Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Preview

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

New England here we come.

A week removed from a thrilling rain-shortened event in Atlanta, the NASCAR Cup Series heads back to a flat oval this weekend for Sunday’s running of the Crayon 301, as the march to the end of the regular season continues on.

First joining the Cup Series circuit in 1993, the 1.058-mile oval that has progressively banked turns from two to seven degrees is one of the more difficult tracks on the schedule as the flat nature of the track makes track position key with passing at a premium.

Thus far this season, the Next Gen car has been hit or miss on the flatter tracks, so how it will perform this weekend is somewhat of an unknown.

Just seven races remain until the end of the regular season with five Playoff spots still up for grabs and a number of winners from last season still winless at this point in the year. Among those still looking for wins include Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and others.

Weather has been an issue in recent days in New England, with massive flooding in Vermont and a lingering chance of rain throughout the weekend in New Hampshire. As such, the Goodyear wet weather tires may get a workout if the rain drops start falling during on-track activity.

Also, NASCAR had been planning a test of a new short track package on Monday and Tuesday following the New Hampshire race, but that test has now been bumped back to later in the month to try and find more welcoming weather to put the new package through its paces.

By the Numbers

What: Crayon 301, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 20 of 36

Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Loudon, New Hampshire (First race: 1993)

TV/Radio: USA Network, 3:00 pm ET / PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size: 1.058-mile oval

Banking: 12 degrees in turns, 2 degrees on straightaways

Race Length: 301 laps, 318.46 miles

Stage Lengths: First stage: 70 laps; Second stage: 115 laps; Final Stage: 116 laps

July 2022 Race Winner: Christopher Bell – No. 20 Toyota (Started fifth, 42 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford (27.090 seconds, 140.598 mph – 09/21/2014)

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at New Hampshire:

  1. Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 103.6
  2. Brad Keselowski – No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford – 101.4
  3. Christopher Bell – No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 101.2
  4. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Ford – 100.0
  5. Kyle Busch – No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet – 97.4
  6. Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 96.3
  7. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 95.1
  8. Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 89.2
  9. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford – 87.8
  10. Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford – 86.2

From the Driver’s Seat

“I like New Hampshire a lot. It’s different than the other tracks we go to,” said Kyle Larson. “It’s really flat. Kind of like a bigger short track in a way. It’s really rough into turn three and it’s difficult. You have to be really patient with yourself and your car. It’s easy to get frustrated there if you’re not turning into the middle well, you’re loose in or your car is bouncing too much. It’s always hard to get the right feel there and I enjoy that challenge.”

Last Time at New Hampshire

With the highly competitive 2022 Cup Series regular season winding down and Playoff berths scarce, it was do or die time for those that had yet to punch their ticket into the postseason when the series rolled into New Hampshire last summer.

Christopher Bell was one of those drivers still on the outside looking in, but a day out on the Magic Mile was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Toyotas ruled the day, with a handful of Camrys leading the lion’s share of the race, but when it was all said and done, Bell was the Toyota driver that captured the checkered flag to race his way into the Playoffs.

Bell took over the lead with 42 laps to go and never looked back, running away from second-place Chase Elliott by more than five seconds for the victory.

Bubba Wallace would finish the day in third place, with Martin Truex, Jr. finishing fourth after leading a race-high 172 laps. Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five finishers.

“Man, that one was much needed right there,” Bell said. “I’ll tell you what, that was a hell of a race from my viewpoint. That was so much fun racing with the 45, the 22 and the 9. We were all running different lines. That was a blast.

“Just so happy. So happy to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing, all our partners on this No. 20 car. It’s good to get Rheem back in Victory Lane.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Saturday, July 15

  • NASCAR Cup Practice (12:05 pm – USA Network)
  • NASCAR Cup Qualifying (12:50 pm – USA Network)

Sunday, July 16

  • Crayon 301 at NHMS (2:30 pm – 301 laps, 318.46 miles – USA Network)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.