New Hampshire begins Chase for Cup

Sep 12, 2006 7:21 AM

The first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Cup championship is Sunday afternoon at Loudon, New Hampshire, a unique and relatively flat one mile track.

The tracks that come closest based on drivers comments and similar chassis’ setups are Phoenix and Richmond. Evidence supports the correlation. Drivers like Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch all did well on the three tracks. All were using similar chassis setup, if not the exact chassis.

Jeff Burton is the perfect example of a driver who rode to several wins at Phoenix (2), Richmond (1), and New Hampshire (4), while driving for Jack Roush. His four wins at New Hampshire still stand as a track record.

Kyle Busch won the first race at New Hampshire this season, won at Phoenix last fall, and has been in the top 5 of every Richmond race he’s been in. He has a great shot at a sweep of New Hampshire this weekend, only done previously by Kurt Busch (2004) and Jimmie Johnson (2003).

Look for Kyle Busch to have the best car again this week. However, fuel mileage always seems like it plays a big role at this track. The race is 300 laps around the mile track, which makes the strategy a little different.

The drivers I’d really like start strong are Jeff Burton and Mark Martin. The veteran Martin has never won in Loudon, but does have three second place finishes. Martin and Burton are part of the select group of drivers that have participated in every New Hampshire Cup race. Michael Waltrip has been at New Hampshire each year, but is having trouble qualifying on time.

First: Matt Kenseth 5-2: Finished eighth at Richmond giving him his 16th top 10 finish in 2006. Begins Chase with a five point lead over Johnson. Kenseth has ranked among the top-five in the point standings since his victory at California. He has competed in 13 races at New Hampshire, scoring eight top-10 finishes.

Second: Jimmie Johnson 5-2: Finished 23rd last week at Richmond. Remains second in the standings. Johnson has been the point leader after all but four of the 26 races in 2006. He begins the 2006 Chase five points behind Kenseth. This will mark the fifth straight season that Johnson has finished in the top 10.

Third: Kevin Harvick 8-1: won at Richmond last week and remained third in points for the fifth straight race. He begins the Chase 10 points behind Kenseth. This is Harvick’s first year in the Chase and the first time Richard Childress has had a driver in the Chase since the program inception in 2004.

Fourth: Kyle Busch 6-1: Ffinished second at Richmond moving him from fifth to fourth in points. One year ago Busch ranked 19th after 26 races. He begins the 2006 Chase 15 points behind Kenseth. This marks Busch’s first year in the Chase, one of five drivers new to The Chase. Busch has scored 15 top-10 finishes in 26 races in 2006.

Fifth: Denny Hamlin 12-1: finished 15th at Richmond and climbed from seventh to fifth in points. He begins the 2006 Chase 20 points behind Kenseth. Hamlin is the first Rookie-of-the-Year contender to make The Chase since the programs’s inception in 2004.

Sixth: Dale Earnhardt Jr.10-1: Finished 17th at Richmond and remained sixth in the point standings. Earnhardt begins the Chase 25 points behind Kenseth. This marks his second year to compete in the Chase. One year ago he ranked 17th in the point standings, missing the Chase by 216. He has scored 18 top 15 finishes this season.

Seventh: Mark Martin 12-1: finished fifth at Richmond and climbed from ninth to seventh in points. He begins the 2006 Chase 30 points behind Kenseth. This marks his third straight year to compete in the Chase. One year ago, he began The Chase ranked sixth in the point standings. Martin has not won in 33 races.

Eighth: Jeff Burton 8-1: Finished ninth at Richmond climbed from 10th to eighth in the standings. He begins the Chase 35 points behind Kenseth. This marks Burton’s first year in the Chase and the first time Richard Childress has had a driver in the Chase since the programs inception in 2004.

Ninth: Jeff Gordon 8-1: finished 31st at Richmond and dropped from fourth to ninth in points, the biggest drop among the top 10. One year ago he ranked 12th in the point standings, missing the 2005 Chase by 83 points behind then 10th-place Ryan Newman. Gordon has scored two victories in 2006, winning at Infineon and Chicago.

Tenth: Kasey Kahne 12-1: finished third at Richmond and climbed from 11th to 10th in the Cup point standings. Kahne made The Chase beating 11th place Tony Stewart by just 16 points. This marks Kahne’s first year in the Chase and the third straight year that Evernham Motorsports has been represented.

 

Cup Championship Predictions

1. Kyle Busch 6-1

2. Matt Kenseth 5-2

3. Kevin Harvick 8-1

4. Jimmie Johnson 5-2

5. Mark Martin 12-1