By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season rolls on as they head from last weekend’s race on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway to the flat, one-mile oval that is New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
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.
After getting to enjoy two race weekends at the track since 1997, New Hampshire is back to one lone Cup Series date this season, following a shake-up in the schedule that saw their second date in the playoffs moved to Las Vegas.
By the Numbers
What: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 20 of 36
Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Loudon, New Hampshire (First race: 1993)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 2:00 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 two stages: 75 laps each; Final Stage: 150 laps
Fuel Window: 75-80 laps
July 2017 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota (Started eighth, 54 laps led)
September 2017 Race Winner: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota (Started on pole, 187 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:
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 103.6
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 100.8
- Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 100.5
- Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 99.1
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 96.5
- Matt Kenseth – No. 6 Ford – 93.7
- Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 93.5
- Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevolet – 92.5
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 90.4
- Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 88.5
From the Driver’s Seat
“For me, Loudon is probably the toughest track or maybe one of three that I would call our toughest tracks to compete on,” said three-time New Hampshire winner, Jimmie Johnson. “If you are up front and you have track position and clean air on your side things can go well. But, man, you get from the second row back, fourth on back it is just a crazy race.
“To run your line to create a fast lap time makes you very vulnerable on corner entry and people can take advantage of you there. So, when you are in traffic you’ve got to protect which means you can’t get away from anyone and then you are just kind of in the eye of the storm the whole time. I have always used the term scrappy. It’s just a very scrappy race track.”
Last Time at New Hampshire
After picking up his first win of the season at Pocono in late July, Kyle Busch was on a hot streak heading into New Hampshire last fall, only finishing outside the top-10 once.
Starting on pole, Busch led the first 39 laps of the race before Martin Truex, Jr. took over. When Truex was involved in a crash near the end of stage two, Busch re-took the lead by avoiding the mayhem ahead, scoring the stage win and never looking back, leading 148 of the final 151 laps to score the win and automatically advance to the Round of 12.
“It feels great,” said Busch. “This is what it’s all about, you know? We’re supposed to do these things and it feels even better when we can do those things and, you know, we’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities I feel like this year, but today we were able to execute all day long. We were able to get the things that we needed done and can’t say enough about our M&M’s Caramel Camry, you know?
“This thing was fast, so thanks Interstate Batteries, NOS Energy Drink, DVX Sunglasses, Cessna, the fans and support this area, this race track and everything and for us to be able to run up front all day long with the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) car, that was good. We kind of kept pace with him. I know he had his issue over there on the backstretch. That was a close call for a lot of us, but thankfully we were able to get through that one.”
Along with Busch ending the day in Victory Lane, four Toyota drivers finished the day in the top-six and all but one lap was led by a driver with Toyota power under the hood.
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, July 20
- MENCS Practice (Noon to 12:50 pm – NBC Sports Network)
- MENCS Qualifying (4:45 pm – NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, July 21
- MENCS Practice (10:05 am to 10:55 am – CNBC)
- MENCS Final Practice (12:35 pm to 1:25 pm – NBC Sports Network)
Sunday, July 22
- MENCS Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (2:00 pm – 301 laps, 318.46 miles – NBC Sports Network)