NASCAR Preview

Last Updated Monday, Jul 5, 2010 2:09 am, EDT

Lenox Industrial Tools 301

Status: Final New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Race Capsule

New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  • What:

    Race 17 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH

  • When:

    June 27, 2010 1:15 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    301

  • Track Length:

    1.058 miles

  • Race Length:

    318.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $5,256,417

Drivers to Watch

Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya won the pole and led 105 laps last fall before ending up third for his best finish ever at Loudon. "I'd like to go back to New Hampshire and have the same performance that we did last year in the fall race," said Montoya. "We topped the speed charts in all the practice sessions, and we almost had the win 'til Mark (Martin) pulled a fast one on us in the closing laps."
Kasey Kahne Kahne has five top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Loudon, including a 10th in the spring race last year. "The first couple of years we were always top-10 and then we had a couple where we weren't, so it's just been up and down for us there," said Kahne. "We just need to figure out how to get the right balance. If we do that, we'll have a shot to run in the top 10."
Kurt Busch Busch was another driver who dropped in the standings -- he's 216 points out of first place. Busch has three wins (a sweep in 2004 and July 2008), six top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 18 New Hampshire starts. He has a streak of four top-10 finishes there with two of those in the top five, including a third last June and sixth in September. "I think New Hampshire reminds me a little bit of Phoenix," Busch said. "I've always liked Phoenix and the racing there a lot and have had quite a few miles around that track. The way that you have to slide a car around on a flat track like that requires a loose setup, and that's the way I like to set my cars up. At Loudon, you really have to pay attention to that track because that's the first Chase race when we go there in September. You never really pinpoint a specific date; you just hope that you have a cushion when it comes down to two or three to go to get into the Chase."
Mark Martin When Martin won the fall race at Loudon last year, it was his first victory there. He has 14 top-10s at New Hampshire, including three runner-up finishes, in 26 starts. Martin will be making his 775th Cup Series start this weekend. "It's kind of shocking, even to me," he said. "That's a lot of starts. I kind of wonder where the time went, but it's all been fun. I'm doing what I love. Still doing what I love. I don't think you can measure success by starts, but I appreciate all 774 races that have come to this point."
Ryan Newman Newman has two wins and 10 top-10 finishes in 16 starts at Loudon. "The Haas Automation team has really excelled on the short tracks over the last two years," said Newman. "This season, we got top-10s at Martinsville and Richmond, and we won earlier in the year at Phoenix." Newman will be driving the same car he steered to the Phoenix victory.
David Reutimann Reutimann finished fourth in the June race a year ago for his lone top-10 finish in six starts at Loudon. He finished 12th in the fall race. "We ran really well there last year," said Reutimann. "So we feel good about going back. We have high hopes for the weekend."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer scored his first Sprint Cup victory at New Hampshire in September 2007. He won the pole and dominated the race, leading 222 of the 300 laps. His second top-10 at the track came last September. "I don't know if we could ever run as well as we did back in 2007, but I think it's a track we can win at," said Bowyer.
Jimmie Johnson Johnson, who climbed an astounding four points positions with his victory at Infineon, has two wins at New Hampshire -- he swept both races in 2003. Those are two of his five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 16 starts. He was ninth last June and fourth in September. He has a streak of six straight top-10 finishes and eight top-10s in his last nine races at New Hampshire. "I'm definitely excited for New Hampshire," Johnson said. "It's been a good track for us, and hopefully we can get back to Victory Lane. If not, then I'm expecting a good top-five run up there. Hopefully we can learn a lot there this weekend that will prepare us for the Chase. The road-course win was awesome, and I am just so proud of it. We ran so good all day long -- all weekend long, for that matter. As everybody knows, there's been a lot of effort put into it from myself to the team. It was just a very rewarding day of racing that I'm very, very proud of."
Joey Logano Logano won the rain-shortened June race last year at Loudon to become the youngest race winner in Sprint Cup history (19 years, one month and four days). It was only his 20th start. The race was called after 273 of the scheduled 301 laps because of persistent rain showers. "To win at my home track was just unbelievable," said Logano, a native of Middletown, Conn.
