Ambetter 301 Picks & Analysis
Date: Sunday July 17, 2022
Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Time: 3pm ET
What Did We Learn From Last Weekend?
I’ll be the first to admit that I have really hated a lot of what NASCAR has spent the last couple of years doing with the sport, but man, oh man, did Atlanta give us one heck of a race! That was one of the best races with actual RACING that we’ve seen in a very long time. Do you know what was the best part of it all? Two drivers going for the win on the very last lap and BOTH drivers being 100% class acts about the way that it turned out. If you didn’t hear the sirens going off in Dawsonville from where you were on Sunday evening, you need to crank up your hearing aid. Chase Elliott took his first win at his home track, a track where he raced as a boy. Not only that, but he became one of only two father/son pairs that have won at the same track. Being in the company of the Earnhardt family is never really a bad thing. The Elliott family has quite a legacy behind them as well. That said, Elliott was nothing short of a fantastic driver, throwing the blocks and defending every.single.line on the track on the last lap. Unfortunately, those blocks took out the second-best driver on the track Sunday. Corey Lajoie, yes, Corey Lajoie was and is still the man of the hour. It’s not only because he’s a low-budget team that he’s being thrown around all over the media right now. It’s more because his attitude is that of a guy you want to have around, as Jeff Gordon said. Lajoie, although clearly disappointed, really brought his A game and gave it everything he had there in the closing laps. There’s literally nothing that he could’ve or should’ve done differently. That ending was nothing short of the epitome of what racing is all about. Lajoie drove up into the wall after Elliott forced the issue and blocked the top line. But what was Elliott supposed to do? And then what was Lajoie supposed to do? As Elliott said, Lajoie would’ve done the exact same thing. And as Lajoie said, what do you do when you’re going for the win?
There is absolutely no fault to be had there at the end. Disappoint? Sure. But if Lajoie can keep up that type of driving with that type of attitude, he’s bound for victory. That combination of integrity and talent is hard to find these days. Speaking of which, many are curious as to what’s going on with Ross Chastain. Now, Chastain is truly an amazing talent. But many people are speculating that he’s turning drivers on purpose or that he should lift to avoid wrecking another car. The crazy thing about that is it’s easy to say when you’re not the guy in that driver’s seat. I’m not saying all of those spins were justified, but I am saying that I’m tired of hearing the commentators tell drivers that they should’ve lifted. Well, you know what? Maybe the other driver should’ve driven better or gotten out of the way. That’s a two-way street, y’all. Let’s stop pandering to the PC crowd here that NASCAR is trying to appease and go back to actual racing. That’s what made Atlanta as great as it was this past weekend. Give these guys some freedom and the free reign to do as they see fit, within reason, of course. Denny Hamlin crying over being spun is about as surprising as Bubba Wallace finishing 23rd. Will Denny try to retaliate for what he considered an unfair hit? Probably. Do you think Chastain will sit idly by and watch it happen? Absolutely not.
Where Are We Headed This Weekend?
This weekend, the drivers are going to have to find a way to get along at Loudon. New Hampshire Motor Speedway is next on the roster, with only seven races remaining until the playoffs. As you can tell from Sunday’s aggressiveness on the track, it’s only going to get hairier as these guys on the outside looking in try to lock in their shot at the championship one way or another. The Magic Mile, as it is affectionately known, is a 1.058 asphalt and granite oval with 2 to 7 degrees of variable banking through the turns and just 1 degree on the straights. With that lack of banking on this track compared to Atlanta, we’re going to see slower speeds and much more tire wear through the race. With brakes coming into play, drivers are going to have a little more on their plate in terms of taking care of their equipment. This particular track is notoriously good to rookie drivers for one reason or another. Joey Logano actually got his first win here back in 2009. It’s pretty crazy even writing that down. Whew. I digress. This is a good opportunity for guys like Corey Lajoie to carry some momentum into this weekend and give it their all in these closing races of the regular season.
Odds and Value Picks
When it comes to picking a winner here, there are several drivers who have multiple wins. Kevin Harvick is actually one of those drivers. He is tied with Jeff Burton with four wins and the most wins of any driver at this particular track. Now, Harvick has been having a bit of a rough go, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t potentially make a comeback this weekend. He might be a good one to throw on the table this weekend if you still are able to use him. There is also a laundry list of drivers with three wins. Those drivers include Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, and Denny Hamlin, to name a few. Kyle and Denny are probably the strongest of those three but don’t count Kurt out either. Aside from Kevin Harvick, he’s another solid B-list driver. In fact, he might be a better choice than Harvick, just based on this season’s stats. Let’s take a look at your potential winners heading into New Hampshire (Odds provided by MyBookie) :
- Favorite: Denny Hamlin +800
- Mid-Range Pick: Kurt Busch +2600
- Dark Horse: Corey Lajoie +55000
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I’ll throw it out there that Lajoie’s previous finishes at New Hampshire haven’t been the best. But knowing that, we also have to consider that he’s only had one run in the Cup Series so far. He’s bound to get better. He proved that last weekend at Atlanta, although his finishing position isn’t indicative of how the race went for most of the day. Also, note that he rarely ran well at Atlanta prior to this year. He’s getting much-needed experience and, even more than that, much-needed confidence to really propel him into some better finishes. He has his work cut out for him. He’ll have to chase three times winners, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch. Both of those guys are going to probably have pretty aggressive races. Denny Hamlin is likely going to be trying to make up for his run-in with Ross Chastain. What he needs to keep in mind is the victory and not trying to retaliate. If he can manage to show some decent sportsmanship and stay out of trouble, Hamlin will likely be hard to beat. Much like Kyle Busch, though, that idea of good sportsmanship can be few and far between. Luckily, he isn’t reliant on a win to get into the playoffs, but he still could use some more wins and points to cushion himself heading out of the regular season. Here’s how your leaderboard looks after Sunday’s race at Atlanta.
- Chase Elliott
- Ross Chastain
- Joey Logano
- Ryan Blaney
- William Byron
- Kyle Larson
- Denny Hamlin
- Kyle Busch
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Alex Bowman
- Tyler Reddick
- Kurt Busch
- Chase Briscoe
- Daniel Suarez
- Austin Cindric
- Christopher Bell
Daniel Suarez has been slipping a little in recent weeks. Although he’s locked in because of his win, I’m sure he would love to be able to get some more points to feel a little more secure. His teammate seems to be soaking up all of the limelight at the moment, though. Another driver that hasn’t been mentioned much lately is Ryan Blaney. He’s sitting comfortably in 4th place right now, but he doesn’t have a win. That’s not going to knock him out of contention right now, but a win sure wouldn’t hurt. Many of these guys would love nothing more than that coveted win. Honestly, that’s all that really matters in these later races. Stay tuned to see who comes away with the victory this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway! Bet your NASCAR races for FREE for the whole month by taking advantage of a 100% real cash bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 when you use bonus code PREDICTEM at Betnow Sportsbook!