Mash The Gas: New Hampshire Preview

Kyle Busch leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July 2015 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. [Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images]

Kyle Busch leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July 2015 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. [Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images]

by Dan Margetta and John Wiedemann

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to a flat track this Sunday as the New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosts the Sylvania 300 for the second event in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Sylvania 300
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
317.14 miles (300 laps)
Sunday, Sept. 27 2pm ET
NBCSN, 1:30pm ET
PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
The Chase drama has started early this season as defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick finds himself in dire straits after crashing last weekend in Chicago after an incident with Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer tries to rebound from a major penalty smack down from NASCAR for having modified parts.

New Hampshire is a flat one mile oval that has characteristics similar to the tracks in Phoenix and Richmond and certain drivers have seemed to excel at racing on tracks with limited banking in the turns.

The Chase intensity continues Sunday afternoon in the Sylvania 300 from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and here are some drivers to watch…

Kevin Harvick (Dan Margetta)

Kevin Harvick suddenly finds himself in desperation mode after his poor Chicago finish leaves him needing a victory to advance to the next round. Harvick was on the ropes last year as well and he bounced back to win the next two races. This season, Harvick has also been consistently fast and he scored a dominating win at the similarly configured Phoenix track earlier in the year. Since that Phoenix win, he has scored ten second place finishes and sure could use the bonus points that would have been earned had any of those runner-up results been a victory. Harvick and the #4 team will be on a victory mission this Sunday in New Hampshire and I wouldn’t want to get in his way (especially if I’m behind the wheel of a #48 car). Look for Kevin Harvick to be one of the drivers to beat this weekend at New Hampshire in Chase race number two.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. (John Wiedemann)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. might be a surprise pick but he has a great shot at a win this weekend. Junior has a ten point cushion over the thirteenth place in the Chase, so a solid finish can propel him into a safe zone to make it into the next round of the Chase. He hasn’t won at New Hampshire in 32 tries but this weekend could be the one. Finishing in the top ten in about half of his NH starts and in the top five in a quarter of those starts are pretty good stats for the driver of the #88. Earnhardt finished fifth in the July race at New Hampshire after spending most of the day running with the contenders in the top ten. Junior, with his win at Daytona, is one of only two drivers, Joey Logano the other, to find victory lane while not driving a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Can he do it again? Or, will JGR continue their domination?


Joey Logano (DM)

The most consistent driver and team over the past twelve weeks might just be Joey Logano and the #22 Penske organization. It would be hard to find another team that has been a top five contender each and every week during the summer stretch than these guys and now they head to New Hampshire where Joey Logano has had a lot of success. Logano has had strong finishes on the similar flat type tracks at Phoenix and Richmond this season as well. Joey Logano has to be looking at the New Hampshire event as a prime opportunity to make his statement to advance to the next round and he should definitely not be forgotten on Sunday.


Kyle Busch (JW)

Kyle Busch won his third race of the season back in July at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Just missing leading the most laps by five, Busch led the final fourty laps to hold of Brad Keselowski for the victory. A repeat performance can be expected this weekend and Kyle could set himself up for the next Chase round with a top five finish. The Joe Gibbs Racing team has been nothing but amazing, winning the last three races on the schedule and nine of the last twelve events. Kyle hasn’t won since Indianapolis and it must be pretty close to his turn after his teammates all visited victory lane during that span. Two wins, eight top five, 11 top ten, two poles at New Hampshire are more reasons that you may want to bet on the #18 getting the free pass to the next Chase round.


Kurt Busch (DM)

Kurt Busch has been one of a few drivers to keep Kevin Harvick honest on the flat tracks this season and ironically he is Harvick’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch won the first race at Richmond this year and is coming off a strong run in the Chase opener at Chicago. His New Hampshire record includes three wins and seven top five finishes among 11 top ten results. Last Fall Kurt Busch was barely hanging on to the Chase field and this time around he sits in a solid position to advance to the next round. After nearly winning at Chicago a week ago, Kurt Busch may have something to prove this weekend at New Hampshire and he is in a good place to pick up a win on Sunday.


Denny Hamlin (JW)

With the win last weekend at Chicagoland, Denny Hamlin automatically qualifies for the next round of the Chase. So, what does he do this weekend? Well, he could win. Hamlin is in the top three for stats at New Hampshire out of the entire Chase group. Two wins, seven top five and eleven top ten finishes in nineteen starts with an average finish of 10.7 makes him a contender. Add the fact that he has nothing to lose this weekend and can keep another driver from locking up a spot in the next Chase round and Hamlin can have a lot of fun this weekend. Of course it will be interesting if it is one of his teammates that he could be taking the win from. But the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have shown that they can race side by side without getting too upset at each other. And that is something they should get used to, because right now it looks like the battle for the championship could just be among JGR Toyota pilots.


Jamie McMurray (DM)

Another driver to watch on Sunday is Jamie McMurray who is my long shot pick this week. McMurray boasts a respectable flat track record and he comes into New Hampshire as a quiet Chase contender. He finished second at Phoenix, was fourth at Richmond, and finished fourth in the race contested at New Hampshire last fall. McMurray and the #1 team have been flying under the radar a bit of late but they have been close enough to be considered contenders. This could be a surprise winner on Sunday in the Sylvania 300 so don’t count him out.


Clint Bowyer (JW)

Following the race at Chicagoland, Clint Bowyer was in fifteenth and six points behind the transfer position to get to the next round of the Chase. Following the penalties that were announced on Tuesday, Bowyer found himself thirty-one points behind the transfer spot, basically losing the 25 points that he had after finishing 19th. But all is not lost. Michael Waltrip Racing is appealing the ruling and Bowyer finds himself at a track this weekend where he has won twice. If Bowyer would win this weekend, points wouldn’t matter – he would transfer to the next round. You have to wonder how many shots this team can take though. With the team disbanding at the end of the season, the driver and crew really want to go out with a bang and not another penalty induced whimper. This weekend could be the bang.



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