By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
After a night race on the repaved Kentucky Speedway last weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series packs up and heads to New England this weekend for Sunday’s running of the Overton’s 301.
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 treat its surface with the traction compound that has previously been used at Bristol and Charlotte, with mixed results. 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
Opened: 1990 (First race: 1993)
Track/Race Length: 1.058 mile oval (301 laps, 318.458 miles)
Banking: 12 degrees in turns, 2 degrees on straightaways
Stage Lengths: First two stages: 75 laps each; Final Stage: 151 laps
Fuel Window: 75-80 laps
July 2016 Race Winner: Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota (Started 18th, 38 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:
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 102.7 – 2 wins
- Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 101.0 – 3 wins
- Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 99.3 – 1 win
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 98.1 – 2 wins
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 97.5 – 2 wins
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – No. 88 Chevrolet – 97.4 – Best finish: 3rd
- Chase Elliott – No. 24 Chevrolet – 92.9 – Best finish: 13th
- Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota – 91.9 – 3 wins
- Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 90.6 – Best finish: 3rd
- Kasey Kahne – No. 5 Chevrolet – 90.4 – 1 win
From the Driver’s Seat
“New Hampshire is flat in the corners, but you run in the middle of the track,” said Paul Menard. “That makes it even tougher to pass. It is one of the hardest tracks to pass at, to finish a pass. There’s really no bottom groove, there’s really no top groove, there’s just the middle groove. That’s about it. The guys that can get good drive off the bottom and still have good braking and make the corner will be able to make passes. Loudon is a hard place on brakes, especially with this aero package. It has always been hard on brakes, but as the aero comes off these cars, the drag gets less, so the cars don’t want to slow down as good. You might see some brake issues and melted beads at some point in the race.”
Last Time at New Hampshire
After a disappointing outing in the first race of the 2016 Chase at Chicago, Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 team had their work cut out for them to bounce back in the Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire, but when the checkered flag flew Harvick found himself in victory lane and securing a berth in the Round of 12.
Though the Toyotas of Martin Truex, Jr. and Matt Kenseth were the class of the field throughout the day, Harvick laid in wait and when the time was right, he made his move. On the final restart with five laps to go, Harvick was able to get the jump on Kenseth and was unstoppable over the closing laps, scoring the crucial win and advancing on to the Round of 12.
“Just really proud of everybody on our ditech team for everything that they did today and for Rodney (Childers) leaving us out there. Our car would fire off really good after the tires would cool off and we could take off. All those other guys were buried back in traffic. We were able to time that last restart really good and I was able to keep the right side tires above the hash marks going into Turn 1. That was really the key for me to get the car and get off the brake and get back to a little bit of throttle,” said Harvick.
“We had a really good car in practice and qualified about where we have been on these types of tracks throughout the year. I think as you look at the performance that we’ve had throughout the year it’s been really good. We just had to fine tune it in practice and made some good adjustments this morning and then the same thing throughout the race just were able to fine tune the car and make things a little bit better as we went on.”
Following Harvick to the finish was Kenseth, who came up short of three straight wins at the Magic Mile, as well as Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Kurt Busch to round out the top-five.
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, July 14
- MENCS Practice (11:30 am to 12:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)
- MENCS Qualifying (4:45 pm – NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, July 15
- MENCS Practice (10:00 am to 10:55 am – No TV, NBC Sports App)
- MENCS Final Practice (12:30 pm to 1:25 pm – NBC Sports Network)
Sunday, July 16
- MENCS Overton’s 301 (3:00 pm – 301 laps, 318.46 miles – NBC Sports Network)
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