Last year of two races in New Hampshire
July 11, 2017 3:07 AM
by Micah Roberts
We’re halfway through the NASCAR Cup Series season and only have eight races to go until the playoffs start. I’m excited that I don’t have to see another 1.5-mile layout until the playoffs kickoff at Chicago Speedway on Sept. 19.
Saturday’s race at Kentucky Speedway was the sixth of 11 races on the cookie cutter layouts. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch the races on 1.5s. My Las Vegas track is a 1.5-mile layout, but after a while it just gets lame. It’s so repetitive, groundhog day. The same thing – another Martin Truex Jr. win… yawn, his third win on the six cookie cutters.
This week I get a break, something new. It’s flat track racing on a 1.058-mile layout at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It’s good racing, fun to watch and always competitive. This will be the first of two races there this season and then next season we only get one event there because Las Vegas took its date away. Las Vegas will kick off the playoffs next season.
It’s bittersweet for me. I like it because it’s my home town getting another race after campaigning for it the past 15 years, but I’d rather not see New Hampshire lose its date.
The first thing I did to prepare for handicapping New Hampshire was take a glance at what happened in the March 19 race at Phoenix as well as the April 30 event at Richmond. Both those tracks are similar in size and banking, so if a driver does well on one they’re more likely to do well on the other.
Ryan Newman held on for the win at Phoenix, but Kyle Busch led a race-high 114 laps and Chase Elliott led 106 laps and finished 12th. Joey Logano led 82 laps and finished 31st after being involved in a wreck. Brad Keselowski would finish fifth.
Six weeks later, it was Logano getting the win at Richmond, but he would have the points taken away after failing a post-race inspection. Penske teammate Keselowski would finish second and lead 110 laps. Matt Kenseth would lead 164 laps and finish 23rd.
The name that jumps out at me the most here is Kenseth, who has won three times in the past seven New Hampshire races and was second last fall. The Richmond race coupled with his obvious liking for this layout gives me reason to search for the best odds on him.
Joe Gibbs Racing still hasn’t won a race yet, but I’m liking Busch, Kenseth and Denny Hamlin to all fare well.
One longer shot to keep an eye on here is Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who finished fourth at both Phoenix and Richmond. Newman has also won three times here.