New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH — July 17, 2023
After a rain-out on Sunday, the Cup Series will ruin on Monday at The New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are approaching, and several big-name drivers are on the outside looking in. Loudon offers a chance for one of these drivers to lock in a spot in the postseason.
A NASCAR Cup Series driver has started outside the top 20 and went on to win the race at New Hampshire 10 different times (19.6% of the total races). New Hampshire is tied with Charlotte Motor Speedway for the third-most winners starting outside the top 20 in the NASCAR Cup Series (with ten each), behind only Daytona International Speedway with 14 and Richmond Raceway with 12. The 2021 New Hampshire winner, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, started from the 22nd position, and with 11 different winners this season, New Hampshire Motor Speedway could very well stir up some magic and produce a 12th.
Heading into this weekend at New Hampshire, 10 of the 19 winners from last season are still looking for their first victory this year – Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Chase Briscoe, Chris Buescher, Daniel Suarez, and Erik Jones. Of the ten drivers that won last season and are looking for their first win of this year, Kevin Harvick is the only former winner at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Cup Series this Sunday.
Harvick leads all active drivers in wins at the 1.058-mile track with four victories (2006, 2016, 2018, 2019). A victory this weekend would not only ensure his path to the Playoffs for the 17th time in his career, but he would also become the sole wins leader in the NASCAR Cup Series at New Hampshire, breaking the tie with Jeff Burton.
|Active New Hampshire Winners||Wins||Seasons|
|Kevin Harvick||4||2019, 2018, 2016, 2006|
|Denny Hamlin||3||2017, 2012, 2007|
|Kyle Busch||3||2017, 2015, 2006|
|Ryan Newman||3||2011, 2005, 2002|
|Brad Keselowski||2||2020, 2014|
|Joey Logano||2||2014, 2009|
Christopher Bell returns to New Hampshire to Defend Last Season’s Win
Last season, New Hampshire Motor Speedway jump-started Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell’s season, catapulting him into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. This year, the Oklahoma native, Bell, has already locked himself into the postseason but would still like to win and become just the fifth driver all-time to win consecutive Cup Series races at the 1.058-mile track, joining Jimmie Johnson (2003 sweep), Kurt Busch (2004 sweep), Matt Kenseth (2015 fall, 2016 spring) and Kevin Harvick (2018, 2019).
From his first NASCAR national series laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell has had a knack for the 1.058-mile facility. He is one of just two drivers all-time to post wins in all three NASCAR national series at New Hampshire, along with Kyle Busch. Bell put up a NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series win at New Hampshire in 2017, then followed that up with three consecutive victories in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track in 2018, 2019, 2021, and of course, last season, he won the NASCAR Cup Series race.
Bell has made three NASCAR Cup Series career starts at New Hampshire, posting one win and two top fives. His average finish in those three starts is 10.3. Bell sits on the pole for today’s race. Martin Truex Jr. starts beside his teammate on row one. Ford Mustang drivers Aric Almirola and Joey Logano make up row two.
The Crayon 301 is scheduled for 301 laps, equalling 318.46 miles. Stages are 70/115/116 laps.
Christopher Bell(20) led the first lap, but it was Martin Truex Jr.(19) who moved to the front on lap two and began to put some distance on the pack. Truex has led more laps at New Hampshire without a win than any other driver on the circuit.
NASCAR schedule a competition caution for around lap 30 as the rain on Sunday cleaned the rubber off the racetrack. The yellow flag will allow drivers to come to the pit road, and crews can check tire wear and make adjustments to their race cars.
AJ Allmendinger(16) spun off turn two and brought out the caution early on lap 29. A number of drivers were complaining of loose conditions. Virtually the entire field came to the pits for tires and adjustments.
A number of teams opted to take just two tires, and different strategies scrambled the running order at the front. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) stayed out and took over the top spot. William Byron(24), Denny Hamlin(11), Truex, and Michael McDowell(34) rounded out the top five.
On the restart, three-wide racing back in the pack further shuffled the leaderboard. On worn tires, Stenhouse quickly faded back towards the rear of the field. Drivers that took two tires had mixed results. It turned out to be a good move for Byron as he led for nine laps before Truex worked his way back to the front of the field.
Ty Gibbs(54) had an issue in qualifying and started at the rear of the field. He was the big mover during the first Stage, moving into the top 15.
Truex held on to win the Stage. Just before the green and white checkered flag came out, Kyle Busch hit the wall and suffered significant damage to the right side of his race car.
Stage One Results
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr.*||10|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
During the Stage ending pit stops, Bell’s crew did not get all four wheels tight, and he had to come back to the pits to correct the mistake. The fastest qualifier in the field will have to prove it by working his way back through the pack.
Kyle Busch retired to the garage as the damage to his car was too extensive to repair in the allotted damaged vehicle time limit.
Truex led as the race restarted, followed by Aric Almirola(10), Byron, Hamlin, and Ryan Blaney(12). With clean air in front of him, Truex stretched the lead over the field to almost five seconds 35 laps into Stage Two.
