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Overtonís 301 Predictions

Race: Overtonís 301
Date: Sunday July 16, 2017
Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Time: 3 pm ET

by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

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Martin Truex Jr. takes the win at Kentucky! In a rather dominating performance, Truex managed to hold off Kyle Larson in a late race restart that evaporated his over 16 second lead. Somehow or another, Truex pulled away from the field on the restart, despite the eight other drivers who made a pit stop for fuel and tires. Kyle Larson had one heck of a race by having to start at the back of the field for not making pre-race inspection. On top of that, he got a speeding penalty and had to start again at the rear of the field. When it was all said and done, Larson passed a total of 78 cars by nightís end. Overall, the racing was pretty good. After Kyle Busch had the lead taken from him, though, there wasnít ever too much of another battle for it.

With Truexís win on Saturday night, it takes him to 3 for the season and a total of 10 for his career. Itís safe to say that heís doing alright. Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch round out your top 5 for the night. You know Kyle Busch has to still be disappointed. To lead 112 laps and not get that elusive win this season is just no good. In fact, Joe Gibbs Racing still has yet to get a win this year. From a team that was so dominating in years past, this is quite the surprise in my opinion. That being said, the big news out of the JGR camp is the release of Kenseth for the 2018 season. While Kenseth doesnít have any solid plans as of now for next year, JGR made an announcement today that rookie Erik Jones will take over the #20 ride for the 2018 season. Jones is quite the competitor and will have a lot to live up to. He can most certainly do it with the experience heís gaining as of now.

This weekend, the drivers are headed to a whole different type of track. The ďMagic MileĒ, as itís affectionately known, is an asphalt and granite oval at just over 1 mile. There is variable banking between 2 to 7 degrees in the turns, equating to a 12% grade, and a very minor 1 degree banking on the straights. One extra element that they are adding this weekend is the PJ1 compound. This is a traction compound that has been used previously at Bristol and Charlotte. Iím on the fence with this one. In races past, New Hampshire has failed to deliver a great race in my opinion. They are putting the compound on the track from about mid-track up to the wall. So, NASCAR is trying to create more grooves essentially. At this point, with the way that NASCAR has messed up everything else this season, I say, have at it! Whatís one more element to the amount of change? I mean, honestly, weíre nowhere near what NASCAR was even just a couple of years ago. Theyíre successfully isolating a very solid group of fans already, so I guess it makes no difference to go ahead and do something along these lines. It canít really hurt at this point.

Jr. is supposedly the one who mentioned the track spraying the compound and doesnít quite understand the point. Other drivers seem to think that it makes things a little more exciting and makes for better racing. Either way, itís going down, so we have to figure out which driver is going to be able to take advantage of the situation. When we look at potential winners this weekend, there are drivers that are hot and drivers that are not right now. I donít think that weíre going to see any off the wall winner. Our best options are the drivers with previous success here and momentum coming into the weekend including Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, and Kyle Larson. These guys all have strong records here, and with the exception of Keselowski, but Larson and Truex sure have a string of good luck following them into this weekend. Keselowski should still perform well, as he has 8 top 10 finishes in the last 11 races. Letís take a look at your potential winners this weekend heading into New Hampshire:

My Pick to Win: Kyle Busch
Middle of the Road Pick: Kyle Larson
Dark Horse Prediction: Ryan Blaney

Blaney finished 11th and 12th here last year. Heís got a lot going for him as far as a competitive edge this year. Thereís no reason why he wonít be a top 10 car, if not competing for the win. Kyle Larson has a second and third place finish at this track, and, well, heís just so darn good. Heís coming off another second place finish, so he will undoubtedly be competing for a win when it comes down to it. Oh, and Kyle Busch! Threw ya there for a minute, huh? Well, as unpredictable as heís been in terms of closing the deal, Iím giving him a little Hail Mary this weekend as he desperately needs the win. Heís got the equipment to do it and has been dominant at New Hampshire over the years. Between his motivation and success here, I think this might be the weekend that Kyle closes the deal. He needs this win to secure his spot in the Chase.

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Here are your current top 16 after last week's race:

1. Kyle Larson
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Chase Elliott
6. Jamie McMurray
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Clint Bowyer
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Joey Logano
13. Ryan Blaney
14. Erik Jones
15. Kurt Busch
16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

These guys without wins and those still trying to push their way into the top 16 have a lot of work cut out for them. There are only 8 races left before the Chase. Thatís really not much time at all for these guys to secure their spots. This weekend will be an interesting race. With the addition of the traction compound, drivers may not see track position quite as imperative as itís been in the past. There will most definitely be some tire strategy and potentially a fuel strategy as we see this quite often here. Overall, there are a lot of potential contenders, but I think that weíll see a lot of work from those guys still going for those elusive wins. Stay tuned to see if Kyle Busch can bring it home this weekend as we head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway!

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