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Last Updated Monday, Sep 28, 2009 1:27 am, EDT

Race Capsule

New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  • What:

    Race 27 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH

  • When:

    September 20, 2009 2:15 pm EDT

  • Laps:

    300

  • Track Length:

    1.058 miles

  • Race Length:

    317.00 miles

  • Purse:

    $5,423,189

Drivers to Watch

Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya's 12th-place finish in the spring race at New Hampshire was his best at the track in five starts. "We will have a new car for there," said Montoya. "Hopefully it runs a little better than before. If you look at the championship, it's still about numbers. It's just the average number (finish) needs to be a lot better than what it was to make the Chase."
Kurt Busch Busch was fifth in the standings after Richmond but drops to seventh in the reseeded standings with 5,010 points. Busch is another three-time winner at New Hampshire -- he won both 2004 races and the first race in 2008. Those are three of his six top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 17 starts. He was sixth last year and third earlier this season and is working on a streak of three straight top-10 finishes at New Hampshire, which came after a streak of five straight races in which he finished out of the top 18. "It's a fantastic opportunity to be able to work yourself through the regular season and to get into the Chase," Busch said. "It's a sigh of relief, but at the same time, it's an opportunity. We now have that in front of us. To have our cars run with the strength that we had in the beginning of the year, and then to plateau a little bit, it feels good to finish off strong, especially at the most recent short tracks like Bristol and Richmond. So the confidence that it gives the crew and the team to know of all the changes that we have made this offseason and to put a car back in the Chase -- it's my second out of four years at Penske -- to do that, it's huge. Roger Penske is ecstatic -- all of the top guys. It's amazing, the feeling you get when you do something special. We did that but we cannot stop at just making the Chase. We have to continue to push forward and to attack at the tracks that we are going to be good on and continue to advance our program on tracks that we think we might struggle (on)."
Tony Stewart Stewart starts the Chase second in the standings after finishing the "regular season" first with a 179-point lead over Jeff Gordon. Stewart's adjusted point total is 5,030 because of his three wins this season. He is a two-time winner at New Hampshire -- in 2000 and 2005, both in the first events there of those seasons -- and has 11 top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 21 starts there. He was eighth in this race last year and fifth in June and has three top-10 finishes in the last four races there. "I like starting at Loudon," Stewart said. "It's a track that we run really well at. It's been good to us in the past. It's nice to have one of our stronger tracks right off the bat. Hopefully if we have a good run there it will set the tone for the last nine weeks. I feel like it's one of our better tracks. ... It is a handling track. It is a driver's track to where you can help yourself out from the driver's standpoint and move around. It doesn't seem like you can move around a lot, but from the steering wheel you can move around a lot and help yourself out. But it's a fun place to start the Chase, and as we have seen in the past, that can be a place that can either get your Chase hopes off to a great start or they can be wiped out in one week."
Denny Hamlin Hamlin is another driver who starts in the same position where he finished the 26-race "regular season," but he might be the hottest driver over the last two months -- he has 10 top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts. At New Hampshire, he has one win (2007), two top-five finishes and five top-10s in seven starts. He was ninth last September and 15th earlier this year. He has finished in the top 10 in five of his seven races on the flat, one-mile oval. "I consider it a bullet as much as any race track, to be honest with you," Hamlin said. "I think there and Dover are actually the two most dangerous race tracks. Of course you've got Talladega, but other than that (New Hampshire and Dover are) the two most dangerous, normal race tracks that we have in the Chase to get yourself in trouble. I think that those two have been a challenge for us. That's where it's been kind of our Achilles' heel over the last two Chases is not getting off to a good start for those two. So I think it's important for whoever is going to win the championship to get a good start at those two, and it's been like that over the last couple of years."
Carl Edwards Edwards is the first of the non-winning drivers in the Chase and starts with the minimum 5,000 points. He was eighth in standings after Richmond. Edwards has never won at New Hampshire and has just two top-five and two top-10 finishes in 10 starts there. He was third last September and 19th in June. "This season is so much different than last season," Edwards said. "We had six wins or something at this point last season (he won six times in the first 26 races, three times in the final 10). Right now, we have struggled a little bit as a group, Roush Fenway, so I feel like this is our opportunity to only be a few points behind the leader, kind of gather all of our energy and all of the things we have been working on and head into these last 10 races full force."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex has four top-seven finishes in the last five races at New Hampshire. "We had a good car there in June, but we got caught up in a wreck with Kyle (Busch) and that ended our day," said Truex. "Loudon is one of our better tracks, so we are looking forward to this weekend."
