Track Talk: A Preview of the 5-hour ENERGY 301 at NHMS

For some, it’s race number 19 of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.  It’s a race that offers some bonus points for those who’ve essentially locked their spots in the Chase Grid.  However, Sunday’s 5-hour ENERGY 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a homecoming for the likes of Eddie MacDonald and Joey Logano or in the case of racers like Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, and Jeff Gordon, it’s a great way to punch their ticket into the postseason by scoring a win in the 41st Cup race at Loudon, NH.

In 40 previous NASCAR Sprint Cup races at NHMS, a Who’s Who of stock car racing have enjoyed the spoils of Victory Lane at this 1.058-mile speedway.  From Rusty Wallace in 1993 to Joey Logano in last September’s marathon of a race, racing at New Hampshire isn’t a scenic Sunday afternoon drive up I-93 to see the picturesque hills and valleys.  Nope, it’s actually a technical track in which the drivers fight the balance with the track, their cars, and the competition for at least 301 laps.

When getting some thoughts about racing at “The Magic Mile” prior to qualifying on Friday afternoon, the turns were the most frequently brought up facet in terms of the biggest challenge that racers faced all weekend long.

Jeff Gordon, three-time Granite State winner, observed,  “It’s an extremely challenging one mile racetrack because of how long the straightaways are and how flat the corners are.  It makes for it difficult to not only run the laps and get your line right and your speed on the entry but to get the car to work the way you want it to from the team side of things.  I think it’s one of those tracks where you’ve got to attack the entry but there’s some bumps that you have to deal with.  You’ve got to try to get the car to turn in the center with the front tires without slipping the back.”

Meanwhile Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 SKF Ford fielded by the Wood Brothers Racing team, compared Loudon to Martinsville’s corners, as he said, “The banking is almost like Martinsville but Martinsville has such tigher corners.  The radius here is probably three times of what Martinsville is as you feel like you’re out in the corners forever.”

Getting around those corners will be a huge determining factor between those who’ll excel and those who’ll struggle to keep pace with the leaders.  With somewhat threatening weather conditions accompanied by a humid airmass and rising temperatures on Sunday afternoon, it’s the kind of race where drivers will struggle for grip and their crew chiefs will be fighting to find the right balance all race long.  Essentially, it’ll be a pretty intriguing race and we’re happy to cover some of the major stories during the weekend.

In our first Track Talk on the rechristened home of The Podium Finish and first since Sonoma Raceway last month, let’s get to it with our panelists Ashley HobbsAshley HullCourtney ClementJessica Bushee, and Kimberly Melton and talk about the 5-hour ENERGY 301’s four Trending Topics!

Trending Topics by Rob Tiongson

Question 1

Casey Mears won’t need to ask GEICO for an extension because….he has one already for the 13 car.

Casey Mears will continue to race for the No. 13 GEICO/Germain Racing Chevy team in 2016.  As this team is a satellite organization to Richard Childress Racing, how pivotal is this signing to continue some consistency with this alliance?

Hobbs :  Germain Racing has shown a great deal of improvement since switching to Chevrolet and having the alliance with RCR. The vital piece of this puzzle is the consistency within the 13 team. Casey Mears has done a fantastic job behind the wheel and as time goes on and the alliance gets stronger, like with Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex Jr., this team could start making more and more noise.
Melton :  I think this is great for Mears and the Germain Racing team. Casey Mears is one of those underrated drivers that I’ve always been a fan of, not to mention the fact that he’s a Bakersfield boy! He has a lot of talent, and was born into racing, so I think we will see great things to come from the team.
Hull :  I think that it’s great for this small team that Casey Mears is continuing with this team. I think it could benefit him as he has been showing some improvement, and he can possibly make the Chase this year, even on points, if he does well. It helps having RCR on their side as well. They can use their knowledge and talent to improve their team. Casey has also been a big part in the improvement of this team, as he has worked hard for the last 5 years helping this team improve. We shall see what is in the cards for them in the future.
Clement :  Very pivotal! In the real world, no matter what your profession or how you spend your life, it’s all about who you know and making connections!
Bushee :  I think this is a good thing for the organization! Consistency is key and keeping Casey should be a good thing for them.
Question 2

Ryan Blaney definitely didn’t like seeing this for the past two weeks.

Qualifying has been a part of the racing schedule that’s not taken place due to inclement conditions at Daytona and Kentucky.  Does NASCAR need to consider an amendment with qualifying and perhaps consider a rain date for this or to do a rushed, single round effort if there is a time window available at the track?

Hobbs :  I think some drivers would be for swapping out a practice session for a qualifying session; while others may not be, more than likely because they had a good (earlier) practice session. However, I think NASCAR does need to figure something out for qualifying as it is vital to those smaller teams trying to make a race. Everyone that shows up to the track should have the same chance at making the field.
Melton :  This season has been a nightmare with the rainy weather. It’s hard to say what would be best for qualifying. The whole not qualifying thing really stinks for drivers, so I would be a fan of making every attempt to do so. If they had to push it back to the morning of the race, as long as there was time, I think that would be a great idea.
Hull :  I would say that if the qualifying is rained out on Friday, why not do it on Saturday unless it is still raining? This way they will get a chance at least. Or even before the race. The Xfinity guys do it, why not the Cup guys? I think it should be rescheduled first, and if they somehow cannot get it in beforehand, then cancel it.
Clement :  I think it all depends on what this amendment states. If they try to get it done over a week before the race would run, I think it would be pointless because that isn’t a good indication of how the track will be the following week or even how the car will be. Rushing through qualifying is never good however, it will be easier to predict how the track and car will be for the actual race.
Bushee :  I’m not sure what NASCAR can do to get qualifying in, with rain always trying to bring them down. I wouldn’t say a rushed deal would be ideal, but maybe setting a rain date or even doing qualifying a day sooner? I really have no idea.
Question 3

Bringing back the NASCAR on NBC with Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton, and Rick Allen.

