Past track successes mean everything at New Hampshire

July 16, 2002 9:27 AM
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New Hampshire’s short history began in 1993 with their inaugural race that Rusty Wallace won. Four years later a second race was added onto the schedule because of the sellout crowds. In all, 13 races have been run all-time at the International Speedway.

The most successful driver in NHIS history has been Jeff Burton. In 11 career starts, Burton had won at least one of the two races over four consecutive years before the streak was snapped in 2001.

Last season’s poor efforts are not indicative of what Burton expects of himself on The Monster Mile (Dover) or The Track Too Tough To Tame (Darlington) because Burton has dominated this track. Beyond his victories, he’s had three other Top 5 finishes. Only five times has Burton failed to post a Top 5 effort. That is extraordinary! Those are the type of numbers Dale Earnhardt Jr. claims on restrictor plate tracks.

One of the candidates to win this week could be Jeff Gordon. He’s second best at this track, but not by much. In 14 NHIS races, he’s got three wins and six other Top 5 finishes. Gordon, who was second last year, is primed to snap his 26-race winless streak.

One of the other superstars on this track is Tony Stewart. In five races, Stewart has one win and three other Top 5 efforts. He’s also the driver with perhaps the most experience at New Hampshire, having competed in all three racing series at NHIS.

In his last full season driving in the IRL, Stewart claimed a victory in New Hampshire. That same year, driving a part-time Busch Series car owned by Joe Gibbs, Stewart finished second. In his first Winston Cup race at NHIS, Stewart led with one lap to go and ran out of gas. He followed that disappointment up with a solid second place finish and then eventually won the next season during the 2000 campaign.

The fall race two years ago was tainted due to the tragic deaths of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin, so restrictor plates were implemented for safety precautions where Stewart didn’t fare well. In the first race last season, Stewart got back on track and managed a respectable 5th despite starting from 25th.

Stewart has a few tracks where he thinks are his to lose and Loudon’s is one of them. Look for Stewart to get back on the winning track in New Hampshire this weekend. Others to watch include Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, and Jimmie Johnson.