Well the weather in New England is getting cooler, but the Chase is heating up at the Magic Mile.
Today, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into New England for the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It’s the 28th race of the season, second race of the Chase and second of the Challenger Round.
Matt Kenseth enters with a two-point lead over teammate Denny Hamlin who’s already locked into the Contender Round with his win in the Windy City last week. Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch enter tied for third three-points back. Kurt Busch and Joey Logano enter tied for fifth four-points back. Jimmie Johnson enters seventh seven-points back. Ryan Newman enters eighth 12-points back. Brad Keselowski enters ninth 13-points back. Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters tenth 14-points back. Martin Truex Jr. enters 11th 17-points back. Jeff Gordon enters 12th 21-points back. Jamie McMurray enters 13th 24-points back. Paul Menard enters 14th 25-points back. Kevin Harvick enters 15th 43-points back. Clint Bowyer enters last in the Chase field at 16th 52-points back.
On Wednesday this past week, NASCAR handed down a P4 level penalty to the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing team for failing opening day inspection last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Clint Bowyer was docked 25-points, crew chief Billy Scott was fined 75-thousand dollars and suspended for three races. Because of the short timeframe with the cutoff race of the Challenger Round next weekend at Dover, the appeal will be expedited and heard this Wednesday. While Billy Scott will be on the pit box this weekend, the points penalty stands pending the result of the appeal.
Defending series champion Kevin Harvick is 22-points back of the 12th place cutoff after wrecking out halfway through the myAFibRisk.com 400. There’s a good chance that he’ll need to win either today or Dover in order to make it out of the Challenger Round.
Today, Jeff Gordon makes his 789th career start. This is significant because they’re all consecutive and it surpasses Ricky Rudd’s mark of 788 consecutive starts. When the green flag flies this afternoon, the driver of the No. 24 car will become the new NASCAR Iron Man. Today is also his 42nd and final career start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. I note this because Gordon is the only driver to have competed in every Sprint Cup race at Loudon.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a 1.058 mile (1.703 km) oval speedway. It’s basically Martinsville on steroids. Which makes me surprised they’ve never done something like lobster hot dogs. But anyway, like Martinsville, Loudon is a rhythm race track that requires precise braking and throttle response to round it’s nearly flat turns. Loudon is a track where you have to setup another driver for three to four laps to make a pass. Being a one groove race track, it’s best to restart the race on the inside line.
Carl Edwards will lead the field to the green flag today at 2:15 p.m. on NBCSN.