Kyle Busch Busch finished seventh in the June race at Loudon for his fourth top-10 finish in nine starts at the track. He scored his lone New Hampshire victory on July 16, 2006 after starting on the pole and leading 107 laps. His goal for the rest of the season now that's he out of the Chase? "Go out and win races," he replied.
Jeff Gordon Gordon was second in points after Richmond but is seeded sixth because he has just one victory, giving him 5,010 points heading into New Hampshire. That means he is just 30 points out of the points lead as he attempts to win his fifth Cup title. Gordon is a three-time New Hampshire winner (1995, 1997 and 1998) and has 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 29 starts. He was 14th in this race last year and second in June. He has four top-five finishes in the last six races there. "It's a good place for us to get the Chase started," Gordon said. "There's a great fan base up there. I think we have seen some exciting races there, and so, yeah, I think it's a good place to start it off. There are a lot of mile-and-a-halves, so I think it's good to mix it up."
Kasey Kahne Kahne, who finished the first 26 races seventh in the standings, moves up to fifth based on his two victories. Kahne has never won at New Hampshire, has just one top-five and five top-10 finishes in 11 starts and has finished outside the top 10 in five of his last six starts there. He was 11th last September and 10th earlier this year. "We are looking at starting the Chase and hopefully being as competitive as we have ever been in the Chase," Kahne said. "I'm going to do the things that I've always done, and that's just work with the guys. I mean, they have always taken care of me and given me great cars. They have put out a huge effort. It doesn't matter if we haven't made the Chase or made the Chase. Those guys have worked really hard each year, and we have a great group of guys. So just stand behind them and they have stood behind me and hopefully it will take us through the end of the year and then we'll go on from there."
Kevin Harvick Harvick has one win and nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts at New Hampshire and is second in the number of laps led over the last nine races there. "It's been a really good racetrack for us from a company standpoint at RCR," said Harvick. "Clint (Bowyer) has run really well there, and obviously we've run well there."
David Reutimann Reutimann finished fourth in the spring race at Loudon for his first top-10 finish in five starts at the track. Reutimann said his goals for the rest of the year haven't "shifted too much. Nothing really changes, besides we don't have the stress of making the Chase. We just want to run as well as possible these last few races."
Mark Martin Martin leaps to the front of the standings heading into the Chase based on his series-high four wins this season. He finished the first 26 races sixth in points, 515 behind Tony Stewart, but with the points reset to 5,000 for the 12 Chase drivers, the standings are then adjusted with the addition of 10 bonus points per victory. That gives Martin 5,040 points heading to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he has never won a race but has eight top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 25 starts. He was 11th in this race last year and 14th in June. He has just one top-five and two top-10 finishes in his last 11 New Hampshire starts. ... He's leading the points now, but he's relieved just to be in the Chase after he was on the bubble for much of the season. "I feel like a whole new person, huge weight off my shoulders," he said. "It's just like I said before, to make this thing is the icing and now we get to go race for the cake. Of course, I'm living in it now, but to me, this is certainly the best year of my career, the most fun, and since Chicago some of that fun has been sort of smothered out by all of the pressure. We are in, we are out, we are in, all that. But the thing that I'm excited about is our race team has been so strong since Chicago. The cars have gotten better and better on the racetrack, and Chicago, Indy, Bristol, Michigan, and here, I don't think we ever ran outside the top five, and those are the kind of race cars and the kind of effort that you have to give to be a championship contender."
Jimmie Johnson Johnson finished third in the regular season and starts third in the Chase with 5,030 points. Tony Stewart gets the edge for second because while both drivers were tied with three wins, Stewart was ahead of Johnson at the cutoff for the Chase. Johnson is another two-time winner at Loudon, sweeping both races in 2003. Those are two of his four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 15 starts there. He was second last September and ninth in June. He has five straight top-10 finishes at NHMS and has finished in the top 10 in seven of his last eight races there. Despite that, he doesn't believe he has the momentum heading into the first race. "You come in with whatever momentum that you have had the last couple of tracks. So I feel that we have been decent and I am optimistic for the Chase, but again you don't know," Johnson said. "Those 10 races sound short, but they are so long and you just never know what is going to happen with mechanical failures and all those kind of things."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer scored his first Cup victory at New Hampshire two years ago when he sat on the pole and led 222 of the 300 laps. But that is his lone top-10 finish in seven starts at the track. "We ran well there last year," said Bowyer. "We just didn't finish well. We got taken out in one race while we were running in the top five. It rained in the other one and we got caught on that."
