Kansas Weekend Preview: Kyle Busch facing elimination

TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 13: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Caramel Toyota, prepares to drive during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 13, 2017 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

The four-round elimination-style Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs can chew a driver up and spit him out in no time.

Kyle Busch knows this as well as anyone.

The No. 18 Toyota driver entered the Playoffs third in the points standings and looked like the favorite to take the series crown after winning twice in the Round of 16.

But his situation changed rapidly in the Round of 12. Busch finished 29th at Charlotte, followed by a 27th-place performance at Talladega. Now, he sits on the brink of elimination – seven points behind Jimmie Johnson for the final Round of 8 transfer spot going into Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“We are still some points out but we can go out there and try and get as many stage points as possible and, if we get a good run, we still have a shot to make it through,” Busch said. “We’ll just have to do what we’ve been doing all year and see where that puts us.”

Luckily for Busch, Kansas has treated him well recently. Although struggling at the 1.5-mile track early in his career, Busch has finished no lower than fifth in his last five starts there. His run includes a Kansas win in the spring of 2016.

“We’re going to do the same things we’ve always done – same preparation, nothing different,” Busch said. “I think we need to go in there and do our best to be prepared and when it comes to race time, try to limit our mistakes. I think that helped out there over the years and that has turned our team into a contender every time we race there, now. We’ll just do the same things this time around.”

The only way Busch can advance to the Round of 12 without the help of other drivers is to win Sunday’s race.

Byron leads Xfinity Series into Round of 8

Last season, William Byron led the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series the majority of the season, racking up a rookie-record seven wins. When the Playoffs came around, his engine blew with a late lead in the penultimate race of the year, eliminating him from championship contention.

CHARLOTTE, NC – SEPTEMBER 19: William Bryon. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Byron has carried his success into the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season. He enters the Round of 8 opener – Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m.) – first on the Playoff Grid. He sits 19 points above Cole Custer on the cutoff line as a result of his three victories, three stage wins and third-place regular season points finish.

The 19-year-old Charlotte native has never made an Xfinity Series start at Kansas, but won the Camping World Truck Series race there last season.

“Kansas Speedway is a fun race track to go to. The last time I was there, I was fortunate enough to win my first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and I can’t wait to get back and have a good run in the Xfinity Series,” Byron said. “It is an important race to start out this round of the playoffs, so we plan on having a strong day and executing well.”

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Race: Hollywood Casino 400

Place: Kansas Speedway

Date and Time: Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. ET

Tune-In: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 80), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on lap 267)

What To Watch For: Among “Bubble drivers” Jimmie Johnson (eighth), Kyle Busch (ninth) and Matt Kenseth (10th) – all separated by only eight points – there are a total of nine Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series titles. … Kevin Harvick hopes for his second straight fall win at Kansas. … Martin Truex Jr. tries to follow up his spring Kansas win with another victory at the 1.5-mile track. … Joey Logano and Ryan Newman are the only non-Playoff-eligible drivers in the field who have won at Kansas in the past.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Race: Kansas Lottery 300

Place: Kansas Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. ET

Tune-In: NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

What To Watch For: Saturday marks the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs Round of 8 opener. William Byron heads the Playoff Grid (19 points above Cole Custer on the cutoff line). He is followed by Justin Allgaier (+16), Elliott Sadler (+13), Daniel Hemric (+2), Cole Custer (two points behind Daniel Hemric on the cutoff line), Brennan Poole (-3), Ryan Reed (-4) and Matt Tifft (-5). The series is guaranteed to crown a first-time champion this season. … NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings leader Christopher Bell makes his fifth career XFINITY Series start. Last week, Bell announced that he will run a fulltime XFINITY Series schedule in 2018 with Joe Gibbs Racing.

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