After a weekend of penalties and docking points the drivers of the Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series head north to run the 25th Annual Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. I am actually not sure where to begin as what is unfolding before our very eyes is something straight out of the Vince McMahon Playbook. It’s taken me a long time to want to go back to the track after the death of Davey Allison back in July of 1993 but now after 24 years I am getting sucked back in by Nascar’s WWF antics. I have always sided with the underdogs in which Kyle Larson is slowly but surely becoming which would explain why I now want Kyle Larson to win every single race. For fear of climbing too high up on the soap box it would appear that the driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet is being painted as the villain here. He was docked 15 points back in Michigan and then last week his car couldn’t get through inspection so it’s to the back he went. After getting up to sixth place it was yet another penalty that sent him to the back of the pack but alas Larson would go on to finish second. We all know what happened next as his car did not pass the post-race inspection due to a rear brake cooling assembly that didn’t meet the Nascar standards.
Let’s move to this weekend where Larson won every stage of qualifying on Friday afternoon and looks to be the car to beat based on his practice times. Wait, what? Larson isn’t on the pole? He was sent to the rear of the field because the car didn’t pass post-qualifying inspection? So the car passed pre-qualifying inspection but not post-qualifying inspection. That’s some interesting stuff indeed. I have been probably been watching too many episodes of Blacklist but this seems a bit fishy if one starts to think about it. I mean if I had troubles over the past few weeks with complying with the rules I think one would want to be spot on during the next week’s race where the rules were concerned. Maybe that is part of the problem as just like society, there are too many rules.
Now that I have finished my rant about rules I do have another question. With all of the talk this weekend about ‘making the cars even’ my question is, why? In an effort to make today’s race more ‘competitive’ New Hampshire Motor Speedway has put down a substance that will possibly make it easier to handle the car in each of the four turns.
The substance has been given many names throughout the weekend but the official name is PJ1. It was used in the last two races at Bristol which makes the track a bit more ‘stickier’ in the hopes of promoting more side-by-side racing in the corners. The results from the Bristol races have been mostly favorable and so far it looks like it has been an improvement so far this weekend. At this time it is unclear as to whether or not they will apply more PJ1 to the track but one thing is for sure, it will definitely affect the outcome of Sunday’s race. With all of that out of the way, let’s get down to the business.
Kyle Larson ($9,700) is once again the free square for this weekend’s race. Starting from the back the driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet should be able to do what he did last weekend and finish in the top 10. As mentioned above, Larson will be one of the fastest cars on the track.
Much like last weekend Martin Truex Jr ($10,300) will be a force to be reckoned with when the green flag drops on the 25th Annual Overton’s 301. The driver of the #78 Wix Filters Toyota will start from the pole position and should be able to lead a bunch of laps much like he did last weekend. Truex has finished in the top 10 only three times in his last 10 starts here in New Hampshire with two of them coming over the last three races.
Thanks to Joey Logano’s April Richmond win being all but revoked Matt Kenseth ($9,300) has a slim seven point lead for the last playoff spot over the aforementioned Logano. The driver of the #20 DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota could make life a lot easier if he can do what he has done in two of his last three starts here and that’s take the checkered flag. Kenseth finished second in the fall race last season while leading the second most laps with 104 of them. That makes three extremely good finishes over his last three times out with the only problem being the PJ1 that is on the surface of the track. It could obviously change everything but Kenseth seems to have adjusted well as he will start from the third position when the green flag drops Sunday afternoon.
It would be senseless to not take a look at Kyle Busch ($10,300) and Brad Keselowski ($9,900) as they both are tied with two other drivers with the most top 10 finishes here in New Hampshire over the last 10 races. Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson ($9,600) round out the ‘fearsome foursome’ who have collected seven top 10 finishes over that time period. Busch has been fast all weekend which includes snagging the Xfinity Series checkered flag yesterday while Keselowski came home fifth. Johnson will start second and Busch starts seventh while Keselowski will start 10th in today’s race.
After watching a little of the Xfinity race yesterday it seemed that the track was going away from the drivers before the rain set in during the first segment of the race. Through all the speculation of what the PJ1 should do to the track it appears that it may be a non-factor after a few laps are run. Joey Logano ($8,800) has seen his salary plummet over the past few weeks but should be in line to do well this afternoon. Before finishing in 11th place last fall here in Loudon the driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford had four top five finishes in a row including a win back in the fall of 2014. Logano will start from the 13 the position when the cars roll off the line this afternoon.
Besides being collected in a crash back in the summer of 2013 Ryan Newman ($7,300) has finished on the lead lap in the other nine starts he has made here in New Hampshire over the past five years. This may not be a lot to some but with his price point being where it is, one certainly has to take a look. The driver of the #31 Grainger Chevrolet has also finished in a higher position than where he has started in the last seven races this season. Although his practice times has been hovering around the 20thfastest car I expect that he will be able to move up a bit from his 24th starting position before it’s all said and done.
Erik Jones ($7,900) has put together two straight top 10 finishes over the last two weekends and could be poised to have another good week. The driver of the #77 5-hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota will start from the sixth position this afternoon and has kept his car in the top 10 in all three practices leading up to today’s race.
Aric Alimirola ($6,600) has been cleared to race and will be behind the wheel of the Richard Petty owned famed #43 car this weekend. Almirola will start 21st this afternoon while his practice speeds have been synonymous with his starting position ranging from 25th fastest to 21st fastest over the three sessions. Besides crashing out of the fall race in 2015 Almirola has started 21st or worse and has finished no lower than 19th in four out of the last five races he has started here in New Hampshire. The price may be right to grab a few cheap points while loading up on the guys up front.
That will wrap up another week of diving into the world of Nascar. As always, follow me on twitter @elctrceye an good luck in your contests today.