Will drivers put Gordon in wall this weekend in Loudon?
THE STORY BREAKDOWN
Let's get right to it. Every NASCAR fan in the entire country is well aware that the number one story line here is what happened last week in northern California. This is, of course, a reference to Jeff Gordon's very aggressive driving at the Infineon road course event. By the time the afternoon was over, Gordon had managed to anger drivers Martin Truex Jr, Elliot Sadler, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan and Kurt Busch. All of these drivers claim that Gordon's aggressiveness damaged their cars and ruined what was going to be solid top ten finishes in the race.
Are you looking for retaliation in Sunday's race in New Hampshire? You just might see it. Truex has already said that he's "going to get him at Loudon." Truex has two possible approaches to the revenge he feels he's entitled to.
The first is the Carl Edwards approach. That's when you wait awhile to approach the rear bumper of your future target. Edwards waited from the fall of last year, at Talladega, to the spring of this year, at Atlanta, to get even with Brad Keselowski. This is the revenge is a dish best served cold gambit.
Then there's the Denny Hamlin approach that says serve the dish right away while it's still piping hot. Hamlin waited a week to serve his revenge which was, ironically, also against Keselowski.
But the one driver in this revenge group that Gordon should be seriously looking out for may turn out to be Kurt Busch. He claims he was en route to a top ten finish when contact from Gordon cut his tire and forced an unscheduled pit stop that created a 36th place finish.
After last Sunday's race at Infineon, Gordon admitted that his driving was aggressive and issued a blanket apology to the impacted drivers while making it a point to aim the apology at Truex. But he deliberately left out Kurt Busch and made it worse by signaling him out on national television when he said "I'm sorry except for the 2 car. Kurt Busch had everything coming to him that I gave him because he gave it to me on the restart before that. So, I didn't feel very sorry about that."
Making either one of the Busch brothers angry is probably not a great idea. It might be interesting to see what happens when these two drivers get next to each other this Sunday.
Over the next few days, right up to green flag time on Sunday, you will see and hear a lot about the latest episode of NASCAR's self policing policy simply because the hyped up anticipation of retaliation is always good for a slight bump in the television ratings.
Also expect to hear a lot of commentary on the recent NASCAR suspension of former Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie. The stunning announcement came on Tuesday that said LaJoie had been indefinitely suspended for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy.
But this particular case seems to have a different variation from others presently on suspension. The other cases clearly indicated that the use of substances, currently banned by NASCAR, were on a frequent and recreational basis.
It's been years since LaJoie has driven a race car in a NASCAR event. After winning 15 races and two championships in NASCAR's Nationwide Series, he retired from driving. He went into the safety equipment aspect of racing after designing a new, and safer, racing seat. He also went into broadcasting and frequently appeared on ESPN2 and SPEED television as well as Sirius and PRN Radio. There are also reports that say the ESPN2 Network has also suspended LaJoie.
LaJoie was in the process of becoming a spotter for Joe Gibbs Racing's #18 Nationwide Series team. While he's held a NASCAR license for many years now, this position required a special NASCAR Spotter's license. Part of that application requires a mandatory drug test. LaJoie's test turned up traces of marijuana which resulted in the automatic suspension.
LaJoie was both embarrassed and humbled by the revelation. He explained that he attended a social occasion last May following the Coca Cola 600 race where he did try marijuana during what he termed was a one time thing. He also issued a statement apologizing to his family, friends, NASCAR, business associates and the media outlets he's currently affiliated with.
He also announced his intent to comply with all NASCAR guidelines that will lead to his re instatement. That includes mandatory rehab counseling which LaJoie says he has already made arrangements for.
In an effort to get driver Matt Kenseth, as well as Roush Fenway Racing, back into victory lane this year, comes word that that crew chief Todd Parrott is out and veteran Jimmy Fennig will replace him. This will mark Kenseth's third crew chief this year. He began the season with Drew Blickensderfer who was replaced by Parrott right after the Daytona 500. While they were still looking for a trip to victory lane, the Parrott/Kenseth combination did create some good numbers that included four top five finishes including a second at Atlanta, eight top tens and the team is currently second in the points standings.
Veteran driver, and Sprint Cup champion, Bobby Labonte will not be in his familiar #71 TRG Chevrolet this Sunday. Andy Lally will instead drive the car. Team owner Kevin Buckler denied that Labonte will be leaving the team early in the week. However, by Wednesday other reports indicated that Labonte had already left.
That was confirmed by the announcement that said Labonte will be driving Robby Gordon's #7 Toyota at New Hampshire. Robby Gordon will not be his familiar self owned team due to schedule conflicts as well as sponsorship woes.
