Mash The Gas: New Hampshire

The New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosts Chase race #2 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with the Sylvania 300 set for Sunday afternoon. New Hampshire is one of the “flat” tracks on the circuit where the hot set up consists of fast corner speeds combined with a strong horsepower run down the straightaways. New Hampshire’s characteristics are similar to the other flat tracks on the circuit at Phoenix, Martinsville, Richmond, and Indianapolis and drivers who have success at those facilities usually race well here. The following are some drivers to watch as the circuit enters week two of the Chase playoffs.

Kyle Busch
Dan Margetta: If Kyle Busch is to become champion this year, he needs to take advantage of races where he can gain points on his chief rivals, teammate Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. New Hampshire should provide Busch the opportunity to make up points on at least Kenseth as the flat track is not one of the 2003 champion’s strong suits. Busch has developed into a very good flat track racer and he has one win and five top five finishes here including a second place finish last July. A strong start to the Chase is key for this team and they will continue to try to build on the momentum from their strong runner-up Chicago run.

Matt Kenseth
John Wiedemann: Matt Kenseth made a strong statement coming out of the box and winning the first Chase race at Chicagoland. Kenseth’s stats at New Hampshire are solid but there is a zero in the wins column. That could very well change this weekend. Kenseth has been strong all year with his new JGR team and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him and teammate Kyle Busch pull away from the rest of the Chase field after this weekend.

Kurt Busch
DM: After rebounding from an early penalty to finish fourth at Chicago, Kurt Busch and the #78 team are for real and they have proven making the Chase was not a fluke by any means. Busch has had success at New Hampshire with three wins to his credit and this team has performed well at similar tracks, such as their second place finish at Richmond. In July, Kurt Busch qualified on the front row here and led several laps before bad luck relegated him to a poor finish. This team has strung together top ten finishes in six of the last seven weeks with five of them being top five results. Another strong finish at New Hampshire would force everyone to look at them as legitimate title contenders instead of underdogs.

Jimmie Johnson
JW: Jimmie Johnson has three wins at the New Hampshire Speedway and he could challenge for a fourth this weekend. Chicagoland showed that the #48 team can flip the switch and forget about the horrible four races leading up to this year’s Chase. The competition from Joe Gibbs Racing will be sure to light up a fire in Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. Johnson is one of the best at New Hampshire and it will be interesting to see him rise to the challenge of the Toyota camp.

Carl Edwards
DM: Calling Carl Edwards Calling Carl Edwards .It’s time for Carl Edwards and the #99 team to make a statement that they are a force to be reckoned with during this Chase, something they failed to do at Chicago following up on their Richmond win. Edwards has been strong on the flat tracks this season as his two wins came at Phoenix and Richmond, plus he has had top ten results in 2013 races here at New Hampshire as well as Phoenix and Richmond. A victory Sunday would show the NASCAR world they are not a step behind the Hendrick and Gibbs cars and should not be forgotten in this championship hunt.

Kevin Harvick
JW: Kevin Harvick needs to keep up with the top drivers in the standings as it seems this Chase season will require a contender to not have a single bad race. New Hampshire should be a good track for Harvick, he has won there before and has an average finish of 13th in twenty-five races. Harvick will need to improve on that average and finish in the top five to keep an eye on the three drivers in front of him in the standings. Already fifteen points back of points leader Matt Kenseth, Harvick cannot allow the deficit to grow too much further if he hopes to get the championship.

Ryan Newman
DM: We can’t forget the Brickyard 400 winner in listing possible favorites in New Hampshire. Newman has traditionally been good on the flat surfaces and save for the late race theatrics at Richmond, he would have won there as well. The top ten finish at Chicago proved the crew has brushed off the derogatory remarks hurled at them by the driver following Richmond and Newman should be a driver to watch on Sunday.

Jeff Gordon
JW: Will Jeff Gordon be able to capitalize on the gift he received last weekend? The thirteenth entrant into the Chase now sits in seventh, 24 points out of the lead. Gordon has raced at New Hampshire thirty seven times and has a tenth place average. Finishing in the top ten at New Hampshire will help him hang around in the Chase , but if the three time winner makes it four victories at the track – he will be right in contention and the fans and media will be blowing up on Monday.

Clint Bowyer
DM: Clint Bowyer is another driver who has evolved into a successful flat track racer and he has two New Hampshire victories to his credit. Bowyer will be driving the same car that finished second earlier in the season at Martinsville. The car also raced here in July and finished 13th, however Brian Vickers drove another Michael Waltrip Racing car to the victory. Bowyer drives the lone MWR car in the Chase and should enjoy driving the top equipment for the team this week at New Hampshire which makes him one of the drivers to watch.

Kasey Kahne
JW: Is the second race of the Chase “do or die” for Kasey Kahne? I believe it is. With such a strong field at the top of drivers currently running at their peak, the inconsistency that has plagued Kahne’s season will knock him out of contention for the crown already. Kahne is thirty-one points out of the lead and it would probably take two wins in a row at this point to move to the top of the standings. The way the season has gone, I just don’t see that happening. Kahne could prove me wrong and go on a hot streak, but he better do it soon.

Share Button