This weekend the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second playoff race in the Round of 16. Martin Truex Jr. secured his spot in the next round with his win at Chicagoland while Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman are below the cutoff for transfer into the Round of 12.
But, did you know that Busch and Newman are tied with Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson with the series-most wins among active drivers with three victories each? Kahne has one win at Loudon, three top fives and 10 top 10s. Of the bottom four playoff contenders, Stenhouse Jr. may face the biggest challenge. He has never won at the track and has only two top 10 finishes.
The top competitors for this weekend’s race also include defending race winner, Kevin Harvick, with the fifth-best driver rating plus 10 top fives, 18 top 10s and one pole. Hamlin, who enters the event with the best driver rating of 104.0, nine top fives and 14 top 10s to go along with his three checkered flags, will be on the hunt for his third victory of the season.
Three-time Loudon winner, Johnson, hasn’t scored a top-five finish since his win at Dover in June but expect him to shift into high gear as the playoffs continue. He has the second-best driver rating (100.8) at New Hampshire, 10 top fives, 21 top 10s and one pole. Kyle Busch has two wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s and two poles and the third-best driver rating of 98.8. Brad Keselowski rounds out the top five drivers at the 1.058-mile track. He has the fourth-best driver rating, one win, three poles, six top fives and 10 top 10s.
But, did you know that the New Hampshire playoff race has never been won by a non-playoff driver? However, five Cup Series drivers have captured their first victory at New Hampshire – Newman (2002), Clint Bowyer (2007), Joey Logano (2009), Robby Gordon (2001) and Joe Nemechek in 1999. This could be good news for driver Chase Elliott who is seeking his first series win.
While this is only the second race of the playoffs, did you know that two drivers who have won the Loudon playoff race have gone on to win the championship the same year? From 2004-2010, New Hampshire hosted the first playoff race. Kurt Busch drove to victory lane in the opening event and continued on to win the 2004 series title. The track has hosted the second race of the playoffs beginning with the 2011 season. Tony Stewart won a series-record five playoff races in 2011 that included the first two, at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, culminating in his third championship.
Tune in this weekend as the action heats up and drivers scramble to secure their spot in the next round of the playoffs. The ISM Connect 300 airs on September 24 at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN with radio coverage on PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
In the meantime, check out the video below as NASCAR icon Tony Stewart wins at New Hampshire on the way to his third championship title in 2011.
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