It took 50 laps, but Bell returned to the top ten running some of the fastest laps on the track. Halfway through the second Stage, Truex remained the leader. However, Almirola inched closer to the top spot, cutting a full second off the gap between himself and Truex.
Green flag pit stops began with 55 laps remaining in the Stage. Four new Goodyear tires and a full tank of Sunoco racing fuel were the standards for all teams on this pit-stop cycle.
The running order at the front remained the same, with Truex and Almirola running one, two. Hamlin, Kyle Larson(5), and Blaney followed. Bell moved up to seventh as he continued his march to the front without trouble on pit road during this stop.
With 23 laps to go in the Stage, Erik Jones(43) spun and brought out the caution. Only 18 cars were on the lead lap, and a number of lapped cars chose not to pit under the yellow to take the “wave around” and return to the same lap as the leaders.
Almirola was first off pit road taking only two tires. Larson, Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Truex followed as the restart will come with 17 laps to go in the stage.
Out of turn two, Almirola lost the right rear wheel. The crew had failed to get the new tire on the right rear properly secured. Wheel issues continue to plague the Cup Series teams well into the second year of the single lug nut instituted with the introduction of the Next-Gen car.
All the drivers that took the wave around will now be able to pit, resetting almost the entire field with 11 to go until the conclusion of Stage Two.
Larson led with Logano right behind him after they also made two-tire stops. Truex, with four fresh tires, easily drove around them and back into the number one position.
Stage Two Results
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr.||10|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
With all the pit activity at the end of Stage Two, strategies for Stage ending stops were all over the board. The leaders stayed out. Some teams opted for two tires, while others took four. At least one pit stop in the Final Stage will be required for teams to complete the 301 laps.
Larson was one of the lead cars that took four tires. He worked his way to the fifth spot with under 100 laps to go. Behind Truex were Blaney, Logano, and Brad Keselowski, all of whom remained on the track at the end of the Stage and were going to cause Larson to use that fresh rubber to get around them before he could make a run at the lead.
Ryan Blaney was the first driver to make a green flag pit stop with 65 laps to go. New tires are worth about a second a lap, so Truex and a number of top 10 cars pitted on the next lap. Staying out on worn tires is a sure way to drop in the running order when everyone else on the track has fresh rubber.
Harvick, Austin Dillon(3), Daniel Suarez(99), and Byron were the drivers who stayed out. Hoping for a caution was a big gamble, as they will all lose track position.
With 43 laps to go, all cars had made their pit stops, and the top five were Truex, Blaney, Larson, Logano, and Bell.
Truex was working his way through lapped traffic, and it allowed him to add to the interval over his pursuers.
With 31 laps to go, Noah Gragson lost the right front wheel on his car just a few laps after his final pit stop, and the caution was displayed. All the leaders pitted, and most took just two tires. Ryan Blaney took two and did not allow the right front tire changer to get out of the way. Running over the air hose garnered a penalty that will put Blaney at the rear of the field for the restart.
Christopher Bell took four new Goodyears and returned to the track in 10th place. Kevin Harvick and Austin Dillon stayed on the track and will lead the field to green on the restart.
Harvick led into turn one, and Truex had the lead out of turn two. Logano also passed Harvick before they returned to the flag stand.
With 21 laps to go, Alex Bowman(48) and Ty Gibbs got together, causing Bowman to spin. Bringing out the caution flag again. With no advantage to pitting, the leaders stay on track to preserve track position.
Truex and Logano are side-by-side coming to the green flag. It’s Truex who gets the big jump on the start. He and Logano separate themselves from Larson and Harvick in the third and fourth positions.
With 13 laps to go, Christopher Bell hit the wall when his car breaks loose in turn three. Severe damage is going to cost him a top-ten finish he worked so hard to earn. The caution will stack them up again, and anything can happen on a restart.
This time, Logano opts to follow Truex across the choose mark, and Larson will restart beside the leader. The end result is the same, Truex pulls away, and Logano chases him.
After leading 254 of the 301 laps, Martin Truex Jr. gets his first win at New Hampshire.
Martin Truex Jr. recaptured the regular season points lead. Bubba Wallace is five points above the cut line in 15th. Michael McDowell sits on the bubble at plus-three, and Daniel Suarez is currently the first driver out of the postseason.
|1||William Byron||641||In Win(4)|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.(Points Leader)||647||In Win(3)|
|3||Kyle Busch||593||In Win(3)|
|4||Kyle Larson||565||In Win(2)|
|5||Christopher Bell||599||In Win|
|6||Denny Hamlin||591||In Win|
|7||Ross Chastain||589||In Win|
|8||Ryan Blaney*||568||In Win|
|9||Joey Logano*||553||In Win|
|10||Tyler Reddick||506||In Win|
|11||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||464||In Win|
|NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
|1||19||Martin Truex Jr.||—||301|
|18||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||9.650||301|