But it’s not likely he’ll catch him!
Over the last four weeks of NASCAR Sprint Cup series racing, we have seen four vastly different tracks and it continues this week with a visit to Loudon, New Hampshire’s flat one-mile track. Even though this is the first of two races to be held in Loudon this season, we can say that we have already seen the basics of this race run twice already this season.
Because of similar traits, performances run already this season at Phoenix and Richmond can be used as a great barometer into getting a head start for handicapping this weeks race. None of the tracks look alike in configuration, but because of the flat banking, many of the successful teams will be bringing the same chassis they did well with in those races leading up to Loudon this week.
The driver with the most success this year at Phoenix and Richmond was Jeff Gordon, who probably should have won both, but finished second in each. It’s likely that if it had been the Gordon from 10 years ago, those would have been cinch wins, but even the Gordon of 10 years ago didn’t have to deal with green-white-checker finishes, the new late-race format in which Gordon has yet to be the beneficiary.
Gordon has yet to win in 2010 but is coming into this race with two straight top-five finishes and is currently fifth in points. His two runs at Phoenix and Richmond remain his best runs of the year. Over his career, Gordon is a three time winner at New Hampshire with his last coming in 1998. It seems like an eternity since that magical 13 win season of 1998. In more recent history, last season Gordon finished runner-up in this race and did the same in both 2007 races.
The one car Gordon may want to stay away from this week is Martin Truex Jr.’s NAPA “Know-How” car. Last week at Sonoma, Gordon punted Truex Jr. early in the race after Truex Jr. had fought his way into the top-5 with a very good car which resulted in Truex Jr. losing several positions, and eventually caused him later to be involved in a wreck ending his day.
Truex Jr. vowed to get even with Gordon at Loudon with the “What goes around comes around” theory. Gordon admitted he was wrong and apologized as much as he could, but Truex Jr. didn’t seem to care much, saying, “Of course he’s sorry.”
Usually that type of talk and banter after a race is to be expected, but it’s rare to have a driver actually call the race he’s going to get even in, and in this new age of NASCAR’s relaxed stance on personality outbursts, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make good on his promise.
If Truex’s revenge scares you off of what should be one of the top contenders, then how about taking a look at last week’s winner, Jimmie Johnson, who finished in the top-10 at both Phoenix and Richmond. Johnson moved up four positions in points with the win, thanks to dreadful days by Gibbs teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Johnson is a two-time Loudon winner, with both coming in 2003.
Kyle Busch won at Richmond this year and fought hard to finish eighth at Phoenix. He won this race in 2006 and finished in the top-10 of both Loudon races last season.
Juan Pablo Montoya is an interesting look this week not only because he finished fifth at Phoenix and sixth at Richmond this year, but because he finished second in the fall Loudon race last year. Montoya didn’t make many friends last week at Sonoma either with his bullying tactics, but he’s one to watch this week and he should have some great value.
Mark Martin won the fall New Hampshire race last season and finished fourth at Phoenix this year, one of best runs of the season. He hasn’t had the same look of a winner like he did last season, but he is still someone to take notice of.
Jeff Burton is the track’s all-time leader in wins with four and had a great run at Richmond with fourth-place.