NASCAR 2012 Lenox Industrial Tools 301
New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Loudon, New Hampshire
1.058 mile Oval (301 laps) – 9 and 7 degree banking turns
Sunday, July 15, 2012, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Defending Champion: Ryan Newman
All odds Courtesy of Bookmaker
With only 8 races left before the Chase for the Sprint Cup, time is running out for NASCAR drivers to qualify for the Championship. After Last week’s traditional 4th of July weekend race at Daytona, NASCAR returns to New Hampshire for the first of two races this season. The mile long track has been called “Martinsville on steroids” and is considered one of the toughest ovals to race on by many drivers and experts. Ryan Newman won the summer race last year, and his Stewart-Haas racing boss Tony Stewart won the fall race. The win was one of 5 Chase races Stewart won in last year’s chase en route to his third Sprint Cup Championship.
Here is a look at some of the favorites and contenders and their odds to win courtesy of Bookmaker. Kyle Busch won the pole for the race, and Kasey Kahne will complete the front row.Here is the complete starting grid.
Denny Hamlin (5/1)
Hamlin is 7th in points, 92 behind leader Matt Kenseth. Hamlin has wins at Phoenix and Kansas, along with 8 top 5’s and 9 top 10’s in 18 races this season. He finished 25th at Daytona last week, his third such finish in the last 4 races. He did have a third at Kentucky during that stretch though. He will start the New Hampshire race third. In 12 New Hampshire starts, Hamlin has 8 top 10’s, with 5 top 5’s and a win in the summer race in 2007. His 29th place finish in the fall race here last year was his worst ever at the track. Prior to that he hadn’t finished lower than 15th at New Hampshire. Hamlin usually does well at this track, and he should contend unless he is in an accident or has engine problems.
Kyle Busch (6/1)
Busch is 12th in points, 160 behind the leader. He currently holds the first of 2 wild card spots that would give him entry into the Chase. Busch has 8 top tens, 5 top 5’s and a win at Richmond. He has struggled in the last 6 races with only a tenth at Kentucky, and has finished 17th or worse in every other race in that stretch. He finished 24th last week at Daytona. Busch took the pole for New Hampshire. In 14 Loudon starts, the younger Busch brother has 6 top 10’s including 4 top 5’s and a win in the summer race in 2006. Kyle finished 36th in the summer race here last year and 11th in the fall race. He has the talent to win every race, but has been unlucky recently. I think Kyle will at least grab a top 10, and maybe contend for the win.
Jimmie Johnson (7/1)
In the three restrictor plate races this season, Johnson finished 42nd at the Daytona 500, 35th at Talladega, and 36th last week at Daytona. He hasn’t finished lower than 12th in any other race. Johnson is 4th in points 58 behind Kenseth. In 18 races, he has 13 top 10’s, with 7 top 5’s and wins at Darlington and Dover. Johnson qualified 7th for the New Hampshire race. Johnson usually does well at New Hampshire, with 13 top 10’s in 20 career starts, including 3 wins. The last came in the 2010 summer race here. He finished 5th in the summer race last year, and 18th in the fall race. Johnson is my pick to win his third race of the year, to tie Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski for most wins this season.
Tony Stewart (9/1)
Stewart is 5th in the Race for the Chase, 90 points behind Kenseth. He has 9 top 10’s with 8 top 5’s and wins at Las Vegas, California, and last week at Daytona. He was docked 5 points last week though when his car failed post race inspection. He has 4 top 3 finishes in his last 5 races, with a 32nd place at Kentucky the only bad finish in that stretch. Stewart will start 10th at New Hampshire. Stewart had 16 top 10’s in 26 career starts at Loudon with 14 top 5’s and 3 wins. Stewart won the fall race last year here and was the runner up in the summer race. He has top 5’s in 4 of his last 5 races at New Hampshire. Stewart should grab a top 10 unless something happens.
