Twice each year, New England racing fans are treated to some NASCAR Sprint Cup action at the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Known as “The Magic Mile,” NHMS has been the place for fans to watch modifieds, K&N East racing, XFINITY and Trucks, and of course, the Cup Series.
While the July race has been the original Cup date for NHMS, the September event is when the playoff action takes center stage in the region where the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox. The Sylvania 300 may not be the big race like a Brickyard 400 or Coca-Cola 600 but in these parts of the country, this is our biggest NASCAR race of the season.
Joey Logano has to feel like a hometown hero as he was born in Middletown, CT. Winning last fall’s race and the summer 2009 rain shortened event, this young gun racer from Team Penske has to be liking his chances with winning today’s Sylvania 300.
It could be much of the same with Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing dominating the scene in this 300-lap contest but don’t count out the Hendrick Motorsports quartet of Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. This team has found some speed over the past month and it seems like they’re starting to hit their stride when it truly counts.
Can Kevin Harvick overcome last weekend’s huge setback at Chicagoland with a strong run today at Loudon? The defending Cup champion has been consistent, fast, and relentless this year and those qualities could be far more threatening to his rivals more than words and post race fireworks.
It’s sure to be a great race today and our TPF Track Talk team of Ashley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, and Katie Copple are ready to talk about the 300 and more starting with Trending Topics right now!
Trending Topics by Rob Tiongson
We saw how restarts played a huge hand with the Chase Grid field as Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick got together, flattening the left rear tire for Harvick and resulting in a turn three crash that damaged the 4 car and greatly angered the defending Cup champion. What was your take on the incident and would you say it was a case of both drivers seeking the same inch of real estate?
Hobbs : Rubbin’ is racing as they all say. Could more room have been given since the race was just barely past half way? Certainly. However, this is the Chase and every driver is fighting for every inch on every lap to stay ahead of their competition. This is the first incident this Chase season and I am certain it will not be the last one. For Harvick’s sake, I hope he can turn a bunch of those 2nd place finishes into 1st place in the next 2 weeks so he can take a small breath and head into round 2 where he belongs.
Copple : A. It’s the Chase. These drivers are on edge as it is and anything that happens on track that may harm their chances of winning the title are going to really tick them off. B. Restarts. They are the never-ending debate that no one can really make up their minds on. I don’t think we will ever solve the issues of restarts. C. I though Johnson took the high road after getting hit in the chest. There are a handful of drivers… Who I won’t name… That if they were in that position, would have fought back. I though it was very big of JJ to just walk away.
Hull : I can’t believe how dramatic this Chase is already! It goes to show when the pressure is on, things happen. For the sake of professionalism, I will keep my opinions about the post-race scuffle to myself. Watching the replay, it looked like Joey Logano may have pushed Jimmie up the track. But he did come back down on Harvick. Whether or not it was intentional, it happened. Both drivers need to put this behind them if they want to do well in the Chase, or even get past the 1st round. Let’s hope that this doesn’t get taken too far.
Joe Gibbs Racing made a change with Kyle Busch’s pit crew, with front tire changer Nick O’dell’s departure bringing in Josh Lesley in his place. Was this a shocking event to you and is this a situation where Lesley has everything to gain and lose all in the same race weekend?
Hobbs : This is a demanding sport and this is not the first time a crew change has taken place during the Chase. We saw the 48 crew be entirely swapped out with the 24 crew a few years ago. This is a slightly different situation in that it is an individual leaving, but that is business. If that person was not performing up to par, then decisions have to be made. It is stated that Josh Lesley has 14 years of experience so that should boad well for the 18 crew. Even though Lesley brings the experience, he brings the rookie side of him to a new car, a new crew who have been together for a long time, and in a rough situation. But again, these are all professionals so I think he will adapt quickly and I see no problems on the 18.
