The NASCAR Sprint Cup season has had bettors guessing all season and, for the most part, wrong.
It’s been a tough season with no real vibe or trend to grab onto. Just when you think the favorites are starting to emerge on a given type of track, a big underdog wins. Then, just when you’re about to give one of the underdogs a chance to win, the favorite comes home.
This week at New Hampshire, we think we can use the data from races at Phoenix and Richmond as has been the case forever because of the similar distance and lack of banking. However, there is now that little cloud of doubt hovering above because of this year’s occurrences.
The standard equation of using similar tracks and past history, then mixing in actual practice results prior to the race isn’t as sound a betting formula as it has been in the past. For the first time, parity is playing a major role and throwing a wrench into many betting practices.
It would be foolish to throw out what happened at those two tracks this year, as would it be to throw out recent past results. Despite some drivers not winning races they were expected to with such ease, the past still does represent a great starting base of drivers to choose from.
New points leader Kyle Busch has three wins on the season and one of those came at Richmond. We can also look to his runner-up finish at Phoenix to have us believe he’ll be the driver to beat. He won at New Hampshire in 2006, but only has two top-fives there in the nine races since. He’s got three wins on the year with virtually no fear of not making the Chase which should let him go all out and acquire those bonus points by getting wins.
The most consistent driver at New Hampshire has been Denny Hamlin with a 7.6 average finish in his 10 starts. He won there in 2007 and has finished runner-up in the last two fall races. Hamlin also was runner-up on his home track of Richmond in late April, a race he was favored to win at.
Jimmie Johnson is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, but only has a Talladega victory on the season. Even though the car and set-up was different for last week’s race at Kentucky than it will be for Sunday, the obvious improvement on the 1.5-mile track should be a sign that the team is working double-time to get back to their dominant form.
Johnson won this race last year and finished third and eighth at Phoenix and Richmond respectively this season.
Jeff Gordon made the pass on Kyle Busch at Phoenix to win there this season and ended a lengthy winless drought. He’s had six New Hampshire wins over his career, but none since his magical year of 1998 when he won 13 races. However, Gordon has been strong on the track as he’s on a run of finishing sixth or better in six of his last nine starts.
Clint Bowyer has plummeted outside the top-10 in points and is in danger of not making the Chase if he doesn’t get something going good right now. But New Hampshire has been a place that Bowyer has had his most success – winning in 2007 and the fall race last season. He also has proven to be almost as good at Richmond and Phoenix through the years too. At Richmond this year, Bowyer finished sixth.
Kurt Busch is a three-time New Hampshire winner and has been one of the best there since 2008 that has seen him finish worse than sixth only once (13th). Look for his upward swing since the outburst towards his team to continue.
For some reason we don’t have the Roush drivers having lots of success at New Hampshire. Only Greg Biffle has won (2008) on the track while Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards have struggled there more than other tracks over the last three seasons.
We could see a few drivers unexpectedly show up like four-time New Hampshire winner Jeff Burton or 2009 winner Joey Logano, but I’m going to stick with a few of the favorites starting with Johnson. I think the team is going to make a strong move in the upcoming weeks to solidify their campaign for a sixth Cup championship.