With much of the talk in the NASCAR world focusing on Danica Patrick’s return to the Nationwide Series, the Sprint Cup heads to Loudon, N.H. for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. Joey Logano won last years race and continued an incredible trend that gives bookies a headache.
In the last ten Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, ten different drivers have finished in first place. Kurt Busch was the last repeat winner, finishing at the head of the pack in both races in 2004.
Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman won the races in 2005; Kyle Busch and Kevin Havrick finished first in 2006; Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer got the wins in 2007; Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle were the 2008 winners; Joey Logano and Mark Martin came in first respectively last year.
The drivers will battle for 301 laps on the flat oval track. Expect a wide open race that could see another surprise winner. The 1.058-mile track will take everything out of the drivers and pit crews, and qualifying will be essential to a good performance Sunday.
The layout of the track makes it hard to pass, and a good position at the start will be a huge advantage. The New Hampshire Motor Speedway encompasses elements of Richmond and Phoenix and will be a tough test for everybody involved.
Track position is critical at New Hampshire, and the oval is hard on tires. You will see cars that fail to pit for tires start to slide around and create interesting situations on the track.
Denny Hamlin comes in as the favorite at 9/2*. He won in 2007 and has shown that he can win in Loudon. He has won five races this season and has been at the top of the pack for weeks. He had a tough finish at 32 at Sonoma last week, but is looking to bounce back on the oval track at New Hampshire.
Kyle Busch is the second choice at sportsbooks at 8/1. He ranks third in the 2010 Sprint Cup Standings, but had two mediocre outcomes the last couple of weeks. He finished 20th at Michigan and 39th at Sonoma. Busch has won in Loudon as well, finishing first in 2006. He is looking to repeat that win and bounce back from the short slump.
Kevin Havrick, the 2010 points leader, hasn’t won a race since he finished at the top of the pack at Talladega in April. However, he has finished in the Top 10 in every race but two – Michigan (19) and Charlotte (11). Havrick won at New Hampshire in 2006 and is looking to finally come out on top again. You can bet on Havrick at14/1.
Greg Biffle (25/1), Mark Martin (20/1), and Joey Logano (25/1) offer great value to break the pattern of “no-repeat-winners in the last ten years”. They have shown that they can win at New Hampshire, and are definitely worth a look.
Biffle is ninth in the Sprint Cup Standings and has ten Top 10 finishes to show for. He has picked up speed again in the last two weeks, finishing ninth at Michigan and seventh at Sonoma. He finished 32nd at Charlotte and 28th at Pocono in the two weeks prior to that.
Martin, last year’s winner, sits at #11 in the standings. The 51-year-old has all the experience he needs on the tough track, and is looking to repeat his 2009 run. He has won one pole this season, and is looking to win another at New Hampshire. That would help him immensely with track position and would increase his chances of winning again. He finished fourth at Charlotte, but didn’t make the Top 10 in any of the last three races.
Logano, the other 2009 winner, is 17th in the Sprint Cup standings. He only has one Top 5 finish to show for, but has finished 13th or better in five of the last six races. He had some problems on the road course at Sonoma and is looking to bounce back from a 33rd place finish last week.