NASCAR New Hampshire Preview
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series officially launches the 2009 Chase For The Championship this Sunday, at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with the running of the Sylvania 300. This is the race where we're going to get a major inkling regarding which teams are already Chase ready and who will have some work to do in the weeks ahead.
THE CHASE BREAKDOWN
The 2009 edition of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship will feature ten races with 12 eligible teams running a total of 3,152 laps and 4,095.48 miles.
This year marks the sixth edition of the Chase. Of the 22 drivers from previous years only Jimmie Johnson has been in all six and, as we all know, he's won three of them. In fact, it's evident that Johnson, and his Hendrick Motorsports team, virtually owns the stats from the previous 50 Chase races. Johnson has chart leading stats that include 14 wins, 36 top ten finishes, an average finish ratio of 8.7 and a driver rating of 100.8.
This is not to imply that Johnson is going to have an easy time with his quest of winning a historic fourth consecutive NASCAR championship. There is nothing easy about winning these titles. It's safe to assume that the likes of Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin aren't just going to simply move aside and let Johnson pass. All of these Chase drivers will be planning on making a strong opening statement Sunday in New Hampshire and the results could turn out to be exciting.
THERE COULD ALSO BE SOME NON CHASE SPOILERS.
Chief among them will be, without question, the presence of Kyle Busch. By now it's likely that Busch has come to terms with not being in the Chase line up. It's also likely that he will now focus on winning more races than any driver on the Sprint Cup roster. After all there's that other quest on his racing agenda: winning 200 plus races in NASCAR's big three national touring series.
Yet another possible spoiler could come from a seemingly rejuvenated Richard Childress Racing. RCR recently underwent some management changes within their competition department recently and they're already seeing early bird results. This is especially true of runs that we've witnessed from drivers Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. We also need to remember that Harvick absolutely shines on a flat track like New Hampshire.
But the one RCR driver that could turn out to be a surprise spoiler is Jeff Burton who has an outstanding record at New Hampshire. Jeff Burton leads all active Sprint Cup drivers in wins with four. Burton also holds the New Hampshire record for the most laps led by a race winner. In the fall of 2000 he pulled off a feat that is extremely difficult to do. He led all 300 laps of the race. He also holds the track record for the fewest amount of laps led by a race winner. In the summer of 1999 he only needed two laps to win the race.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Sylvania 300 is 300 laps/317.4 miles around the New Hampshire Motor Speedway's 1.058 mile oval.
The race has 45 entries vying for the 43 starting berths. Ten of those entries are on the "go or go home list" meaning they are not guaranteed an automatic starting berth because they are outside of the top 35 in NASCAR's owner's points.
If the scheduled Friday afternoon qualifying session gets rained out then drivers Dexter Bean and Derrike Cope will be loading their haulers for the early trip home. The Loudon-New Hampshire weather forecast calls for cloudy conditions with scattered showers during the early to late morning hours. But the forecast also calls for variable high cloudiness only Friday afternoon when the qualifying session will be held.
The total race purse for the Sylvania 300 is $5.423,189. The winner's share of that amount is $220,850.
The defending race winner from 2008 is Greg Biffle who started from the ninth position. Kyle Busch won the spring race, in July of 2008, starting from the 14th position. The New Hampshire Motor Speedway smiled on a first time Sprint Cup winner this past June when 19 year old Joey Logano became the youngest winner in series history.
Track position is always important in a Sprint Cup race and will increase in importance over the next ten races in the Chase. Championship contender Ryan Newman holds the track qualifying record, 133.357 MPH, which was set in the fall of 2003. Newman also hold the track record for the most poles won by an active driver with four.
The presence yellow flags conditions may create a few anxious moments for the Chase contenders or it may even help them at the point when tire wear and fuel mileage is getting critical. The track record for most cautions in a New Hampshire race is 17 with the record for most yellow flag laps being 79. But this trend can also work in the opposite direction as well. A race held in July of 1997 only had two caution flags and ten caution laps.
In the manufacturer's bragging rights department, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway favors the bow tie brigade. Chevrolet has the most wins there with 12. But it's a Ford organization that holds the track record for the most team wins. Roush Fenway Racing cars have won there seven times.
THE TRACK BREAKDOWN
Groundbreaking for the New Hampshire Motor Speedway was held in 1989 while the official track opening was held in the summer of 1990.
The first ever race there was a NASCAR Nationwide Series event in July of 1990. The first official NASCAR Sprint Cup event was held in the summer of 1993 and was won by Rusty Wallace. Since that time there has been 29 Sprint Cup races there with 19 different drivers visiting victory lane.
The speedway's straightaways are 65 feet wide and 1,500 feet long. The turns are basically flat but does feature progressive banking that ranges from two to seven degrees.
The speedway presently has seating for 95,521 fans.
THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN.
The Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange-WSE, to no real surprise, has the upper tier Chase contenders as their favorites to win the Sylvania 300. Denny Hamlin tops the odds list this week at 6 to 1 odds. Team mates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are ranked at 7 to 1 while Tony Stewart and Mark Martin come in at 8 to 1 odds this week.
At 12 to 1 odds are a trio of drivers featuring the Busch brothers and Kevin Harvick while Joey Logano and Carl Edwards are rated at 15 to 1. The quartet of Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr are rated at 20 to1 and at 25 to 1 you'll find Martin Truex Jr and Kasey Kahne. Rounding out the notable WSE odds this week are drivers Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya at 30 to 1.
THE TELEVISION BREAKDOWN, (ALL TIMES LISTED ARE EASTERN)
Friday: practice session, 12 pm on ESPN2
Friday: qualifying. 3 pm on ESPN2
Saturday: practice session. 9 am on Speed.
Saturday: final happy hour practice, via video tape, 645 pm on ESPN2.
Sunday: "NASCAR Now". 10 am. ESPN2
Sunday: "NASCAR Race Day pre race show. 11 am. Speed
Sunday: Pre race countdown. 1pm. Green flag 2 pm. ABC.
Monday: race re air. 3 am. ESPN2
Monday: race re air. 12 pm. ESPN Classic
Wednesday: race re air. 12 pm. Speed
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