busch said. “Let’s call in the late 90s, early 2000s that it seemed like respect was a big deal on the racetrack and then you just started to get more and more call them kids that come on here and they beat and bang on short tracks in late models and K&N and ARCA and stuff like that and they just keep bringing it up into these levels.

“I don’t think they have a whole (lot of) respect for the equipment that they’re in sometimes because many of them have probably never worked on them before. They just pick up another ride and go on to the next year and run that stuff and then go on and move on.

“It’s just about trying to figure it out and pick and choose your battles. That’s typically what it boils down to. I certainly made poor decisions in the past and kind of still do sometimes today. You have to be smart as much as you can.”

Starting lineup draw Wednesday

NASCAR will set the starting lineup for the Cup race with a random draw on Wednesday.

Since replacing Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer in the top 12 in owner points — and eligible for starting positions 1-12 in the random draw — Almirola has started in the top five all four times the random draw was used. Almirola started on the pole last weekend at Texas.

Bowyer became eligible for starting positions 13-24 since he fell into that group in owner points. In the four races the random draw has been used, Bowyer has started 18th, 22nd, 15th and 17th.

The way that the draw is for the top 12 it basically just protects those guys and makes it virtually impossible for anybody outside of that to capitalize on that first stage, which puts them in a really good position points wise for the rest of the race,” Bowyer said. “Furthermore, it puts you in a situation to have to try to gamble either at the tail end of that first stage or throughout that second stage to try to capitalize off some points, whether it be that second stage or set yourself up for the end of the race.

“Anytime you go to gamble we all know that it can either win or lose big. Nine times out of 10 the house wins from what I can see. So, I am kind of frustrated in a sense that I feel like over the last month and a half we have had a lot better runs than our stats show.”

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Xfinity Series playoff grid after Texas

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For the third straight race the Xfinity Series saw Austin Cindric claim a victory, this time after Kyle Busch’s car failed post-race inspection Saturday in Texas.

Cindric’s win meant no other driver locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff grid with eight races left in the regular season.

Going into Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN), the last driver among the top 12 on the playoff grid is Brandon Brown.

The independent driver is 31 points above the cutline after his 10th-place finish in Texas. That’s an increase of 17 points from last week after the Kentucky doubleheader.

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Jeremy Clements (-31 points from cutline), Myatt Snider (-38), Jesse Little (-51) and Alex Labbe (-63 points).

Entry lists for Kansas Speedway

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A packed month of NASCAR racing continues this week with all three national series visiting Kansas Speedway.

The Cup Series will have its fourth event in in less than two weeks when it races Thursday night (7:30 pm ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app).

The Truck Series hold races Friday and Saturday and the Xfinity Series joins them at the 1.5-mile track on Saturday.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race:

Cup – Super Start Batteries 400 (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN)

Forty cars are entered.

Reed Sorenson is entered in Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 Chevrolet.

JJ Yeley is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 27 Ford.

Josh Bilicki is entered in Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet.

Garrett Smithley is entered in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet.

Last year’s races at Kansas were won by Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 250 (5 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-seven cars are entered.

Kaz Grala is entered in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet for his first start of the year.

Carson Ware is entered in SS Green Light Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet.

Last year’s Xfinity race at Kansas was won by Brandon Jones over Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Truck Series (7 p.m. ET Friday on FS1 and 1 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in both races. The are two differences in drivers for the doubleheader. For Hill Motorsports’ No. 56 Chevrolet, Timmy Hill is entered in Friday’s race and Tyler Hill is entered in Saturday’s race.

Kevin Donahue is listed for Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 33 Toyota for Friday and Ryan Huff is entered in it for Saturday.

Ross Chastain won last year’s Kansas race over Ben Rhodes and Todd Gilliland.

Click here for race No. 1’s entry list.

Click here for race No. 2’s entry list.