Mash The Gas: New Hampshire Preview

Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson lead the field at the start of the 2014 Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. [Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images]

Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson lead the field at the start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. [Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images]

by Dan Margetta and John Wiedemann

It’s back to a flat track for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as the New Hampshire International Speedway hosts the New Hampshire 301 this Sunday afternoon.

New Hampshire is a unique track in that it is relatively flat with very little banking in the turns and Sunday will mark the first time the low downforce aerodynamic rules package will be in effect. Typically drivers have their cars set up so they are tight handling wise at the beginning of a run and then loosen up as the tires wear and fuel burns off and the aero rules could bring some adjustments to their established set up notes.

New Hampshire races a lot like the tracks in Phoenix and Richmond and drivers that have raced well at those two venues traditionally have good results at the one mile New Hampshire oval.

Racing at a flat track is all about maintaining corner speeds and here are some drivers to watch on Sunday in the New Hampshire 301….

Kevin Harvick (Dan Margetta)
As of late, it seems Kevin Harvick has been regarded as the best “flat track” racer in the garage, largely in part due to his dominance at the flat circuit in Phoenix. Harvick won at Phoenix earlier this year but it has been his only victory and he has yet to capture the checkered flag here at New Hampshire where he has seven top five finishes and fifteen top ten results. He finished eighth at Richmond a few weeks ago as well and he comes into New Hampshire as a 5-1 odds on favorite. It has been awhile since Kevin Harvick and the #4 team have found victory lane and I feel they are just about due to return, which makes New Hampshire a very good place to make that happen.

Brad Keselowski (John Wiedemann)
This week features another good track for Brad Keselowski as he looks to make it three Sprint Cup Series wins in a row. Last weekend’s victory at Kentucky was a fuel mileage gamble and this weekend could feature the same strategy. Keselowski is in the mode of checkers or wreckers right now and just wants to add to his series leading win total to capture bonus points for the Chase. That allows him and the #2 team to gamble with a big payoff on the line.

Carl Edwards (DM)
Carl Edwards has the best results at the two tracks that are similar to New Hampshire in Phoenix and Richmond as he won the Richmond race and was second to Kevin Harvick at Phoenix by inches. He has yet to win at New Hampshire but does have three top five finishes and seven top tens. Last year, Edwards finished seventh and fifth at the New Hampshire races and he comes into this weekend with enticing 10-1 odds to win. Edwards is one of the better flat track racers often overlooked and he should definitely be in the mix on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson (JW)
After a disastrous weekend at Kentucky Speedway, Jimmie Johnson kicked off the new week by being one of the “unofficially” fastest cars in practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With New Hampshire being just about as flat in the turns as the Brickyard, there may be hope for the #48 driver this weekend. Past weeks results don’t bode well for Johnson as he has finished only two of the last five races and hasn’t found the top ten since May 29th at Charlotte. Don’t expect those kind of finishes from Johnson for too much longer. Hendrick Motorsports will get things turned around quickly and it just might be this weekend.

Joey Logano (DM)
New Hampshire has been kind to Joey Logano as he has finished fourth or better in the last three races here. It’s also the place where he scored his first Cup win and has added another victory since then. He also has five top five finishes and seven top ten finishes here and comes into this weekend at 8-1 odds to win. Joey Logano’s Penske teammate Brad Keselowski has rattled off consecutive wins the last two weeks and Logano and the #22 team are not far behind. The Penske Fords are making the case to unseat the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas for supremacy in the garage and Joey Logano should definitely be one to watch on Sunday.

Trevor Bayne
Trevor Bayne hasn’t finished out of the top 25 since the beginning of April. In those 12 races Bayne has average finish of 14.5 with two top five and four top ten finishes. Bayne’s best finish in two races at New Hampshire is 16th. That finish was in the fall last season where he started 33rd and raced to a solid finish. Currently the top points driver in the Roush Fenway Racing organization, Bayne is just on the outside of making the Chase with eight regular season events to go. Bayne needs 11 points to get ahead of Jamie McMurray in the final wildcard spot, but there are a number of drivers close behind in the standings as well. Bayne may be the only hope for the Roush organization as teammates Ricky Stenhouse Jr is fourty points behind Bayne and Greg Biffle is seventy points back. It is up to Bayne to climb into the Chase and there is no better time to start than now.

Ryan Newman (DM)
Ryan Newman is my long shot pick this weekend as he comes to New Hampshire at 60-1 odds to win. Newman is a very good flat track racer and this could be his best opportunity to break into the Chase and finally get Richard Childress Racing a victory that has eluded them for three years now. Newman has three victories at New Hampshire in his career to go along with seven top fives and seventeen top ten results. Plus, Newman may be on the hot seat as far as next season goes and does not have a deal in place at the moment. That should provide some motivation to get back to victory lane this weekend at New Hampshire. Ryan Newman will be overlooked by many this weekend but he could fly under the radar and steal a win on Sunday.

Alex Bowman (JW)
Driving the #88 this weekend will be Alex Bowman, filling in for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who is not cleared to race due to concussion symptoms. Bowman does not have a lot of experience at New Hampshire but certainly will have some following this weekend. In the Xfinity Series, Bowman raced at the one mile track in 2013 and scored a top ten finish after starting 21st. Bowman has raced four times in the Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire with a best finish of 28th. Those four races were in equipment that can easily be said to be far inferior to the car he will be driving this weekend. This weekend will be a great chance for the young driver to show what he can do and to show he can handle the pressure of jumping into one of the top rides in the top NASCAR series. It will be fun to see what Bowman can do at New Hampshire.

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