The LENOX Industrial Tools 301 marks the 19th race of the long 36–race NASCAR Sprint Cup season in Loudon, N.H. this Sunday, July 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The 1.058-mile oval track with limited 12 degree banking is known for tight corners and difficult passing. Fans far from the stands can view the tight action at 12:00 p.m. on TNT.
Tony Stewart vaulted four positions to break into the top-five in the NSCS point battle, but strong runs by some and unusual outside top-10 finishes by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson widened the point spread. Kenseth’s third-place finish in Daytona extended his lead and helped to stretch the point field.
Daytona is considered by drivers as a wild-card event because the result is often unkind to top teams, but shorter tracks like New Hampshire Motor Speedway are more predictable.
Some drivers welcome the flat turns at NHMS even though track position is crucial.
The top-five drivers this week— Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart—commented on the NHMS track.
Matt Kenseth (No 17 Ford) (Leader)
“Loudon has been a track that we’ve struggled at for the past four or five years but our last outing we ran pretty competitively so I’m looking forward to building upon that,” Kenseth said. “New Hampshire is an interesting race track because it drives like a short track even though it’s a one-mile track, and it’s challenging in the fact that there isn’t a lot of room to pass, so track position is very important there. We’ve just got to run a clean race, with a good afternoon in the pits as well, and hopefully we can have a solid run there.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet) (-25 points)
“I really like New Hampshire, and it’s a lot of fun to race,” Earnhardt said. “There’s lots of ways to get around a corner. It is really hard to pass, but it is a fun racetrack, and I look forward to coming here every time we get the opportunity.”
Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford) (-44 points)
“I’m looking forward to Loudon this weekend,” Biffle said. “I like that racetrack and I have a win there, so I’m looking forward to going back and getting a good solid top-five finish, and possibly a win to get away from these two 21st place finishes in a row.”
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet) (-58 points)
“It’s a tricky track with the lack of banking and the tight fast corners,” Johnson said. “I was able to sweep it there one year and since we’ve been okay. It’s a tough track. I think for a good day it's good fuel mileage and good track position.”
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet) (-84 points)
“It’s a big motor deal. With the corners being so tight, you’ve got to put a lot of gear in the car to get it up off the corner,” Stewart said. “Forward bite is always an issue there too, so it’s hard to get up off the corners. Then you’ve got long straightaways where you can kind of relax a little bit. Coming into the corners, you use a lot of brake, and it’s hard to not only get the car stopped, but to get it to turn. Then you go through that challenge all over again.”
That repetitive challenge will come around again and again in New Hampshire until the checkered flag. From there, the total number of laps remaining will dwindle over the following seven races before the Chase field is fixed.
Drivers in the top 20 without a win have an extra incentive to take victory lane. Drivers with one win, but lacking in points because of poor finishes are also eager to boost their position. Having two or three wins virtually assures a Chase spot.
It will be interesting to see if any driver with at least one win (12 different) picks up another checkered flag for their collection.
At Loudon the running order at the green flag could be an indication of the likely victor.
Race details available on www.NHMS.com
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by NASCAR and team representatives.