NASCAR Sprint Cup: 4 Reasons You Need to Watch the Lenox Industrial Tools 301

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2012

NASCAR Sprint Cup: 4 Reasons You Need to Watch the Lenox Industrial Tools 301

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    NASCAR will be back at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this Sunday for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.This is going to be one race that you will want to watch.  With the Chase just around the corner, and so many drivers trying to get in, anything could happen at Loudon.

    Will last year's winner, Ryan Newman, have another dominating run at the Magic Mile?

    Will Tony Stewart continue moving forward as he moves into New Hampshire?

    Will Sam Hornish Jr. be able to handle driving the Penske No. 22?

    These questions can only be answered this Sunday during the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.


    Qualifying: Friday July 14th 3:30 p.m ET

    TV: Speed

    Race start time: Sunday July 15th at 1 p.m ET

    TV: TNT

    Laps: 301

    Miles: 318.5

Sam Hornish Jr.

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    By now you've probably heard about A.J. Allmendinger and his failed drug test.  While we should really await the results of Dinger's B test to jump to any serious conclusions, NASCAR has banned A.J. until the B test results are in.

    While this is of course bad news for A.J. Allmendinger, Sam Hornish Jr. has been given an opportunity that few Nationwide drivers would receive.

    Hornish Jr. will once again race in Allmendinger's place this season at New Hampshire.

    While Hornish was also given the opportunity to race in No. 22 car at the Coke Zero 400 last week, he ended up blowing a tire that would end his day early and have him finish in the No. 33 spot.

    It is different, though, this time for Hornish.  He was flown in last minute to drive the No. 22 at the Coke Zero 400.  Now that he will be in New Hampshire for the Nationwide race, Hornish will also get to practice in the No. 22 car, something he missed out on at Daytona.

    Hornish now needs to take full advantage of this chance given to him when NASCAR moves into New Hampshire.

    Allmendinger was a mediocre driver at best.  If Hornish Jr. manages to have a solid run at New Hampshire, we would more than likely end up seeing him race in the No.  22 for as long as Allmendinger is suspended.

    Going one step even further, if Penske ever decided to drop A.J. Allmendinger, they could always look to Hornish as his replacement.

    That is if he proves to be a solid driver.

    All eyes will be on Hornish this weekend, as we watch to see if the Nationwide driver can take full advantage of this opportunity.

    If Hornish wants to prove he can race in the Sprint Cup series, New Hampshire would be the place to start.

A Bigger Version of Martinsville

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    New Hampshire motor speedway is like one big paperclip.  It’s a 1.058 mile flat, oval track with 12-degree banking in the corners and 2-degree banking on the straightaways.

    It has two long straightaways with tight corners at the ends.  Essentially New Hampshire is just a bigger version of Martinsville.

    While we may not see the bumping that we do when NASCAR roles into Martinsville, one key aspect to watch for in this race is how well drivers manage their brakes.

    A big key to success here will be how well teams can setup their brakes to go the distance.

    Another big thing to watch at Loudon will be qualifying.  While we've seen that qualifying isn't as important at some tracks, last week’s Daytona race saw Tony Stewart come all the way from the back of the field to win the race. At New Hampshire, qualifying plays a big part in how well a driver does.

    Ryan Newman won this race last year from the pole.

    Because the corners are so small, there is no room for drivers to pass one another, even if one driver is faster than the other.

    It's also hard to pass drivers on the straightaway, which is why qualifying up front is an important part of this race.

    Loudon is also a change of pace after the Coke Zero 400 last week.

    We go from pack racing back to a focus on a flat, oval track nick named the Magic Mile.  Where Daytona had 31-degree banking in the turns, Loudon, as mentioned before, only has 12-degrees. 

    New Hampshire is a change of pace from pack racing and from cookie cutter tracks like Kentucky.

Several Drivers Are Still Trying to Make the Chase

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    With the Chase just around the corner, things are starting to get pretty interesting.

    So far standings wise, there are several drivers who would benefit greatly from a win at New Hampshire.

    Kevin Harvick sits in the top-10 points wise, but is still winless.  A win here could give the closer some needed breathing room.

    Carl Edwards is currently in 11th and without a win.  He is another driver from last year that is struggling to make the Chase this year, and a win at Loudon would propel him forward.

    Ryan Newman would also benefit from a win at this track.  Since New Hampshire is one of his better tracks, scoring the win here would help put Newman in the Chase with a wild card spot.

    Paul Menard could also benefit from a win.  He currently sits 13th in points, between current wild cards Kyle Bush and Joey Logano.

    Let's also not forget about Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon.  Kahne sits 16th in points and has one win this season.  Like Newman, a win here would help get Kahne a little closer to securing a wild card spot.  Jeff Gordon is one spot behind Kahne and has had a pretty rough year.  Getting a win would help get the former champion back on track.

    Current wild card holders Kyle Busch and Joey Logano probably have the most pressure on them going into New Hampshire.  Not only do both drivers need to get a win, but if one of the other drivers mentioned were to win this race, it would knock Logano out of the wild card spot, and Busch wouldn't be too far behind.

    With desperate drivers trying to make the Chase, New Hampshire could end up being a wild race.

Will Stewart-Haas Continue to Dominate?

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    Last year’s New Hampshire race was the first time since 1957 that its teammates had finished first and second.

    Ryan Newman would win that race with Tony Stewart coming in second.  Stewart would go on to win at New Hampshire when the Chase was underway.

    Stewart-Haas racing clearly dominated the Magic Mile last year.

    Will they be able to do so again?

    More than likely, both Newman and Stewart will have dominate their performances at New Hampshire.  Stewart himself has already won three races so far this year, and only gets better as the summer progresses.

    Ryan Newman on the other hand has already won a race this year, and Martinsville is arguably a smaller version of New Hampshire.  Both tracks, however, share a key similarity: the importance of saving the brakes on the car.

    New Hampshire also happens to be one of Newman's best tracks.  Not only did he win the race here last year, he also won the pole.  Short, flat tracks are Newman's best track type, and New Hampshire is just that.

    Tony Stewart himself is riding a wave of momentum as NASCAR moves into Loudon.  Not only did he win this race in the chase last year, but Stewart is coming off an impressive Daytona win that saw the defending champ avoid wrecks to pull off a late-race win.

    Will Stewart-Haas racers Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart continue to dominate the New Hampshire Motor Speedway?

    We will have to wait until Sunday to find out.