NASCAR heads north this week to Loudon New Hampshire. Just like the hot summer days the race to the Chase is heating up as the cutoff looms ever closer. That’s just one reason this week’s stop at New Hampshire is important; the other reason is the 1 mile flat oval New Hampshire Motor Speedway is also one of the tracks that will host one of the final ten races in Chase in the fall.
The speeds aren’t high here given the flatness of the turns. But most drivers enjoy racing at New Hampshire.
“There’s nothing tricky or fancy about it,” Tony Stewart said this week. “It’s just a fun track. It just seems like it’s always been a fun driver’s track. Your car has to work well there but, when you get to racing guys, you’re trying to out-brake them, trying to get your car to turn and you struggle for forward bite. It’s just got a little bit of everything the drivers look for to have a good race.”
Here are my favorites for Sunday’s nineteenth race of the year for your betting or fantasy racing leagues. Driver Ratings are compiled from 2005-2016 races (22 total) among active drivers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Driver Rating is a number based on a formula developed by NASCAR which combines “loop data” elements such as average running position, average speed under green, number of fastest laps, and other stats. There is a maximum of 150 points that a driver can earn for each race. The odds are current as of Wednesday.
Tony Stewart (60-1) is not the odds makers favorite, but he is mine this week. No Stewart hasn’t won here since 2011, but in 2011 he wasn’t facing his final year in Cup racing. He is tied with three drivers for the most wins among active drivers at this track with three total. He has the highest driver rating in the field 103.4, a win this season already, and the motivation to finish his long Cup career on top. We predict Stewart will be the driver to beat Sunday and could give someone a big payday.
Kyle Busch (5-1) is the defending winner of this race. That win last July was during his incredible run to his first Sprint Cup title. He has the seventh best driver rating in the field, 95.6 and is looking for a rebound after a few off weeks, He may just get that Sunday.
Jimmie Johnson (8-1) is also looking for a rebound. The six-time champion is one of those drivers tied with the most wins here, three. His last one came in 2010, but he maintains the third highest driver rating in the field 101.1. His last two visits here weren’t all that spectacular, he finished 22nd in the this race last year, and came home fifth in the fall. If Johnson and his team can find some of the old magic they once had here, he could turn his season around Sunday.
Brad Keselowski (6-1) has been on a tear in the last two weeks becoming the first driver to score consecutive wins. He has won here, has the fourth highest driver rating in the field 99.5, and was second in this race last year. It would be no surprise to see Keselowski make it three wins in a row after Sunday.
Matt Kenseth (8-1) won this race in the fall, his second victory at New Hampshire. His driver rating of 88.5 is only 12th best among the field, but Kenseth has been strong at times and if he has the same strength Sunday could add a third New Hampshire win to his stats.
OTHERS: Kevin Harvick (5-1) won here in 2006. He has the sixth best driver rating in the field and was third in this race last year. Denny Hamlin (8-1) has the second highest driver rating in the field, 103.2, and has two wins, the last coming in 2012.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will be run on Sunday July 17. Live coverage will be on NBC Sports Network starting at 12:00 p.m. ET with the green flag coming at about 1:15 p.m. ET.