Labonte has also been signed by team owner James Finch to drive his #09 Chevrolet for two races at Daytona and the Chicagoland Speedway.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Lenox Industrial Tools 301 is 301 laps/318.485 miles around the New Hampshire Motor Speedway's 1.058 mile oval.
The race has 45 entries vying for the 43 starting positions. Nine of those entries are on the go or go home and do not have a guaranteed start because they are outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points. These teams will have to earn a starting berth based on their qualifying speed.
The defending race champion is Joey Logano who won his first ever Cup race at New Hampshire last year. Mark Martin won the fall race last September.
There has only been two drivers to sweep both annual New Hampshire races in the same year. Jimmie Johnson did it in 2003, Kurt Busch did the double in 2004.
Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch understand how to win at New Hampshire. They've done it four times each. Burton also holds the track record for most and fewest laps led by a race winner. He led all 300 laps in 2000 and only needed to lead two laps to win the 1999 race.
Chevrolet tops the manufacturer's list with 13 wins at New Hampshire. But the team win list is split between Chevrolet and Ford. Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing each have seven wins.
Jeff Gordon, a three time winner at New Hampshire, leads the finish stats with 13 top fives and 16 top tens.
Juan Pablo Montoya holds the track qualifying record, 133.431 MPH, set in September of 2009.
Ryan Newman holds the track record for winning the most poles with four.
A New Hampshire race has been won from the pole position four times. The last driver to do it was Clint Bowyer in 2007.
The "National Anthem" should be rather interesting. It will be performed by 70's classic rock and blues band Foghat.
Mother Nature could play a huge role during the NASCAR weekend in New Hampshire. The weekend forecast calls for Showers Saturday evening and Sunday morning with daytime highs around 77 degrees.
The Lenox Industrial Tools 301 will be broadcast live by the TNT Network with the pre race show beginning at 12 pm eastern time.
THE TRACK BREAKDOWN
Groundbreaking for the New Hampshire International Speedway was held in August of 1989.
After being purchased by Bruton Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc in 2008, the track was renamed the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held there in July of 1993 and was won by Rusty Wallace.
Since that time there has been 30 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire which has sent 20 different winners to victory lane.
The speedway is basically a flat track. There are only 12 degrees banking in the turns and only two degrees of banking in the straightaways. The two straightaways have equal measurements of 1,500 feet.
The speedway presently has seating for 95,491 fans.
THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN
The Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE), has two drivers on top of their listed rated at 9 to 2 odds. The first is Jimmie Johnson who is a two time New Hampshire winner. The second is Denny Hamlin also a previous race winner.
At 7 to 1 odds this week is three time New Hampshire winner Jeff Gordon. Because of his rock solid stats at this track, this would normally be a very good wager. But the aforementioned revenge issues from last Sunday's road course race may make you want to think twice about a bet on Gordon. He could wind up with some major sheet metal issues next Sunday.
Next on the list are two potential wagers that each have a lot of merit to them. The first is Kyle Busch, a previous New Hampshire winner, at 9 to 1 odds. The second is Tony Stewart, a two time race winner, at 10 to 1.
At 12 to 1 this week is four time New Hampshire winner Kurt Busch. Normally, this driver and his Penske Dodge team would be a rock solid consideration. But bear in mind this is one of the drivers who has outstanding issues with Jeff Gordon from last Sunday. Joining Busch in this category is the series' points leader, and highly consistent, Kevin Harvick who also has a previous win at New Hampshire.
Next on the WSE's survey is a rather surprising ranking and one worthy for those who like to play the long shot odds. It's hard to imagine four time New Hampshire winner Jeff Burton at 15 to 1 odds. This ranking is going to be very tempting to long shot players. The same goes for his Richard Childress Racing team mate Clint Bowyer, another New Hampshire winner, who's rated at 18 to 1 this week.
At 20 to 1 this week are drivers Mark Martin, who won at New Hampshire last September, along with Juan Pablo Montoya. At 25 to 1 is a quintet of drivers led by Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and former race winner Greg Biffle. Also in this group are Kasey Kahne and defending race champion Joey Logano.
Winding up the WSE's survey this week are drivers Martin Truex Jr and Dale Earnhardt Jr at 30 to 1. The tandem of Ryan Newman, a two time New Hampshire winner, and Jamie McMurray conclude the survey at 35 to 1 odds.
Now for this week's disclaimer: NASCAR wants to remind you that these posted numbers are for entertainment purposes. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their races. You may want to consider using your gambling allotments to make a contribution to the Jeff Gordon defense fund.
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