Brad Keselowski took the first step to winning a Championship by winning at Chicago last week – his fourth victory of the season. The LVH Super Book took the win very seriously and cut his odds to capture the title in half, from 8-to-1, down to 4-1.
Jimmie Johnson, second at Chicago, remains the favorite to win it all at 5-2 down to 2-1. The five-time champion has now finished runner-up during his seven races on 1.5-mile tracks, but still doesn’t have a win on them. He’ll have four more shots in the next nine races.
The next task for the drivers is to take on New Hampshire. A few of the Chase drivers will have a bit of an edge over the others. We can use past races held at Phoenix and Richmond as a good reference to find out who might do well this week, along with using the first New Hampshire race held July 15.
All three tracks have different layouts and aren’t even the same size, but they are all one-mile or less and relatively flat. Drivers that do well on one usually succeed on the other because crew chiefs use the same set-ups for each and sometimes use the exact chassis at all three.
Two weeks ago we saw Clint Bowyer win at Richmond and it’s no coincidence that he is a two-time champ at New Hampshire. In the first race held there in July, Bowyer finished third behind eventual winner Kasey Kahne and runner-up Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin, surprisingly, didn’t fare well at Richmond two weeks ago, but he was one of the best on these types of tracks all season. He won at Phoenix in March and was fourth in the first Richmond race held in April. He hasn’t won at New Hampshire since 2007, but has finished runner-up on three separate occasions with a track best 8.5 average finish in 13 starts.
Hamlin has an uphill battle to climb after finishing 16th last week after running out of fuel on the last lap. But because of having several tracks of the nine that remain in the Chase, Hamlin should be able to make up the deficit quite easily.
Keselowski has finished fifth and runner-up in his last two New Hampshire starts and becomes even more of a candidate to win this week based on what he’s done on similar tracks, which includes a fifth-place finish at Phoenix.
Johnson is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, but hasn’t been his normal dominant self on these types of tracks this season. His only top-5 finish in the four races was at Phoenix in March.
Jeff Gordon has won at New Hampshire three times over his career, but hasn’t won there since 1998. He’s finished runner-up multiple since then and placed 15th or better in his last 14 starts.
The biggest reason to maybe support Gordon this week is that he was super strong at Richmond two weeks ago in the race he fought so hard to get runner-up and make the Chase.
Micah Roberts is a former race and sports book director, and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Contact Micah at [email protected].