Five Storylines to Watch in New Hampshire

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE – JULY 18: Aric Almirola, driver of #10 Smithfield Ford, celebrated in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 18, 2021 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Fans who headed to New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) for Ambetter 301 NASCAR weekend were in a bad good time at “The Magic Mile” as drivers passed the track for three full days of action -packed racing today Friday through Sunday, July 15-17. From the return of Friday Night Dirt Duels Presented by New England Racing Fuel on The Flat Track to NASCAR’s NextGen car that will make its long-awaited debut in New England on Sunday, there will be no shortage of thrilling, white-knuckle excitement for fans to enjoy. Here are five storylines to watch over the weekend:

Playoff Parity

Only seven active NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) drivers have won the NHMS – Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. In the first 19 NCS events this season, 13 different drivers won score races. While Harvick, Keselowski and Almirola have had recent success on “The Magic Mile,” winning in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, all three still have no wins in 2022, and are given parity in the current picture. of the NASCAR Playoffs, a win could be their best chance to race for a championship.

With seven regular season events left to set the 16-car playoff field, drivers in and around the cutline are looking to secure their spot in a strong NHMS show this weekend. Of the drivers in the bubble, Harvick could be the favorite to pick up the checkered flag. His four wins at Loudon have tied him with Jeff Burton for the most time. Although the 58-time NCS winner has not been in the victory lane since September 2020, history shows that he has always been a strong opponent in the NHMS. A win at Ambetter 301 would not only rewrite the NHMS record book, but also help bolster a potential Playoff run for the 2014 champion.

First Time the Charm

Given how the NextGen car seems to have matched the playing field and made a group of first -time winners this season – Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez and Tyler Reddick – it seems almost all is possible when the green flag falls. Notable drivers who earned their first NCS victory on the 1.058-mile Loudon track include Joe Nemechek, Robby Gordon, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano. Will a veteran driver like Corey LaJoie or Ty Dillon find a way into victory lane? Or will a future sport star like Harrison Burton or Todd Gilliland get the first NCS win that defines the race? Time will tell, but in the history of making first -time winners, fans certainly shouldn’t count on any of them.

Advantages of Home Track

This weekend’s Ambetter 301 marked the 51st NCS event on the famous New England track, so it’s certainly a familiar stop for veteran drivers at NASCAR’s highest level. But if homefield advantage is important for anything, Connecticut native Joey Logano and his No. 22 Team Penske machines are one to watch out for in the closing laps on Sunday. In 23 career starts, Logano has finished in the top five eight times (34.5 percent of events), including wins in 2009 and 2014. With wins this season at The Clash at LA Coliseum, Darlington Raceway and World Wide Technology Raceway, he proved he had a car to beat.

But Logano isn’t the only New England native riding in the driver’s seat this weekend. In Saturday’s Crayon 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) race, Derek Griffith of Hudson, NH will just begin his third race in NASCAR’s penultimate series. In the second half of Doubleheader Saturday, hot shoe Ryan Preece-the 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and two-time winner of the NXS and Camping World Truck Series-is expected to be among the tight field of New Englanders vying for to a win in the Whelen Manufactured in America 100.

Leading for His Debut

Julia Landauer is set to make her NXS debut at Crayon 200 on Saturday, driving for Alpha Prime Racing and adding another chapter to her racing legacy.

Hailing from New York, NY, the now 30-year-old racer and motivational speaker began her racing career as the first and youngest female champion in the Skip Barber Racing Series when she was just 14 years old. She made history as the first woman to lead a lap in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, and recently earned the top finish for an American racer in the NASCAR Euro Series with a fifth-place finish in 2020.

Scores to Good

As summer temperatures heat up, so does the action on the track, where drivers are feverishly fighting for crucial Playoff points and a shot at a Cup Series title. In recent weeks, Ross Chastain has found himself on the wrong side of the controversy after battling against fellow Playoff contender Denny Hamlin, among others. After tussling on the track at St. Louis, the two reunited in Sunday’s high-speed showdown in Atlanta. Following the race, Hamlin said he reached his peak with the Trackhouse Racing driver. Both drivers have had two wins this season, which confines them to the Playoffs, but if there are any points to be paid, it could come as early as Sunday’s Ambetter 301.

– New Hampshire Motor Speedway –

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