Here are my weekly five picks for this weekend's race in Loudon, NH.
Hamlin has been working hard at getting his season turned back in the right direction so that he can earn his fourth appearance in the Chase for the Cup in as many full-time seasons.
In his six career appearances at New Hampshire Hamlin has posted a victory(2007), an average finish of just about seventh, and an astounding worst finish of 15th place.
One key to Hamlin's success at this track has been his performance in qualifying. Hamlin has never started worst than 14th place with his worst qualifying effort leading to his worst finish, kinda weird saying that about a 15th place finish.
If Hamlin posts a top 10 qualifying effort, then look for him to be a factor for the win towards the end of the scheduled 300 lap distance. Hamlin also has some flat track roots from his time spent running Mini Stocks at the famously flat Langley Speedway.
2008 finish: Eighth
Don't think I've given Johnson the nod in any of my fantasy reports so far this season but looking at some of his stats and given his recent performances before his gas tank gave out I think this weekend will be another good one for Johnson.
I don't think New Hampshire has been a fuel mileage cringe recently and that is one thing Johnson would love to here.
With the exception of one 39th place fluke back in 2006, Johnson is much like Hamlin in the fact that his worst finish is 15th. Johnson has been very consistent on the flat track including pulling off the sweep back in 2003 and like Hamlin should he qualify in the top 10 Johnson will be a factor for the win.
2008 finish: Ninth
Owning his own team has probably been the best thing for Stewart at this point in his career and he is putting up a performance sheet that has made him the favorite to win his third career championship.
Last four races of this season Stewart has a win, two runner-up finishes and a seventh which is a big part of the reason he is leading the points.
Stewart has had an up and down career at New Hampshire including two wins, 10 top fives but also six finishes of 20th or worse. Stewart is approaching 1,000 laps led at the flat track up north and I wouldn't be surprised to see him hit that mark this weekend.
2008 finish: 13th
Sadler showed he can still hang last week at the road course when he was one of three RPM cars in the top 10 at the end of the day and I definitely see that momentum continuing with the 19 team going into New Hampshire this weekend.
Sadler has had a mixed bag of performances at New Hampshire with that 19 team with some top fives and some outside the top 20. Should Sadler be able to stay on the lead lap for the whole day he will be present in the top 10 if not better by the end of the day.
2008 finish: Fifth
Underdog: Marcos Ambrose
Ambrose has been improving his oval program all season and given the recent momentum off his third place performance at Sonoma and his improvement at the flat tracks on the NASCAR schedule I look for Ambrose to bring home a solid finish and continue to climb up the points and into potential Chase contention.
New Hampshire requires a lot of patience and strategy, two things that Ambrose has much of from his days running the Bathurst 1000. While Ambrose has no appearances at New Hampshire his teammates in David Reutimann and Michael Waltrip have a few appearances and will definitely work with the Aussie in the scheduled practice sessions.
2008 finish: Did not attempt
Had somewhat of a return to form with my picks last week as three of my picks were able to finish in the top 10 while Mark Martin and Kyle Busch went through some bad luck and were relegated towards the back of the field.
Good to see a good performance from my underdog pick which inspired me to give him the nod again this week.
Tony Stewart- Second
Juan Montoya- Sixth
Mark Martin- 35th
Marcos Ambrose- Third