Marcos Ambrose Ambrose finished 23rd and 20th in the two races at Loudon in 2009. Ambrose, who jumped from 30th to 27th in the standings with his top-10 finish at Sonoma, said his immediate goal is to get back in the top 25. With two races left until the season reaches its midway point, Ambrose is 88 points out of the top 25.
Paul Menard Menard is still looking for his first top-10 finish at Loudon. His best finish in six starts at the track is 21st. "Starting from the front of the field is key, and we'll really concentrate on our qualifying setup during practice on Friday," said Menard. "Because the track is so difficult to pass on, track position is really important."
Jeff Gordon Gordon climbed two spots in the standings and is 192 out of the lead heading to New Hampshire, where he has three wins (summer 1995, fall 1997 and 1998), 13 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in 30 starts. He was second in this race last year and 15th in September but has just one top-10 finish in the last three New Hampshire starts. "I think I won Loudon in 1970, it seems like," Gordon joked. "At this point in my career, I feel like I haven't won at New Hampshire, based on those statistics. It's kind of like the All-Star race; it's like a 10-year deal where you go into default. I've been good at New Hampshire. It's still one of my favorite tracks. It's a difficult, challenging race track, but we just haven't been able to always put all the pieces in place there. When Joey (Logano) won there, I felt like that was the best shot we've had there in a long time. If we can perform like that again this year, then I feel like we'll get back to our winning ways in New Hampshire."
Jeff Burton Burton remains eighth in the standings, 307 points out of the lead but only 152 ahead of 13th place. Burton has four wins (summer 1997, '98 and '99; fall 2000), eight top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 30 starts at New Hampshire. He was 31st last June and 16th last September and has just one top-10 finish in his last five New Hampshire starts. "I can tell you that I am very optimistic about going to New Hampshire this year based on how well we ran at Phoenix and Richmond," Burton said. "I haven't won there in a long time, and it would mean a great deal to me to win. Personally, I would like to get back to Victory Lane at Loudon. We tested at Milwaukee for New Hampshire, but it rained a lot and we didn't get as much running in as we wanted to. We were there for two days, but we probably got one day worth of work done and we had three days worth of work to do. So we didn't get as much done as we wanted to, and I don't know if we covered as much as we needed to in order to get the full answers to what we were looking for. We had some stuff we wanted to try and some ideas we wanted to run by the car that we needed to see what they felt like to me. We got a portion of those things done."
Carl Edwards Edwards has only two top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Loudon. "We've run really well at New Hampshire, we just haven't been able to run well there lately," he said. "This is an important race for us for a number of reasons, but mostly because this is the first race of the Chase the next time we come back. So it would be great to run well and take those notes back for the second race up there."
Kyle Busch Busch dropped one position in the points and is 141 points out of first but only one point out of second place. Busch has one win (June 2006), four top-five finishes and five top-10s in 10 starts at New Hampshire. He was seventh last June and fifth in September and has a streak of two top-10 finishes. "Loudon is a pretty particular race track," Busch said. "It's tough. It's not like Phoenix. It's not like Dover at all. It's a flat race track, and it's really typical of a tough race track to pass on. You can't just have a really good race car and finish up front. You have to keep track position. You have to keep up all day and make everything work. New Hampshire is a fun track for me, as a driver, even though it was a tough year there last year. It's flat like Phoenix and Milwaukee, but it's a little bit tricky. In order to do well there, you need a car that works on all the different kinds of asphalt the tracks seem to be putting down. You need a car that has a lot of side bite in the rear and front grip to turn easier. At New Hampshire, it seems like I've always been loose into the corner and tight in the center, which is hard to fix, sometimes. I think the team that can fix that the best will have the best car."
Kevin Harvick Harvick's lead in the standings has ballooned to 140 points heading to New Hampshire, where he has one win (September 2006), three top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 18 starts. He was 34th in this race last year and 32nd in September. "We ran well there last year, but there was a big wreck on a restart with us running seventh," Harvick said. "That was the story of the year last year. I enjoy the flat tracks, but the worst we ran this year was at Phoenix, so I hope that's not an indication of what Loudon will be like for us. I think we should go up there and run really well based on how we have run all year. We are going to have weeks where we are a little off, and those are the days where you have to make something happen and get a top-10 finish, and we have been able to do that this year. It's difficult because the first few laps of a run are so hard to get a hold of the race track in traffic, and your car winds up pushing and sliding and doing all sorts of goofy things on restarts. The unique part of what happens at New Hampshire is if you don't pit for tires, you wind up getting these clumps of rubber on your tires, and the cars just slide around all over the place. You slide around and if you are in the middle of the pack, you wind up getting so far behind that by the time you catch back up, it's time to pit again. Track position is critical at New Hampshire."
