After a weekend of fun in the California sun, which included left and right turns, it’s back to the ovals. Race No.17 comes to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.
Joey Logano heads home as the defending winner and as the top finisher for Joe Gibbs Racing at Sonoma, however that was a 33rd place finish. All three JGR drivers can’t wait to head back to the ovals and a track they’ve all won at in the past. For Denny Hamlin, he’s looking to regain the momentum that was firmly on his side before his disappointing day last Sunday.
The winner from last Sunday was none other than everyone’s favorite driver they love to hate, Jimmie Johnson. After winning his fourth race of the year, and first career on a road course, Johnson heads to NH looking for his third win at the track. More importantly for Johnson is that the win will tie him for bonus points with Hamlin when the Chase starts.
Johnson’s teammates: Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., would also love a win. All three still haven’t found the winners circle in 2010, but all three have favorable statistics at the one-mile track. For Martin and Earnhardt Jr. they need NH to provide a solid run to help their Chase chances, Martin sits 11th while Earnhardt Jr. is in 13th, knocking on the door.
Gordon has knocked on the door to victory lane plenty of times this season, but each slipped through his fingers. As the Chase approaches he’s still without the much needed bonus points. So too is Tony Stewart, whom everyone is still waiting on to heat up. The summer months are known as Stewart months, but so far he hasn’t lived up to his own expectations.
Recently though, he said he was going to make the highlight reel, and no better place to get started than NH where he’s won before. He’s also won on the next nine tracks that are on the schedule, so the question becomes not will Stewart win, but where?
That same question could be asked about our Creatures. After winning early and often, they cool off for one weekend and then come so close the next. Can they get back to collecting the bonus points this weekend in NH? Here’s whom they believe will help them accomplish that.
Misan Akuya: Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton was once the man at Loudon: four wins, one where he led all 300 laps, eight top fives, 13 top 10's, 704 laps led, and his average finish is 13.50. Burton has been strong all year and has been close; he’s just had bad luck. Expect Burton to return to his former form on Sunday.
James Broomhead: Denny Hamlin
Loudon still a short track? Check. Hamlin entered? Check. World continues to spin on conventional axis? Check. The more this year goes on (Sonoma was an ugly exception) there more it looks like Hamlin's year, or at least "regular season.”
Kelly Crandall: Denny Hamlin
I’m sticking with the first driver to enter my head. It worked at Dover to get me a win with Kyle Busch, and last weekend I was eighth laps away with Marcos Ambrose. Instead of trying to go with statistics and my gut, since they both have failed me this year, this is how I’m going to do it.
That and the fact that I’m just trying to stop being so competitive and throw caution to the win and see what happens.
Billy Fellin: Kurt Busch
Three wins at New Hampshire in the past as well as six top five's work for me. He's been strong these last few races, minus Sonoma, so I'll take the blue deuce up north.
Adam Heasley: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
Christopher Leone: Jeff Gordon
In 30 starts, he has an average finish of 11.4, with 13 top five results. Though he hasn’t won at the track since 1998, he has four finishes of third or better in the last seven Loudon races and led 64 laps in this event last year. He’ll be looking for a long overdue first win of the season.
Kara Martin: Denny Hamlin
He’s not a road course driver, as he proved last weekend, but he has been great on the ovals this year. Back to one this weekend and I look for the momentum to return.
Dustin Parks: Jeff Burton
Harvick isn't the only RCR driver having a good season. Burton has been under the radar as well, and this is a very good track for him. Wouldn't surprise me if he stuns the field and takes a win.
Patti Rodisch: Kurt Busch
Last year at this race Kurt Busch ran second to Jeff Gordon the entire race and ended up finishing third in the rain shortened race. He has three wins, six top fives and nine top 10’s at Loudon in his career. Busch has proven to be Dodge’s lone weekly contender in 2010. I would not be surprised to see Busch in victory lane again on Sunday.
Sal Sigala Jr.: Jimmie Johnson
It has been six years since Johnson has been to victory lane at New Hampshire, but he’s still proving that he can win at any given time, and the victory at Sonoma this past weekend had to be a huge confidence booster. Don't be surprised to see the team begin to ride this wave of momentum to another victory.
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
While he'll have a ton of drivers who want that No. 24 Chevy to be had, by day's end, they'll be had—when the DuPont team find themselves in Victory Lane. Save for his mediocre finish last fall, he was sterling and impressive last June.
I look for more of the same, as long as he knows there'll be a few drivers looking to settle the score with him. Having won at NHMS three times, I think number four will come on Sunday.
Alan Wade: Denny Hamlin
Joe Gibbs team all had a rough week at Sonoma, and all the more reason they will bounce back with a strong outing at The Magic Mile. I expect top 10’s from all three drivers, but Hamlin deserves a win as a reward for driving that lap with his hood blocking his windshield!
Billy Fellin (2, 281 ) Tony Stewart finished ninth (3 )
Kara Martin (2, 273 ) Jeff Gordon finished fifth (2 )
Sal Sigala Jr. (2, 182 ) Jeff Gordon finished fifth (1 )
James Broomhead (2, 164 ) Marcos Ambrose finished sixth (2 )
Kelly Crandall (2, 129 ) Marcos Ambrose finished sixth (2 )
Christopher Leone (2, 122 ) Juan Pablo Montoya finished 10th (3 )
Dustin Parks (2, 121 ) Jeff Gordon finished fifth (2 )
Rob Tiongson (2, 072 ) Juan Pablo Montoya finished 10th (0 )
Patti Rodisch (1, 996 ) Jeff Gordon finished fifth (0 )
Misan Akuya (1, 934 ) Tony Stewart finished ninth (1 )
Adam Heasley (962 ) NO PICK SENT (0 )
Alan Wade (435 ) Tony Stewart finished ninth (0 )
New Hampshire loves first time winners—Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, and Robby Gordon (to name a few) have all won their first career race at NH. Logano is the most recent to do it, coming in this event last year.
Payback can be you know what this weekend as well. We’ve seen it in the past with Robby Gordon and Michael Waltrip, as well as when Gordon paid Greg Biffle back, which collected Jeremy Mayfield. The wreck hurt both their Chase chances.
With so many drivers coming off a road rage Sunday last weekend, all eyes will be watching NH to see if any of it carries over.
Summary of Picks