Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Up to Speed: ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

The first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs rolls on as the series heads back to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for their second visit of the season and Sunday’s running of the ISM Connect 300, which will also be the final time the Cup Series makes a visit to the track in the fall as they move to just one race weekend in 2018.

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.

With that in mind, the track will once again treat its surface with the traction compound that has previously been used at Bristol, Charlotte, and the first New Hampshire race. The compound will be applied outside of the normal racing groove, both above and below it and should it work as planned, it should promote more passing.

By the Numbers

What: ISM Connect 300, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 28 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: 300 laps, 317.4 miles

Stage Lengths: First two stages: 75 laps each; Final Stage: 150 laps

Fuel Window: 75-80 laps

July 2016 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota (Started eighth, 54 laps led)

September 2016 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford (Started 19th, eight 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 – 104.0 – 3 wins
  • Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 100.8 – 3 wins
  • Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 98.8 – 2 wins
  • Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 98.7 – 1 win
  • Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 98.0 – 2 wins
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – No. 88 Chevrolet – 96.4 – Best finish: 3rd
  • Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota – 92.8 – 3 wins
  • Chase Elliott – No. 24 Chevrolet – 92.6 – Best finish: 11th
  • Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 92.5 – Best finish: 3rd
  • Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 90.0 – 1 win

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings:

  1. Martin Truex, Jr. (Chicagoland winner – Advances to Round of 12)
  2. Kyle Larson (+49 over 13th)
  3. Kevin Harvick (+41)
  4. Brad Keselowski (+35)
  5. Kyle Busch (+35)
  6. Denny Hamlin (+32)
  7. Jimmie Johnson (+20)
  8. Chase Elliott (+18)
  9. Matt Kenseth (+13)
  10. Ryan Blaney (+8)
  11. Jamie McMurray (+5)
  12. Austin Dillon (Tied with 13th)
  13. Kurt Busch (Tied with 12th)
  14. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (-4)
  15. Kasey Kahne (-5)
  16. Ryan Newman (-7)

From the Driver’s Seat

“New Hampshire can be a tricky little track,” said Clint Bowyer. “You’ve got to be able to roll the middle faster than the other guy, and then you have to put that throttle down. That may sound simple, but those two things are actually pretty difficult. You get the car to where it will really roll the middle, and then it’s pretty free, and now you are too loose up off. You get the car tightened up in the center and now you can’t get off the corner right to pass anybody. It can be a tough thing to juggle.”

Last Time at New Hampshire

It may have taken 19 races, but Joe Gibbs Racing finally broke through with their first win of the season in July’s Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire.

Fresher tires would be all that Denny Hamlin would need to pass his JGR teammate Matt Kenseth with 33 laps to go and hold off a hard charging Kyle Larson over the final laps to score the victory and punch his ticket to the Playoffs.

“Just it’s a great feeling,” said Hamlin. “I know we’ve been getting better and better as the year goes on, but definitely needed a win for the organization and for myself and just kind of get some momentum going with the playoffs are coming up, so we’ve got to get going. Really this is awesome. We led a lot of laps for Safe Kids – FedEx donates $111 for the laps that we lead this season, so awesome for them to do that for the FedEx Cares program. Toyota, all their support, Coca-Cola, the Jordan brand – just couldn’t say enough about this race team. It’s a team effort and for them to do the extra work to get us – that engine change before qualifying was key and that pays off.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, September 22

  • MENCS Practice (11:30 am to 12:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Qualifying (5:15 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Saturday, September 23

  • MENCS Practice (9:00 am to 9:55 am – CNBC)
  • MENCS Final Practice (11:30 am to 12:20 pm – No TV, NBC Sports App)

Sunday, September 24

  • MENCS ISM Connect 300 (2:00 pm – 300 laps, 317.4 miles – NBC Sports 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.