Race: Sylvania 300
Date: Sunday September 14, 2008
Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Time: 1 pm ET
New Hampshire Motor Speedway is where we’re going this week. It’s a great one-mile track in Loudon New Hampshire that gets the Chase for the Championship underway. The front stretch and the back stretch are both 1500 feet with 2 degree banking and 12 degree banking in the turns. This is one of those tracks that most drivers enjoy going to. Maybe that’s because it’s an equal-opportunity track in the sense that the last 7 races have had 7 different winners. Our most recent winner was Kurt Busch in the spring race here at Loudon.
Now, I wouldn’t go and put money on Kurt Busch this weekend based on how the rest of his year has gone, but I wouldn’t necessarily knock him out. If there’s a good track for him, it’s this one. I’d look for him to have one of his best finishes of the year here, but I wouldn’t look for him in victory lane. If we are going to talk about winning, I think that we need to seriously look at the Chase contenders. These guys have proven their consistency, and there are a few in particular who are excited about this track.
Carl Edwards is one of the guys most excited. He loves New Hampshire and although he doesn’t have a win here, his track record this year proves that he may very well be overdue to see this victory lane celebration. Clint Bowyer, who made the Chase by the hair on his chin, is actually the defending winner of this race. I don’t know if he can pull it off again, but look for him to be strong. Taking a look at Jimmie Johnson, he has 2 wins here, but recently has struggled. This is by far not his best track, but it’s certainly not his worst. Tony Stewart may also have something to say here as well as his teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
This is one of those tracks that you can be aggressive on without ruining the race for everyone. That’s the kind of driving that the Gibbs guys like. Well, Kyle tends to be a little over-aggressive at times, but he can certainly rein himself in enough to stay in serious contention for a championship this year.
With all of these guys being potential winners, I think we have to strictly look at performance this year. If I had to choose anyone to win this weekend, I would have to go with Denny Hamlin. He had a strong run this weekend at Richmond’s mile track and loves going to the smaller venues. He’s been strong in the last few weeks to be honest, and may have what it takes to get to the front. His teammates are going to be strong contenders though.
Let’s see where we stand in terms of the top 12:
1. Kyle Busch
2. Carl Edwards
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Denny Hamlin
7. Jeff Burton
8. Tony Stewart
9. Greg Biffle
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Matt Kenseth
Look for Carl Edwards to show something this weekend also. I think that a lot of the guys are going to have a good shot at this weekend, but the strongest contenders will be Denny Hamlin among the Gibbs drivers and Carl Edwards for the Roush team.