The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make the second of its two stops this season at the Magic Mile known as New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In all, there are three low-banked courses of one-mile or fewer in length on the schedule: Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Richmond International Raceway. While these tracks all have their own unique elements, braking skills are paramount to get around each. Thus, many drivers are able to perform well across all four of these venues.
Location: Loudon, N.H.
Length: 1.058 miles
Turns: 4 to 7 degrees (12 percent grade)
Straightaways: 2 degrees
Drivers to keep an eye on
Tony Stewart | No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
Coming off his first win of the season at Chicagoland Speedway, Stewart is suddenly very relevant in the championship picture. Over the last four starts at Loudon, he's qualified in the first two rows on three occasions with two runner-up finishes during that time. Since loop data was introduced in 2005, Stewart's career average running position of ninth ranks second-best among all drivers. Typically a summertime sensation, Stewart may be headed for a bountiful fall harvest.
Kurt Busch | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge | Penske Championship Racing
Since 2009, the elder Busch brother has held an average running position of fifth or better in four of five starts at Loudon. He's finished no worse than 13th in that span with a pair of third-place results. After two consecutive DNFs due to crash, Busch has climbed back to fourth in the standings thanks to three straight finishes of sixth or better. Most recently at Chicagoland, he led the most laps with 64. At NHMS back in July, Busch matched a race-high average running position of fourth.
Ryan Newman | No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
The winner of the aforementioned summer race at Loudon was Newman. After capturing his fifth career NHMS pole, he paced 119 of 301 laps to give him four consecutive top-10s at the site. Since recording that impressive victory, Newman has scored a pair of top-fives and five top-10s in eight races. Despite sitting sixth in points, Newman has been something of an afterthought in the Chase. A Loudon sweep would quickly change all that.
Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing
Qualifying at Loudon hasn't been an issue for Keselowski. He won the pole for the Cup race last September and did the same in each of the last two Nationwide races. After a cut tire caused him to finish 35th at NHMS in July, Keselowski has collected a pair of wins with two more top-fives and hasn't finished worse than 12th in eight consecutive starts. Keep riding the blue deuce as we've yet to see signs of slowing from this feverish pace.
Jeff Gordon | No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Following a disappointing 24th-place finish at Chicagoland, Gordon tumbled from third to 11th in the Chase standings. A trip to the Magic Mile could work in Gordon's favor as his career average running position of 7.8 at the site leads all drivers. Since 2007, he's been the runner-up three times and has never finished worse than 15th.
Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
In the last four races at NHMS, Hamlin has recorded a pair of runner-up performances before finishing third in July. Three straight top-10s saw him climb a few positions in the Chase standings but that ground was erased with a 31st-place finish at Chicagoland. In 11 career starts at Loudon, Hamlin has a victory from 2007 and has never finished outside of the top 15. There are certainly risks involved given Hamlin's up and down season. You'll want to review the results from practice before making a full commitment.
A.J. Allmendinger | No. 43 Best Buy Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports
Prior to finishing 27th at Chicagoland, Allmendinger had registered five straight top-12s and was flirting with a birth into the postseason. He's recorded three consecutive finishes of 12th or better at NHMS and figures to be a sound middle-tier option once again. While The Dinger just missed the Chase cutoff, he's looked like a different driver under crew chief Greg Erwin while the pair lays down building blocks for future success.
Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Underachieving has been an issue for Burton in recent years. Loudon has been one of those troublesome venues. Despite holding an average running position of 10th or better in three straight at NHMS, Burton finished no better than 12th. From 1997 to 2000, Burton won four times at Loudon but would need to look strong in practice before you'll want to consider starting him. Still, the potential for a strong value is there so make sure Burton is on the radar.
Temper your expectations
Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Affliction Clothing: Live Fast Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Since 2008, Kenseth has yet to record a top-15 finish at Loudon in seven tries. In fact, his average running position has been 22nd or worse in the last four alone. Intermediate tracks are the primary strength for Kenseth so take a pass on the flat tracks like Loudon. Owners in allocation formats will have much better locations to call upon the No. 17 in the coming weeks.
Greg Biffle | No. 16 Ford40mpg.com Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Following a victory at NHMS in September of 2008, Biffle has only one top-15 finish in five starts. His average running position has been no matter than 15th in those events. Over the last 14 races of the season, The Biff has only managed a pair of top-10s. Along with the other Roush drivers, Biffle should be this week and perhaps for the foreseeable future.
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts.