Is it just me, or was last weekend's race exciting? The double-file restarts proved to be killer at the first road course race of 2009, and I cannot wait for Watkins Glen!
This week, the boys return to an oval track with only left turns, as they head back up north to Loudon for the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
When setting up your Fantasy Roster for domination this weekend, here are a few drivers to select (Hot) and a few to stay away from (Not).
Stewart has become (and will probably remain) the top choice on almost any given weekend to put on your Fantasy Roster.
Let's face it, Stewart can, well...Smoke...the competition on any given weekend, and NHMS is no different.
Heading into the weekend, Stewart leads the points by 84 over Jeff Gordon. He also leads all drivers with 12 top-10 finishes in 16 starts (75 percent) and is tied for first with eight top-fives.
At NHMS: In 20 starts at the track, Stewart has collected two wins, 10 top-fives, 12 top-10s, one pole, and an average finish of 12.6.
When it comes to NASCAR's Loop Data, Stewart has an Average Running Position of 9.9 (third-best), a Driver Rating of 115.6 (series-best), 235 Fastest Laps Run (series-high), an Average Green Flag Speed of 124.308 MPH (series-best), 1,883 Laps in the Top 15 (78.7 percent, fourth-most), and 229 Quality Passes (fourth-most).
Gordon currently sits second in the points and rallied back last weekend at Infineon for a top-10 finish on the 1.99-mile road course.
Heading into New Hampshire, Gordon looks to capitalize on a track where he has been successful and make up some ground on points leader Stewart.
At NHMS: Gordon has raced NHMS 28 times and collected three wins, 12 top-fives, 15 top-10s, three poles, and an average finish of 11.6.
In NASCAR's Loop Data, Gordon has a series-best Average Running Position of 7.5, a Driver Rating of 106.7 (second-best), 196 Fastest Laps Run (second-most), an Average Green Flag Speed of 124.241 MPH (second-fastest), 2,142 Laps in the Top 15 (89.5 percent, series-high), and 261 Quality Passes (series-high).
Lately, the elder Busch has received far less attention than his younger brother—the Shrub.
This weekend at NHMS, however, it could be Kurt Busch who scores you some points on your Fantasy Roster.
Heading into the weekend, Busch quietly sits fourth in the points, and although he hasn't made much noise in recent weeks, Busch has been successful in Loudon.
At NHMS: Busch may not have the highest Driver Rating (83.7) or the best Average Finish (15.5), but he does have three wins, five top-fives, and seven top-10 finishes in New Hampshire.
Hamlin is itching to not only get back to Victory Lane, but to also get out from beneath the shadow that is teammate Kyle Busch.
Hamlin moved up to seventh place in the point standings after a solid run at Infineon last weekend and returns to a track where he has finished outside the top 10 only once.
At NHMS: In six races in Loudon, Hamlin has one win, two top-fives, five top-10s, and an average finish of 7.2.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Hamlin has an Average Running Position of 9.2 (second-best), a Driver Rating of 103.6 (third-best), an Average Green Flag Speed of 124.031 MPH (fourth-fastest), 1,564 Laps in the Top 15 (87.3 percent, eighth-most), and 223 Quality Passes (fifth-most).
Dark Horse: Jeff Burton
The only reason Burton is a Dark Horse here, and not one of my Hot drivers, is because of the struggles that Richard Childress Racing as a whole has had so far in 2009.
Burton has four wins at NHMS, eight top-fives, 13 top-10s, and an average finish of 12.8—which are impressive numbers.
His Average Running Position of 11.4 and Driver Rating of 96.4 are seventh-best, while his Average Green Flag Speed of 123.925 MPH and 1,772 Laps in the Top 15 (74.1 percent) are both sixth-best.
Burton, who fell out of the top 12 last weekend, needs a solid finish this weekend to charge back into Chase contention.
The driver expected to be the fifth wheel at Roush Fenway Racing after the 2009 season is a driver to stay away from this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
In 12 starts at the track, McMurray has collected just one top-five (2004) and three top-10s (2003-2004).
Since joining RFR, McMurray's stats at the track have been even worse. In six races at the track in a Ford, McMurray's best finish was 11th (2007). During that span, he has an average finish of 28.2.
In case you were thinking of taking Sadler as a wild card this weekend, it may be best to wait for another weekend.
Sadler has 20 starts at NHMS, and has collected only one top-five (though it did come in 2008) and five top-10 finishes.
His average finish of 21.2 isn't awful, but in his last four races at the track, Sadler has finishes of 24th, fifth, 38th, and 33rd.
Race No.: 17 of 36
Track Size: 1.058-miles
Race Length: 317.4 miles (300 laps)
Banking/Corners: Variable at two and seven degrees
Banking/Straights: one degree
Driver Rating at NHMS
Tony Stewart 115.6
Jeff Gordon 106.7
Denny Hamlin 103.6
Dale Earnhardt Jr. 103.1
Jimmie Johnson 102.8
Kevin Harvick 102.2
Jeff Burton 96.4
Martin Truex Jr. 93.6
Ryan Newman 92.7
Mark Martin 92.1
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2008 races (eight total) at New Hampshire.