Last Saturday night’s race marked the halfway point of the season. Congratulations to Kyle Busch on picking up his second win of the season and scoring the maximum points by leading the most laps in the race. There are now only eight races left before the start of the Chase and we have ten drivers locked in.
Kyle still needs to make up 87 points and overtake five other drivers in the standings to move into the top thirty in points and qualify for the Chase. Those drivers are Cole Whitt, David Gilliland, Brett Moffitt, Alex Bowman, and Michael Annett. Barring any total catastrophes on the track, I think Kyle will gain those points over the next eight races and make the Chase.
NEW HAMPSHIRE 301
This week the series heads to Loudon, New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the running of the New Hampshire 301. NHMS is a 1.058-mile oval speedway with minimal banking around the track. In other words, this is considered a “flat track” by NASCAR standards. The drivers who are normally good at places like Phoenix and on the road-courses should do fine here.
Jimmie Johnson: I am picking Jimmie to win his fifth race of the season this week in Loudon. Jimmie has won three races here during his career and has finished in the top ten eighteen times in twenty-six starts at this track. He has also finished in the top ten here in thirteen of his last sixteen starts. With stats like that, Jimmie is a driver you definitely want on your roster this weekend.
Kurt Busch: Kurt also has won three races at this track during his career and even though he hasn’t run that well here for the past five seasons, Kurt has been very good on the flatter tracks this season. I think Kurt will come to the track with a car that has the potential to win this race. Once they get their set-up figured out during practice, I think he will qualify well and run up front for most of this race.
Denny Hamlin: Denny has two wins and has finished second here three times in his eighteen starts. He looked very good last week at Kentucky and it seems like this team keeps improving as we get closer to the Chase. I look for Denny to have another good run this weekend and be in contention for the win late in this race. Every win he can pick up before the Chase just gives him that many more bonus points once the Chase begins.
Jeff Gordon: Jeff is still looking for his first win of the season. As of right now he looks like he should make the Chase on points but, if he has a couple of problems in a couple of races and we get a couple of first time winners on the season, he could find himself on the outside looking in during his last season of racing. He has three wins and twenty-two top ten finishes in forty starts at this track.
Brad Keselowski: Brad’s worst finish here in his last seven starts has been eleventh. He also picked up a win during that stretch and had a very good car last weekend. Most of Brad’s problems seem to be mechanical or, mistakes made on pit road. I think he had the best car last week at Kentucky and probably would have won that race if he didn’t lose so many spots on his pit stops. I think these issues will be addressed this week.
Kevin Harvick: Kevin has one win at this track and, like Kurt Busch, he has been very good on the flatter tracks. This team is just looking for a few more wins and trying to become more consistent as we get closer to the Chase. New Hampshire is the location of the second race in the Chase so, all of the drivers who are already locked in are going to be doing some testing to get ready for when this race really means something to them.
Matt Kenseth: Matt also has won a race at NHMS. He has finished in the top ten in half of his thirty starts here and his win came in the fall of 2013. The JGR teams have all found more speed over the past six races and Matt is always calm and relaxed behind the wheel. He knows that if he relays pertinent information to his crew-chief he will get the changes he needs to his car to become more competitive as the race gets closer to the end.
Kyle Busch: Last week’s winner and the driver who really needs to run well every race for the next eight weeks so that he can qualify for the Chase has been on a roll in New Hampshire. Kyle has finished second in three of the past four races here and is on a mission to make the Chase and have a shot at winning his first championship. However, he can’t take a lot of chances and get caught up in wrecks so, where do you draw the line?
Ryan Newman: Ryan has won three races at this track in his career and has finished in the top ten in sixteen of his twenty-six starts here. Seven of those top ten finishes came in his last eleven starts and he really needs to start running better on a consistent basis if he wants to make the Chase once again this season. He made it last year without winning a race and almost won the championship. I don’t think he wants to wait and see if he can make it on points once again this year.
Kyle Larson: Kyle has only run two races at this track but, he finished in the top five in both of them. To finish second and third in your only two races at this track is very impressive and Kyle is my Dark Horse pick this week. I liked him last week at Kentucky and while he didn’t get the finish he was looking for there, he was fastest in both practices before the rains came. I think he will do well once again this weekend.
YAHOO! FANTASY NASCAR PICKS FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Yahoo Driver Group A
- Jimmie Johnson
- Brad Keselowski
Yahoo Driver Group B
- Kurt Busch
- Kyle Larson
- Carl Edwards
- Tony Stewart
Yahoo Driver Group C
- Justin Allgaier
- David Ragan
MY TOP-5 OVERALL AT NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
- Jimmie Johnson
- Brad Keselowski
- Kurt Busch
- Kyle Busch
- Denny Hamlin
Dark Horse: Kyle Larson
Stay Away From: Paul Menard