NBC made its return to NASCAR two weeks ago at Daytona and will broadcast the remainder of the season.  So far, what’s your take on their coverage and are there certain features to their telecasts that you find innovative or enjoyable when it comes to watching the races at home?

Hobbs :  I enjoy the combination of the booth reporters the most honestly. Their chemistry flow is one of the best the sport has had in several years. There is such a diversity in the booth that makes the knowledge that is shared with the viewers fantastic. Right now, the only change I would suggest, being only 2 races in, is the ticker for positions. I would like to see more of a scrolling feature; but it is also nice to see the top 3 listed.
Melton :  I love NBC and FOX for different reasons. FOX coverage is just so much fun. The energy, the laughs, those guys just really make it entertaining. Michael’s grid walk will always be my personal favorite. I enjoy NBC because of their professionalism. They are very informative and get right to the point, which is also nice to have. I enjoy having both during the season, you get a mix of everything, which is refreshing.
Hull :  I think that NBC is so much better than Fox could ever dream of being. I love the announce team of Rick Allen, Steve Letarte, and Jeff Burton. I think all three of these gentleman have so much knowledge, and it shows during the broadcast. Unlike DW, they don’t try to talk over one another, and make stupid jokes. It’s just honest and knowledgeable commentary that we have been missing over these last few years. I also like how they try to do a split screen when they do go to commercials. That helps tremendously. And speaking of commercials, they have a lot fewer commercials than Fox did. I think that NBC is doing well.
Clement :  The way I look at it, as long as someone is broadcasting the race, I’m happy!
Bushee :  I’ve loved NBC broadcasts so far! Steve Letarte has been a breath of fresh air and his insight has definitely been fun to watch.
Question 4

Brad Keselowski hopes to replicate his win from last July at Loudon.

It’s off to “The Magic Mile” of New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first of two major NASCAR Sprint Cup race weekends here.  Team Penske asserted itself as a dominant factor at this venue last year when Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano made their way to Victory Lane at Loudon.  Does this trend continue or do you see someone spoiling the party at the Granite State?

Hobbs gets to crunching those numbers about teams’ performances at NHMS!

Hobbs :  Team Penske has been relatively quiet for a few weeks, but it definitely is a place for them to make noise. I do see more noise coming from the Gibbs bunch (as a whole), however. I also see this as a place for Jeff Gordon to really try to get himself into the Chase with a victory.

Melton :  I definitely think someone is going to spoil the Penske party. This is a track that Kurt Busch has done very well at, along with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Heck, with the way things have been going lately, we might even see a Joe Gibbs car take the victory. JGR has been a very strong team this season, so I wouldn’t count them out.
Hull :  Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano all looked very strong in practice yesterday. However, it may be the team of JGR that may make them worry. Carl Edwards won the pole yesterday, and had so much speed in that car. He could be the one who spoils it for them. I see Joey Logano maybe having the strongest day though.
Clement :  I see someone new heading to victory lane this year! It’s always nice to see some fresh faces out there.
Bushee :  I really think that we’ll see someone new in Victory Lane after the race. At least I hope we see someone new. The racing has been so fun and unpredictable this season.
Nicely done, team!  Before we reveal our race picks, let’s take a look at the TPF Track Talk points standings:

1) Rob Tiongson – 631 points (4 wins)
2) Ashley Hull – 591 points (2 wins)
3) Ashley Hobbs – 574 points (2 wins)
4) Jessica Bushee – 496 points
5) Courtney Clement – 477 points (1 win)
6) Jessica Tow – 337 points
7) Kim Melton – 257 points (3 wins)
8) Patrick Staropoli – 2 points

The points may seem far apart and as a result of some choosing Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win at Daytona two weekends ago, it’s bonus points and another victory in the bank.  However, as we are about to reveal our race picks for Sunday’s 5-hour ENERGY 301 at NHMS, take a look at how many different directions that the TPF team will go to score another win in 2015!

We shall cross our arms until you decide to high five us.

Tiongson :  It’s his penultimate start at “The Magic Mile” and I look for Jeff Gordon to remember what the 1990’s were like with a win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday. Either that or he’ll at least make a good case for it but, a win seems within reach for the 24 team.

Hobbs :  Time for Denny Hamlin to make some noise!
Melton :  For this race, I am choosing Jimmie Johnson to take the win. He has been performing really well lately, and he has won a few times at this track. He has a good car, a great team, so I think we will see something good come from him.
Hull :  My pick for Sunday is Joey Logano.
Clement :  My pick is Kevin Harvick!
Bushee :  As for my pick. I’m going to go with Carl Edwards to take home the win. Hopefully my pick works out this time or I may start seeing a #BlameJess hashtag on Twitter.

There you have it, race fans! The Track Talk crew has spoken and given their thoughts on the 5-hour ENERGY 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  How about you?  What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into today’s race and who is your favorite to win?

Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now! Thanks as always to the TPF team.  The opinions and thoughts express in Track Talk are solely of the authors and do not reflect on any organizations that we are affiliated with outside of TPF.  This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.​

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. Born and raised in the Boston, MA area, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it’s about anything with an engine and four wheels, you’ll likely see an article on The Podium Finish by either myself or one of my talented columnists who absolutely have the motorsports passion.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

One Comment

  1. lunationgson@gmail.com'

    Luna Tiongson

    July 23, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Great post!

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