Tony Stewart Stewart, who climbed one spot to get back in the top 10, is a two-time New Hampshire winner with victories in the summer races in 2000 and 2005. He has 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 22 starts and was fifth last June and 14th in September. He has three top-five finishes in his last five New Hampshire starts. "Obviously, I like it because I've had success there," Stewart said. "But at the same time, it's a tough track to pass on. You can be a couple of tenths faster than a guy, but it still takes you 20 laps to get by him. There are other tracks on the circuit where it's hard to pass, but we still go out and put on good shows there, too. Every race at Loudon seems to be a pretty good race. So, I like it. I enjoy racing there even though it is hard to pass. But when you've got a good car, it's always fun to race. If you miss on something it can be a miserable day. It seems like you don't see but three or four guys during the day that really hit it. That's what makes a day there miserable when you miss. It's just a matter of keeping a well-balanced car all day. And it seems like you can have bad track position, but if you have a car that drives well, you can drive your way to the front. It's not a situation you cringe at if you have a good driving car. It certainly doesn't help if someone has a bad attitude going in there. It kind of puts a strike against you, but I'm not going to say that you're already beat. There are tracks that I've been to that weren't my favorite tracks, but I still found a way to win there. You've just got to stay focused and work hard to find what it takes to be good."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex has four top-10 finishes in eight starts at Loudon, including three top-fives. "I kind of cut my teeth there," said Truex. "It was the first big track I ever raced on. My first big NASCAR win came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the Nationwide Series, and it led to a championship. It's an important place in terms of my career."
Jamie McMurray McMurray has three top-10 finishes in 14 starts at Loudon. "I'm excited to be going back to Loudon with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, particularly after watching Juan (Pablo Montoya, his teammate) dominate the way he did during the Chase race there at the end of last season," said McMurray. Montoya won the pole and led 105 laps before ending up third.
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger has never fared well at Loudon. In five starts, his best finish is 25th. "Patience is important at New Hampshire Motor Speedway," said Allmendinger. "You've got to go into it knowing you may have to spend a couple of laps setting up the pass before you can actually make it and not get frustrated in the process."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt has eight top-10 finishes in 21 starts at Loudon, including five top-fives. "New Hampshire is one of the smaller tracks that we go to, and I like racing on the shorter, flatter tracks," said Earnhardt. "There's multiple grooves you can run there. We had a real good setup there last year, so I'm looking forward to going back."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth was another driver who dropped in the standings, losing two positions, and is 242 out of the lead. Kenseth has never won at Loudon, where he has five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 20 starts. He was 22nd last June and 23rd in September, his third and fourth consecutive finishes outside of the top 10. "New Hampshire is a track that has always been a challenge for me and I feel like it hasn't been one of my better tracks on the circuit, but, statistically speaking, we seem to be pretty consistent here," Kenseth said. "We have good finishes at Loudon, but I feel like we haven't really had a chance to chase down a win there. New Hampshire is a track where it's fairly difficult to pass, so you'll see teams use pit stops and pit strategy to advance their way through the field on Sunday. Racing at Loudon is unique, and it's definitely a track that makes us work hard to get a solid finish."
Greg Biffle Biffle has one win (September 2008), four top-five finishes and six top-10s in 15 New Hampshire starts. He was 18th last June and ninth in September -- the latter is one of his two top-10 finishes in his last three New Hampshire starts. "I'm pretty excited about the testing we've been doing lately, and I really think we're headed in the right direction," Biffle said. "I had a good run going at New Hampshire last spring and got into the wall while I was racing with Kurt Busch. We finished ninth there in the fall, and I think a top-10 finish this weekend is a reasonable goal. I think we are aiming to finish in the top five, though, if what we've learned at the recent tests works out for us."