Can Kyle Busch snap his Kansas skid?

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It’s probably a safe assumption that the Oct. 20 race at the 2.66-mile crapshoot that is Talladega Superspeedway is the one race that all of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders have circled on their calendars in red ink.

But one wouldn’t blame Kyle Busch if he also circled this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. His struggles on the 1.5-mile oval have been well-documented – two Top-10s in 12 career races and seven finishes outside the Top 20.

However, Busch believes that he’s due for a change in luck, especially after taking part in a tire test at Kansas back in July that he feels will prove beneficial to him.

“We felt like with the un-success we’ve had the last couple times being there since the repave, the tire combination we had – it was just really, really hard for me to get a feel for the tire and the racetrack that I was looking for,” Busch explained on Friday.

“We could run fast laps, post quick times in practice and qualifying. But just, in the race, when you get in traffic, everything starts changing, the rubber starts going down, it would throw us for a little bit of a curve.

“This time around, getting the tire test done, getting some information with the car, getting me more suited to the racetrack with a different tire combination, we felt like it was a positive for us. Certainly, we hope those results will be indicative of how we run this weekend and we can have a better go of it.”

As for the championship, Busch slipped back to third in points last week at Dover behind both teammate/Chase leader Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. Perhaps in another season, Busch’s Chase results of two seconds and a fifth would have him head and shoulders above his rivals.

But that’s not been the case thanks to how competitive Kenseth (two wins and a seventh) and Johnson (a fifth, a fourth, and the win at Dover) have been. Still, Busch knows it isn’t time to worry over what more he could possibly do.

“It’s a matter of continuing to knock out these Top-5s right now, and when our wins come to us, hopefully they do, those will be the bonus points and those will be the extra points we need to get ourselves further up the ladder,” he said.

“Whether those guys finish second, third or further back, us winning races is what’s going to get us most points.  That’s what it comes down to. Right now, it’s not make-it-or-break-it time [but] it’s certainly the time to keep getting solid finishes and keep doing solid runs throughout the races in order to get ourselves down into Texas, Phoenix, Homestead.”

Busch qualified 18th this afternoon for Sunday’s 400-miler.

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, NBC Sports App this week

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After five years and 98 Grands Prix broadcast since 2013, NBC Sports Group’s coverage of Formula 1 concludes with the 2017 season finale from Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit this week.

The lights come on for the day-into-night Grand Prix of the year as the sun sets on five years of broadcasts, original content and additional digital specific features such as Paddock Pass.

For Abu Dhabi this week, all of the race, qualifying and second free practice will be live on NBCSN with first and third free practice live on the NBC Sports App. The race returns is back in the usual morning a.m. time slots after three mid-day races in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and a pair of overnight affairs in Kuala Lumpur and Suzuka. Formula 2 coverage of its season finale from Abu Dhabi also airs both on NBCSN and online.

With this the final race of the season before F1’s winter break, there’s still a handful of things to get sorted even though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have wrapped their respective championships.

Sebastian Vettel (Brazil) and Max Verstappen (Mexico) have won the last two races, with Hamilton’s most recent win coming at Circuit of the Americas. Will it be any of these three that wrap the year on a high or could any of their teammates – Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas – upend the script?

Mercedes has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2016 with Nico Rosberg taking the 2015 crown.

Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece in Abu Dhabi, Vettel having taken all of his with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and Hamilton adding a 2011 McLaren triumph to his last two with Mercedes. Raikkonen (2012, Lotus) and Rosberg are the other Abu Dhabi winners, and while both Vettel and Raikkonen have won in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari never has in the first eight races here.

The last place up for grabs in the constructor’s battle is for sixth, with Toro Rosso (53 points), Renault (49) and Haas (47) separated by only six total points. Toro Rosso and Renault got into a nasty war of words in Brazil, and will part ways after the weekend.

Felipe Massa signs off his career in F1 for the second and expected final time at Williams, and with Toro Rosso having confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley last week, his seat is one of only three left to fill for 2018, and the most attractive.

McLaren and Honda also bring to an end their partnership after three troubled seasons, but on the bright side will look to score points for a third straight race together, which hasn’t happened since the Hungarian, German and Belgian Grands Prix of 2016.

As ever, and perhaps for the final time as a collective unit, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Nov. 24, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)