Loudon, New Hampshire is where they hand out a lobster to the winner. Okay, it is not as cool as Dover’s Miles the Monster trophy, with a diecast of the winning car held aloft in its mighty hand. No grandfather clock like they award at Martinsville, or the six-shooters of Texas, and that sweet Les Paul guitar for races in Nashville. On the positive side, you can not eat any of those other awards.
Will we be thrilled with edge-of-seat riveting excitement at Loudon? It is not exactly a super speedway or features the beating and banging at Bristol nor does it present the rights to go with the lefts of the road courses. It has been on the NASCAR Cup schedule only since 1993, so it does not even have the history of a Darlington or Charlotte. How much is Loudon in need of an excitement transplant? Well, they are putting some sticky substance on the turns for better grip. Yes, hope springs eternal.
Eleven active drivers have wins there. Kyle Busch is winless this season, but he should be good for the Chase on points alone. Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer seem good for now, but for now might not be good enough in a few weeks. A win for either would be comforting.
It would mean more for former winners Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. Kenseth leads Logano by seven points in the battle for that final berth. Now, should Erik Jones, Daniel Saurez, Trevor Bayne, or someone else behind them in the standings win, that is where the excitement would truly lie. Then, Bowyer would be sitting on the bubble and the gap between in and out increases. Kasey Kahne won there once and is not even among our Hot 20. Win on Sunday and he certainly would be. That would be exciting.
For you, Loudon will come down to how your favorite driver performs along with the prospect of someone needing a win getting one. That is where the excitement Sunday afternoon will stem from, along with re-starts and visor cams. Lots and lots of visor cams.
1. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 3 WINS (709 Pts)
If the Chase began today, he would go in with a 12 point lead…
2. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 3 WINS (519 Pts)
…over Mr. Johnson.
3. KYLE LARSON – 2 WINS (710 Pts)
Missed qualifying, then sped down pit road, and wound up passing everybody but one.
4. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 2 WINS (536 Pts)
Wants better cars and more manufacturers. I want better tracks and a lot more visor cams.
5. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 2 WINS (418 Pts)
On television last Monday, he was the best damned Ninja Warrior in NASCAR.
6. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN (599 Pts)
Finished ninth at Kentucky, and was the last driver on the lead lap…
7. RYAN BLANEY – 1 WIN (462 Pts)
…while Ryan was 10th at Kentucky…and a lap down.
8. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (419 Pts)
The smoke proved to be due to a failed axle at Kentucky.
9. RYAN NEWMAN – 1 WIN (414 Pts)
Points are fine, but that win at Phoenix has made all the difference.
10. AUSTIN DILLON – 1 WIN (341 Pts)
Ryan’s Childress teammate would not even be on this list if not for Charlotte.
11. KYLE BUSCH – 609 POINTS
Won XFINITY race at Kentucky, meaning 12 of 16 on their schedule have been won by Cup guys.
12. CHASE ELLIOTT – 560 POINTS
Very good driver, but one hell of an ax thrower.
13. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 545 POINTS
One way or another, Hamlin’s gonna find ya, he’s gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha.
14. DENNY HAMLIN – 538 POINTS
What, did that go over my radio?
15. CLINT BOWYER – 495 POINTS
Hot at Sonoma and Daytona, but just lukewarm at Kentucky. Needs to bring the heat on Sunday.
16. MATT KENSETH – 478 POINTS
Loses his ride next season. Talk about having incentive to put forth a great audition run.
17. JOEY LOGANO – 471 POINTS (1 Win)
Win or get more points than Kenseth. Just being better won’t cut it, as we saw last week.
18. ERIK JONES – 426 POINTS
Replaces Kenseth in the No. 20 next season. Needs a win to replace him in the Chase this season.
19. DANIEL SUAREZ – 373 POINTS
Went from fighting for a Top Ten last week, to just fighting to bring the wreck across the line.
20. TREVOR BAYNE – 352 POINTS
Like Kahne, he needed a win. Like Kahne, he found the damned wall instead.