Jeff Gordon (9/1)
Of all the drivers, Jeff Gordon needs a win more than any other. He probably can’t catch Clint Bowyer for 10th place and an automatic spot in the Chase. Gordon is 17th in points, 191 behind Kenseth, and 87 behind Bowyer. Gordon’s best shot might be to get some wins and grab one of the two wild card spots. He has 6 top 10’s with 2 top 5’s in 18 races so far. Despite being involved in 3 late crashes, Gordon still eked out a 12th place finish at Daytona last week. He will start next to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate in 8th for the New Hampshire race. He is the only Hendrick driver without a win this season. In 34 New Hampshire races, Gordon has 19 top 10’s, with 15 top 5’s, and 3 wins. He hasn’t won at the track since 1998, but has finished 15th or better in the last 13 races at Loudon, including 7 top 5’s. He finished 11th in the summer race last year and 4th in the fall race. Gordon has been unlucky this season with accidents and engine problems. If his luck changes, he might grab another top 5 finish.
Kasey Kahne (11/1)
Kahne is 16th in points, 176 behind Kenseth and 72 behind Bowyer for 10th. Kahne has 9 top 10’s, with 4 top 5’s and a win at Charlotte. He is behind Joey Logano and Ryan Newman for the last wild card spot. Only three points separates the three drivers, and they are 13 behind Kyle Busch. Kahne finished 7th at Daytona last week. Kahne will start second at New Hampshire. In 16 career New Hampshire starts, Kahne has never won, but has 6 top 10’s and a top 5. Kahne finished 6th in the summer race and 15th in the fall race. He might grab a top 10 for this race.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (12/1)
Earnhardt is 2nd in points, 25 behind Kenseth. He has 13 top 10’s in 18 races, including 7 top 5’s and a win at Michigan. Earnhardt hasn’t finished lower than 23rd in any race this season. He finished 15th at Daytona last week. Earnhardt will start 9th at New Hampshire. In 25 Loudon starts, Earnhardt has 10 top 10’s with 6 top 5’s and no wins. He has never finished higher than third at the track. He finished 15th and 17th in the two New Hampshire races last year. Junior is running really well this year, and could grab a top 10.
Brad Keselowski (12/1)
Despite having 3 wins this season at Bristol, Talladega, and Kentucky, Keselowski is only 9th in points 103 behind Kenseth. He has a lot of bad finishes this season, which accounts for him being so low in the standings. Keselowski has 8 top 10’s and 5 top 5’s, but also has three 32nd or worsts. He finished 8th at Daytona last week. Keselowski will start 22nd at New Hampshire. In five career starts at the track he has a top 10 and a top 5. He was the runner up in the fall race last year, but finished 35th in the summer race. I can’t pick Keselowski to contend because he is too inconsistent. He very well could win, but he could also finish 34th.
Kevin Harvick (12/1)
Harvick is 6th in points, 90 behind Kenseth. He doesn’t have a win this season, but does have 8 top 10’s with 3 top 5’s. Harvick is the opposite of Keselowski in that he is high in the Race for the Chase standings because he hasn’t finished lower than 25th in any race. Harvick finished 23rd at Daytona last week. He will start 12th at New Hampshire. In 22 New Hampshire starts, Harvick has 11 top 10’s and 5 top 5’s with a win in the 2006 fall race. Harvick finished 12th and 21st in the two New Hampshire races last year. Harvick is very consistent and could grab a top 10 or at least a top 15th.
Other contenders include Martin Truex, Jr and Clint Bowyer (both 15/1), Ryan Newman (20/1), Carl Edwards (22/1), Greg Biffle (25/1), Joey Logano (35/1), Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton (both 40/1), and the field is 25/1.
Kenseth is definitely worth a play at 40/1. He is the points leader but is starting 27th for this race. He has 12 top 10’s in 29 starts at New Hampshire. He has never won at the track, but could break through this year.
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