The elite of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, and it’s challenging one mile oval, for Sunday’s running of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. One of the post race traditions at this speedway is the presentation of a live giant lobster to the race winner.
[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]However, there’s a lot more at stake here than just enjoying the world’s largest lobster dinner. There are Sprint Cup Chase For the Championship implications. With the September 10th deadline for the Chase line up getting closer, there are some teams who will have to be in the go mode if they’re going to compete for the championship. Also on the line here is the determination of the two wild card berths for positions 11 and 12 in the Chase.
THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN
So, who’s going to enjoy that lobster next Sunday? There are several clues provided for you by the professionals from the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE). They’re starting out strong this week with drivers Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson topping their rankings at 5 to 1 odds.
The phrase “winner, winner lobster dinner” could easily apply to either one of these drivers. After a somewhat dubious, not to mention surprising, start to his season, Hamlin has clawed his way to tenth in the championship standings. He’ll be looking to improve on that status on Sunday. He has some outstanding stats at New Hampshire including a win, four top five finishes, seven top tens and a very impressive average finish ratio, AFR, of 7.6.
Jimmie Johnson is currently fifth in the points standings and his the defending race champion. He has three previous New Hampshire wins, including a sweep of both races there in 2003, along with six top fives, 12 top tens along with an 9.9 AFR.
At 8 to 1 odds you will find the trio of Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. Harvick is third in the standings and only ten points from the top. He’s a previous winner at New Hampshire with five top fives and a 13.9 AFR.
Four time champion Jeff Gordon is keeping his drive for five alive and is currently seventh in the points. He’s a three time New Hampshire winner and over the years has collected 14 top fives, 18 top tens along with an 11.0 AFR. However, the past few races has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride in terms of team performance and that’s an area that will require a lot of focus. Rolling a strong car right out of the trailer will be important for this team in the weeks to come.
Then there’s Kyle Busch. The current points leader was extremely strong during the course of winning last weekend’s race at Kentucky in a car that required virtually no adjustments during pit stops. If they can find that magical combination again, then this driver will be a force to be reckoned with. He’s also a previous winner at New Hampshire with four top fives along with a 14.7 AFR.
The WSE has drivers Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart sharing the 10 to 1 category this weekend. The elder Busch brother, currently fourth in the standings, has some strong New Hampshire numbers including three wins and, in 2004, became the second driver to sweep both races there. His Penske Racing team has been strong of late and, at 10 to 1, he could turn out to be a good long shot consideration.
It’s go time for Tony Stewart. He’s currently 11th in the standings and still, much to every one’s amazement, is still looking for his first win of the season. He also has endured roller coaster performance levels this year. However, New Hampshire could be a good starting point to get this team back on track. Stewart is a two time winner there with a healthy AFR of 12.4.
All by himself, in the WSE’s 11 to 1 ranking, is Carl Edwards. He will start the New Hampshire weekend second in the standings only four points from the top. The WSE recently closed their books on the 2011 Sprint Cup championship with Edwards on top of the list. Some may take that fact into consideration and place a long shot wager on Edwards. But, let the buyer beware. His New Hampshire numbers, zero wins and two top fives, aren’t that strong.
In the WSE’s middle tier this week you will find Matt Kenseth at 15 to 1. He’s sixth in the standings and his Chase status seems to be solid. However, he’s still looking for his first lobster at New Hampshire.
At 17 to 1 is Clint Bowyer whose bad luck has caused him to slip to 12th in the standings. New Hampshire is great place for this team to get back on track. He’s a two time winner there including scoring his first ever Sprint Cup win back in 2007.
At 20 to 1 odds you will find drivers Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Biffle, who recently became a first time father following the birth of his daughter last week, now has something else to consider this weekend. At 14th in the standings, 128 points out of first, this team is going to have to pull a giant rabbit out of a small magician’s hat to make the Chase. That’s why there was a crew chief change for the team this week. Matt Puccia makes his Sprint Cup debut on the pit box this Sunday replacing veteran Greg Erwin.
Dale Earnhardt Jr has dropped from third to eighth in the standings over the past few weeks. This slide has been based on bad racing luck not of his making combined with hit and miss handling packages. He’s still looking for his first win at New Hampshire and will likely be content with somewhat of a solid finish to keep himself in that all important top ten in the rankings.
In my personal opinion here’s the WSE long shot bet of the week: Jeff Burton at 25 to 1 odds. I’ll pause here to allow many of you to scream WHAT??? Yes, this Richard Childress Racing team is having a terrible season. Yes, he’s 25th in the points and any chance of making the Chase is now gone. So, why is Burton such an interesting consideration? It’s his extremely strong New Hampshire numbers. He’s a four time winner there including a win in 2000 when he led all 300 laps. He also has eight top five finishes along with a 13.5 AFR. Also bear in mind that the law of averages says this team’s season has to turn around some time.
At 35 to 1 this week is Ryan Newman a two time lobster winner including his first ever Sprint Cup win back in 2002. “The Rocket Man” is also a series high four time fast qualifier at New Hampshire. Joining him, in the 35 to 1 ranking, is veteran Mark Martin a former New Hampshire winner.
In the WSE’s 40 to 1 group you will find Kasey Kahne, also a previous New Hampshire winner, along with drivers David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr and Brad Keselowski who holds the track qualifying record set back in September.
At 45 to 1 are drivers Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, who won his first and only Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire, along with Juan Pablo Montoya. Closing out the list this week is David Ragan, at 50 to 1, despite his win at Daytona two weeks ago and a solid top ten at Kentucky last weekend.
Now for the disclaimer. NASCAR wants us to remind you that these posted numbers are for entertainment and information purposes only. They neither encourage nor condone the placing of wagers on their races. But if you’re going to do it anyway, then be grateful that you have the help of the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange to guide you through the numbers.
Then again, you can always use the money to make a donation to the state of Kentucky to help fix Interstate 71. (Yeah I know, that was out of line).
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Lenox Industrial Tools 301 is 301 laps/318.485 miles around the New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s 1.058 mile oval.
The race has 47 entries vying for the 43 starting berths. 12 of those entries are on the go or go home list. These teams are not guaranteed a starting position because they are outside of NASCAR’s current top 35 in owner’s points. These teams will have to rely on qualifying speed to make the race.
The New Hampshire Motor Speedway officially opened in 1990. The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held there in 1993 and was won by Rusty Wallace. Since that time there has been 32 Sprint Cup races that has sent 20 different winners to victory lane. Hendrick Motorsports leads the team win category with eight. Eight of the last nine races there have been won by a margin of victory under one second. Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemechek are the only current Cup drivers who has raced in all 32 events at New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire Motor Speedway is very challenging. The turns are banked 12 degrees and the straights, each 1,500 feet long, are banked at two degrees. The track currently has seating for 95,491 fans.
Weather could provide a slight complication with the speedway schedule on Friday. There is a slight, 20%, chance of rain on Friday afternoon. The Saturday and race day Sunday forecast for the Loudon area is solid calling for sunny skies and temperatures around 87 degrees.
The Lenox Industrial Tools 301 will be broadcast live this Sunday by the TNT Network with the pre race show beginning at 12 pm eastern time. The race replay will be broadcast on Wednesday, July 20th, by the SPEED Channel beginning at 12 pm eastern.