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After staggered starts, Playoffs in NASCAR’s top three touring series are now on the same page. There are eight drivers left in the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series—all hoping to earn the right to race for a title in the November season finales at Phoenix Raceway.
To get there, drivers will have to survive the three-race Round of 8, which starts this weekend at Kansas Speedway before heading to Texas and Martinsville. After the Martinsville race, the Playoff field in each series will be trimmed from eight drivers to four for the season-ending championship shootout at Phoenix.
After last Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval, Denny Hamlin won’t have to worry about Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who was eliminated from the title chase on points. Hamlin’s primary concern in the Round of 8 is 2014 champion Kevin Harvick, who enters the round as the series leader with 67 Playoff points.
But second-place Hamlin isn’t far behind with 54 Playoff points, after winning at Talladega and outscoring Harvick in the Round of 12. In addition, the race tracks in the Round of 8 are favorable to Hamlin, starting with Kansas, where the driver of the No. 11 Toyota led a race-high 57 laps and won the 2020 regular-season event in July, his second straight victory at the track.
Hamlin said on Thursday in a video conference with reporters:
Kansas has not always been my strongest suit, I was terrified of Kansas probably a few years ago, but I showed up to the Playoff race there last year, and my car was just absolutely incredible how well it was handling, how good it was. I remember I started mid-pack, maybe in the 20s, and just drove to the front and dominated the day. From that point on, once I create that good database for (crew chief) Chris (Gabehart) to work off of, it seems like, when we go back to the track, he’s made the proper adjustments for weather and conditions and things like that, car changes. He’s dialed in. Hopefully, I have another really good-handling car like I’ve had in the last few races.
|Hollywood Casino 400 Information
|Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Cup Series race
|Sunday, Oct. 18, 2:30 p.m. EST
|How to Watch
Most of the talk in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year has revolved around Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric—and justifiably so. The only two full-time Ford drivers in NASCAR’s Triple-A division have combined to win 13 of the 29 races so far, with Briscoe taking the checkered flag eight times to Cindric’s five.
All but overlooked is Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver Brandon Jones, despite his three victories this season. Jones is sixth in the standings among the eight drivers remaining in the Playoff, but, like Denny Hamlin in the Cup Series, he is going for three straight wins at Kansas, where he has picked up two of his four career victories.
“We survived the ROVAL with a top-10 finish and locked ourselves into the Round of 8,” said Jones, who is listed at +1000 at DraftKings Sportsbook. “Now we get to head to one of my strongest tracks, Kansas Speedway. We have the last two wins there and are focused on making it a three-peat. We’re the reigning winners, and our team has a lot of confidence going into this round.
“Our mile-and-a-half program has been extremely competitive across the board this year. This track is fun because the groove constantly moves, so it allows you to adjust your line during the race to find speed.”
|Kansas Lottery 300 Information
|Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race
|Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. EST
|How to Watch
Two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway, Todd Gilliland and Christian Eckes were dismissed from the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoff. That left eight drivers in an extremely close race for the championship, starting with Saturday’s Clean Harbors 200 at Kansas Speedway.
Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed are tied at the top of the series standings, but their margin over eighth-place Tyler Ankrum is a mere 25 points. If you’re looking for a driver with a good chance to secure a golden ticket into the Championship 4 round with a victory at Kansas, Matt Crafton is your best choice based on past performance.
Hill and Crafton are the only two former Kansas winners among the Playoff drivers, but Crafton has three victories to Hill’s one. Crafton also won the most recent race at the 1.5-mile track on July 25. The line on Crafton is +1000, compared with Hill at +300. At that kind of difference, Crafton would have to be the superior bet.
|Clean Harbors 200 Information
|Clean Harbors 200 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race
|Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. EST
|How to Watch
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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