After an extended absence of flat-track races, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make the first of two stops this season at the Magic Mile known as New Hampshire Motor Speedway. There are three low-banked courses of one mile or fewer in length among the first nine dates on the schedule: Martinsville Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and Richmond International Raceway.
While these tracks have their own unique elements, braking skills are paramount to get around each successfully. Thus, many drivers are able to perform well across all four of these venues.
Practice sessions: Friday, July 11 at 11:30 a.m. EDT. Saturday, July 12 at 9 a.m. EDT, 11:30 a.m. EDT
Qualifying: Friday, July 11 at 4:40 p.m. EDT
Race: Sunday, July 13 at 1 p.m. EDT
Location: Loudon, N.H.
Length: 1.058 miles
Turns: 4-7 degrees
Straightaways: 2 degrees
Brian Vickers | No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing
Over the last five Loudon races, Vickers has finished 15th or better each time, with a victory last July. His average finish of 7.4 is tied with Jimmie Johnson for the second best figure at NHMS during that time. Vickers is coming off a rain-assisted runner-up finish at Daytona, his first top-10 since late May at Charlotte.
Kasey Kahne | No. 5 Great Clips/Shark Week Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Kahne won at Loudon in July 2012 before placing fifth in the Chase that year. Going back to 2010, he's recorded an average running position of 10th or better in seven of the eight contests but also finished outside of the top 35 twice. During the weeks in between crashes at Pocono and Daytona, Kahne finished eighth or better three consecutive times for the first time this season.
Tony Stewart | No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
Since loop data was introduced in 2005, Stewart has recorded an average running position of 15th or better in 16 of his 17 NHMS starts. Smoke led 84 laps last summer but ran out of fuel in the late stages to finish outside of the top 25. Stewart hasn't recorded a top-10 over the last five weeks but has come very close with three top-15s.
Kurt Busch | No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
At first glance, Busch hasn't recorded a top-10 finish in his five most recent chances at Loudon. However, he held average running positions of 11th and 15th in the pair of races last year, leading 102 laps in the summer. Experiencing a rare stretch of consistency, Busch has now finished 13th or better with a pair of top-fives over the last five weeks.
Joey Logano | No. 22 AutoTrader.com Ford | Team Penske
Logano owns just a single top-10 finish in the last five NHMS races but placed outside of the top 15 only once. After beginning the season with six top-fives in the first 11 races, Logano hasn't added another over the last seven. Generally speaking, Logano is running well but not at his peak heading into one of his less than ideal circuits.
Aric Almirola | No. 43 Charter Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports
Even though he placed fifth at NHMS last July, Almirola spent fewer than 30 percent of that race running in the top 15. Don't get overly excited by Almirola's first career win last week at Daytona thanks to the rain showers. The combination of the two somewhat lucky elements could trick some into buying Almirola has a sleeper, but it'd be a this week.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's 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. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.
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