NASCAR Preview

Last Updated Monday, Jul 25, 2005 1:16 am, EDT

Race Capsule

New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  • What:

    Race 19 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, NH

  • When:

    July 17, 2005 2:10 pm EDT

  • Laps:


  • Track Length:

    1.058 miles

  • Race Length:

    317.00 miles

  • Purse:


Drivers to Watch

Elliott Sadler Blew a tire and slammed hard into the wall on lap 163, leading to a season-worst 37th in Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicago; has fallen two spots to fifth in the standings as a result of back-to-back finishes outside the top 20; has nine top-10s this season but only one top-five - a second from the pole in Bristol on April 3; seeking his first win since the Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway on September 5, when he clinched entry into the inaugural "Chase"; ran eighth here two weeks later, matching his best result in 12 career starts in New Hampshire.
Ryan Newman Ran 29th at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday for his fourth finish of 14th or worse in the last five events; has tumbled three spots to seventh in the standings during that stretch, which followed four straight top-10s; leads the circuit with five poles and nearly had his sixth last week before settling for his ninth front-row start of the season; seeking first victory of season; has just two checkered flags since leading the circuit with eight in 2003; NHIS is special for Newman, who claimed his first victory here in September 2002; has won last three poles here and looking forward to more success: "New Hampshire has always been a great track for me and the Alltel team. Up until last season, we had five straight top-10 finishes. We were definitely a contender for the win again last year before we had engine problems. With that kind of history at the track, we've definitely got a raised sense of confidence heading there again this weekend."
Kurt Busch Defending series champion swept both races here last year, accounting for two-thirds of his checkered flags in 2004; won the first race of the inaugural "Chase for the Nextel Cup" here as part of nine top-10s in the final 10 races as he held off Johnson by eight points, the closest finish in series history; is clinging to 10th in the standings this year but is just 30 points behind sixth-place Mark Martin; ran eighth in Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400 for just his third top-10 in the last nine events; began the season with six finishes of seventh or better, including a victory at Phoenix, in the first nine races; managed just two top-10s in his first six starts at this track; seeking more success here: "We'd love to go there and make it three in a row and then we definitely have to focus on the bigger picture when we go back there in September."
In his final full season on the circuit - dubbed "Rusty's Last Call" - is fourth in the standings, 248 points off the pace; has climbed 10 spots over the last eight races on the strength of three of his four top-fives this season; ran 12th in Chicago on Sunday and his finished 12th or better in 13 of 18 events this season; seeking first victory since April 18, 2004; won the inaugural race here in 1993 but has led just four of last 19 events in New Hampshire; finished 30th in this race last year and 14th here in September; seeking his first series championship since 1989.
Greg Biffle Leads the series with five checkered flags this season and is second to Jimmie Johnson in the points standings, 108 off the pace; has six wins in the last 19 events after visiting victory lane just twice in his first 77; has ranked in the top five since posting his first victory of the season in Fontana on February 27; ran 11th at Chicagoland last week for his third straight finish outside the top 10; had finished sixth or better in five of the previous six events, including three victories; ran 10th in this event as a rookie in 2003 but has finished 27th or worse in his other four starts at New Hampshire.
Jimmie Johnson Passed teammate Brian Vickers on the final lap to finish third in the USG Sheetrock 400 on Sunday and increase his lead atop the standings to 108 points; eighth top-five of the season but first since running fourth at Dover on June 5; began the season with seven consecutive top-10s, extending his streak to 13 dating to last season; has led the standings after 14 of 18 events this year and his 13 top-10s are three more than any other driver; after leading the circuit with eight victories in 2004, has claimed checkered flags at Las Vegas and Lowe's Motor Speedway this year; became the first driver to sweep in New Hampshire in 2003 but finished 11th in both races here last year.
Tony Stewart Despite being forced to start at the rear of the 43-car field after a crash in practice, finished fifth in Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400; was his fourth consecutive top-five, a stretch during which he has climbed seven rungs to third in the standings; ended 29-race victory drought in Sonoma on June 26 and claimed his first career victory in Daytona the following week; has led the most laps five times this season, including 151 in the Pepsi 400; ran fifth in this event last year but got caught up in an accident caused by Robby Gordon and finished 39th here in September.
Matt Kenseth The 2003 series champion led a race-high 176 laps and finished a season-high second in Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400, climbing three spots to 16th in the standings; has run in the top 10 four times in the last six events after managing just one in the previous 21 events dating to last season; has not won since claiming checkered flags in both the second and third races of last season; has run in the top 10 in his last five starts here, including a fourth in this event last year and a second in the Sylvania 300 in September.
Jeff Gordon A late accident with Mike Bliss led to a 33rd in Chicago on Sunday, dropping him two spots to 15th in the standings; was his sixth finish of 30th or worse in the last eight events; ran second to Busch in this event amid a string of six consecutive top-fives last year; enters this year's edition without a top-five since running second in Darlington on May 7; qualified 24th for this event last year, ending a streak of four consecutive poles; won the Daytona 500 among his three checkered flags this season; his 72 career victories leave him four shy or tying the late Dale Earnhardt for sixth on the all-time list; a participant in each of the 20 races in New Hampshire, posting nine top-fives.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Led final 11 laps and took the checkered for the first time in 20 events in Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400; after just two top-fives in the first 16 events, ran third in Daytona two weeks ago; has posted back-to-back top-fives for the first time since running second in Richmond and third here in September; prior to his recent surge had six straight finishes of 14th or worse; has climbed five spots to 13th over the last two races and is just 115 points outside the top 10 with eight races remaining before the beginning of the "Chase"; after managing just one top-10 finish in his first seven starts in New Hampshire, has run sixth or better three times in his last four starts here.