Ryan Newman Newman was ninth in the standings after Richmond, but after the reseeding he is 10th. Newman has two wins at New Hampshire, both in this race in 2002 and 2005, and has five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 15 starts there. He was 36th in this race last year and 29th in June. In fact, since his last victory here in 2005, Newman has finished outside the top 10 in five of his last seven races. "It seems like whenever I've had a long streak of not winning, I've won at New Hampshire. So I would really like to win this weekend, but New Hampshire is a great place, too," Newman said. "If we're fortunate enough to make the Chase, it's a great way to start the Chase, obviously. I really enjoy that area. I enjoy the racetrack. ... Loudon has always been a strong suit for me personally. I don't know exactly why. I don't know if I just adapted to the track really soon, I'm not sure, but it's a place I look forward to going to, for sure."
Casey Mears Mears has two top-10 finishes in 13 starts at New Hampshire. He finished 11th in the spring race at the track despite being involved in an accident. "After the wreck, the car wasn't as bad as we thought it would be and we were able to fix it enough to stay competitive," said Mears. "So we are looking forward to getting back there."
Greg Biffle Biffle began the Chase a year ago by winning at Loudon and Dover. He was 18th at New Hampshire in June. "It would obviously be great to go back there and start the (2009) Chase with a win like we did last year," said Biffle. "We had a good run going there in June when I was racing with Kurt (Busch) for fifth and got into the wall." Biffle will be driving the same car this weekend.
Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish finished eighth in the June race at New Hampshire for his best finish in three starts at the track. "I've always felt that New Hampshire and Richmond are similar to each other," said Hornish. "After a strong run at Richmond last weekend and a top-10 finish at Loudon in June, we are really looking forward to this weekend."
Brian Vickers Vickers was the last driver to qualify for the Chase and, other than Mark Martin, is the driver who benefits the most from the reseeded Chase standings. Vickers finished the regular season 12th in the standings, just eight points ahead of four-time race winner Kyle Busch, who failed to make the Chase, but moved up to eighth in the reseeding standings thanks to his victory at Michigan in August. Vickers has no wins and just one top-10 finish in 10 starts at New Hampshire. His best finish was fifth in this race in 2006. He has finished 35th in each of his last two starts there. "We have accumulated the most points for the last 10 weeks," Red Bull general manager Jay Frye said. "All we have to do is that for the next 10 weeks and we win. The hardest part is getting in the Chase, and now we've been able to do that and we're very fortunate that we have been able to do that. We just continue to do what we do, and there's no reason that we can't compete for the championship and be going into Miami with the same type of situation that we had here (at Richmond)." Vickers is ecstatic with the team's accomplishment. "To be honest with you, I didn't think we would get to where we are right now," he said. "It's astonishing."
Jamie McMurray McMurray had three top-10 finishes in his first four starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but his best finish in the last 10 races at the track is 11th with five finishes of 33rd or worse. "Our luck has been pretty bad there recently," said McMurray.
Marcos Ambrose Ambrose finished 23rd in his first Sprint Cup start at New Hampshire in June. "We hope to run a lot better the second time around," he said. "We want to hold onto our spot in the standings (17th), so we need to run a lot better this time." Ambrose is 92 points ahead of 18th-place Jeff Burton and 125 points in front of 19th-place Joey Logano.
Jeff Burton Burton has four wins and 13 top-10 finishes in 29 starts at Loudon, including a fifth in this race a year ago. While Burton was involved in a wreck in the June race at NHMS, he feels good about how the team performed. "What I took from that race is that we ran well," said Burton. "We had a car that could have contended for the win."
Joey Logano Logano won the rain-shortened race at Loudon in June to become the youngest Cup winner in series history at 19 years, 1 month and 21 days. "I think every driver holds a special place for their first win, and I was fortunate to have mine at the closest track to where I first began racing (in his hometown of Middletown, Conn.)," said Logano. "That's pretty cool."
AJ Allmendinger Allmendinger has never finished better than 32nd in four starts at New Hampshire. "We've shown some flashes the last couple of weeks, turning laps that were really fast," said Allmendinger. "Now we just have to figure out a way to run like that throughout a race and get a good finish."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth has 11 top-10 finishes in 19 starts at New Hampshire but still thinks "New Hampshire has not really been one of our strongest tracks over the years. It has always been a challenge. It's a challenge to pass there. It's disappointing for sure not making the Chase, but there are still a lot of races left, and we have to keep working to get back to running up front."