Copple : Was this a shock? I would say not. These teams are going to do anything and everything they can to ensure they have the best chance to win. If JGR though replacing a man on the pit crew was necessary, then there must have been a reasoning behind it. That said, this new fella has one chance to prove he was the right choice.
Hull : I am not sure how it will effect the team, but the team has already proven this year that they can overcome any kind of adversity. The unstoppable performance that Kyle Busch had after coming back from a leg injury has proven just that. JGR is currently known for having some of the best pit crews in NASCAR, so this may make them stronger. Sometimes, in NASCAR, personnel changes need to made to improve the performance of the team. With the pressure of the Chase looming, I am sure that’s why they did it. So, it wasn’t really shocking to me.
It’s looking more like Furniture Row Racing will make the switch to the Toyota collective in time for next year. How much of an adjustment will this be for the No. 78 team and will this hurt or help this independent team?
Hobbs : It depends – is Joe Gibbs going to be their technical alliance? If Gibbs is their alliance partner, they stand a chance at succeeding. In my mind, that car has been doing great things with Martin Truex Jr. behind the wheel in a Chevy and to change, I must ask why. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it as the famous saying goes. We have seen teams switch manufacturers before and they tend to struggle for a bit, and that will (sadly) be the case with the 78 team.
Copple : I think this will hurt them. Maybe not in the sense that it will hurt their competitiveness but this is a big change for a small organization. There are going to be a lot of adjustments and changes that will have to be made and felt with in the off season for them to be where they have been this year.
Hull : Obviously this will be a huge adjustment for Furniture Row Racing. Switching manufacturers is honestly nothing to sneeze at. Furniture Row has proven their strength this season being a small team. I just really hope they don’t become like Michael Waltrip Racing and this hurts them. But they have one thing going for them that MWR didn’t have, the ability to overcome adversity. They have built their way up. Aligning themselves with TRD may make them stronger, and time will tell how this effects their team.
During the July race weekend at Loudon, we saw how heat took a huge toll on the drivers and teams. While the heat may not be around, the intensity will certainly be present for this coming race weekend. Is this a weekend when the pressure for the Chase teams results in a non-playoff team sneaking in that surprising victory on Sunday afternoon?
Hobbs : It could absolutely happen! One driver that has performed well, even though he is just getting started at Loudon, is Kyle Larson. He gave a great performance last weekend at Chicagoland, and with him not being in the Chase, he does not have that added pressure. I can easily see Larson putting together another top notch performance this weekend and stealing the spotlight from the Chasers.
Copple : Nope. I will be very surprised if a non-chase team makes it to victory lane at all in the next nine races. The only possibility I see that happening is Talladega. The Chase is everything to those (currently) 16 teams and they are going to fight like hell to come out on top.
Hull : As I had already addressed in the first question, the Johnson/Harvick incident has already shown how intense this Chase is. If it is already this contentious, I cannot wait to see how the remaining 9 weeks play out. The pressure may get to some of these Chase teams, and they could make some mistakes that could cost them. So in NASCAR, anything is possible. We could see Kasey Kahne win this race possibly. But I believe it will be an actual Chase team that wins.
The TPF Track Team talked about some goodness there! Now before we get to our race picks, let’s look at the points standings after Race 27 at Chicagoland:
Alright, friends! Let’s look at our race picks for today’s Sylvania 300 at Loudon, NH!
Tiongson : I’m thinking it’s another Joey Logano moment today!
Hobbs : With a variety of race winners at Loudon since the Chase started, is it time for a repeat Loudon Chase winner? According to the numbers, the top 5 drivers, just 1 of them has a win; but if you expand to the top 10, 50% of them of a win here. Denny Hamlin is one of those drivers and he also is moving on to round 2. With that said, and some of the best guys at the top with still 9 races left in the season, I am going to use my pick of Brad Keselowski to continue his great Loudon Chase performance!
Copple : Brad Keslowski is my race pick. He came in second in the summer and is biting at the bit for a win.
Hull : My pick for Loudon this weekend is Matt Kenseth.