A Closer Look at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
After a short break, the longest one since returning to the track back in mid-May at Darlington, the drivers of the NASCAR Cup Series are ready to return to turning and burning around the asphalt. This week, the circuit pulls into Loudon, New Hampshire for the Foxwoods Casino 301 on Sunday, August 2. It’s the only series racing at the track this weekend as the Xfinity Series and the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series are both off this weekend. That puts the eyes of the racing world solely on the Cup Series drivers in what should be an entertaining race spanning 301 laps and 318.46 miles.
Today, we take a look at some of history of the track itself, along with the relative success (or lack thereof) the current drivers have had at the track and inevitably, do our best to get you up to speed before we begin talking about our top prop bets for the race in the coming days. Fans were in attendance at Bristol and Texas Motor Speedway in recent races before the stands were empty for last Thursday’s race at Kansas Speedway, there will be up to 19,000 fans in attendance for this race, putting at least some people in the stands.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway is known as the “Magic Mile” for its length around the track. Its current iteration has been in existence since 1990 though racing has taken place in the area since the 1960s. There is a road course that measures 1.6 miles in length that has had events since 1964 in different circuits. Bob Bahre made the decision to build the first superspeedway track in the United States since 1969 in 1989, with the track running its first race run on June 5, 1990. The first Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) race was run here on July 15, 1990 with the Budweiser 300. Tommy Ellis took the checkered flag, holding off Harry Gant by .29 seconds for the victory. Meanwhile, the first Cup Series race run on the track came with the Slick 50 300 on July 11, 1993. Rusty Wallace earned the win that day, beating Mark Martin by 1.31 seconds with Davey Allison, Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd rounding out the top five.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a 1.058-mile oval speedway that is similar to Richmond due to its flat track and relative length. The track is 65 feet in width all the way around, narrowing to 60 feet only on pit road. The straightaways are 1,500 feet in length and are barely banked at just one degree. Meanwhile, the turns are banked at a variable two to seven degrees depending on track position, keeping the track relatively flat, especially when compared to other superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega. Over the course of a racing season, the track normally sees more than half a million spectators come through the turnstiles.
When it comes to experience on the track, Matt Kenseth has raced here the most, recording 37 starts in his career. That puts him just ahead of Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, who have each run here 36 times, while Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson both have 34 starts under their belt. Harvick leads active drivers with four wins here while Kenseth, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Newman each have three victories. In addition, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano have each won twice here while Brad Keselowski has one victory. On the flip side, Martin Truex Jr. leads active drivers for the most starts here without a win as he enters Sunday zero for 26.
When it comes to top-five runs here, Harvick and Kenseth lead the way with 12 such finishes. Kyle Busch is next with 11 while Johnson and Hamlin round out the top five in that category with 10 apiece. David Ragan has been unsuccessful here, as he has run here 24 times without recording a top-five finish. Johnson leads active drivers with 22 top-10 finishes here while Kenseth has 21. Newman and Harvick each have 20 top-10 finishes while Kyle Busch rounds out the top five with 16. If you’re looking for someone to finish outside that top-10 group, look no further than Michael McDowell, who has missed that line in 17 straight runs.
Newman has won seven poles here to lead the way in that category while Keselowski has four and Kyle Busch three. Johnson, Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Harvick and Kurt Busch each have one pole. For all the experience Kenseth has here, he has never won a pole on the track. The only driver with more races and no pole wins here is Jeff Burton, who was 0 for 39. Kyle Busch leads active drivers in laps led with 1,128 to his credit, putting him well ahead of second-place Harvick (759) in that category. Truex Jr. (744), Newman (722) and Hamlin (662) round out the top five in that group.
Heading into this race, Harvick leads the point standings by 97 points over Keselowski. Ryan Blaney (100 points back), Hamlin (129 points back) and Chase Elliott (133 points off the pace) round out the top five. As far the playoff picture goes, Hamlin has five wins while Harvick has four to run 1-2 in the standings. Keselowski and Logano have two wins each while Blaney, Elliott, Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Dillon and Cole Custer have all won once. That puts those 10 guys in the playoffs when they begin in September. Currently, that leaves six spots for non-winners to make the playoff field. As of Sunday, that group includes Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto and William Byron .
Green flag time for the race Sunday afternoon is scheduled for 3 pm ET with television coverage provided by the NBC Sports Network and the Performance Racing Network. Aric Almirola starts from the pole for the race with Hamlin starting on the outside of the first row.