NASCAR Picks for New Hampshire
Length: 1.058 miles
Location: Loudon, New Hampshire
The Cup Series heads back to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, and the second trip to the flat, 1.0-mile oval is also the second race of the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup. With one race of the playoffs in the books, early indications are that the Chasers will once again stand out when it matters most. At Chicagoland last weekend, Chase drivers claimed eight of the Top-10 spots and 12 of the Top-15 spots. Meanwhile, Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray continued their recent run of solid finishes and look the best among the non-Chasers. Yes, the playoffs have just begun, but spotting trends as soon as possible can give you a big leg up on the competition.
We have also reached the point of the season when fantasy owners need to start basing their strategy on their standing within their league. For those owners that are sitting at or close to the top of their respective leagues, there is nothing wrong with a solid Top-10 because they can afford to take a bit of conservative approach. However, fantasy owners that are buried further down in the standings aren't afforded that luxury. In order to gain ground, you need to take chances, and taking chances means gambling at times on drivers with high upside that lack consistency. Yes, an aggressive strategy can backfire and can make you fall further behind, but you have to decide whether you want to play it conservative and finish in the middle of the back or take some risks and at least have a chance of running down the leaders.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
He is going for a season sweep at New Hampshire this weekend, and his win at the track in July capped a great stretch of racing at the 1.0-mile track. Keselowski has finished 11th or better in his last six starts at New Hampshire, and during the stretch, he has five finishes of sixth or better to go along with a 4.8 average finish.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he finished 26th at New Hampshire earlier this year, Gordon was running third in the closing laps until a late caution prolonged the race and forced him to put for fuel. Meanwhile, Gordon has finished in the top 15 in an incredible 17 straight starts at New Hampshire prior to the July race, picking up seven finishes of fourth or better during the streak.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Busch is a former winner at New Hampshire, and he been within striking distance of a second win in each of the last three races at the track. In fact, Busch has finished second in the last three races at New Hampshire. During the same three-race stretch, no other driver has managed three top-five finishes at the track.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Repeated tire issues destroyed his race at New Hampshire in July, but his overall numbers at the track, suggest that the bad outing was a fluke. After all, Johnson is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, and he has finished seventh or better in four of his last five starts at the track. Over the past 20 races at New Hampshire, his 11.3 average finish ranks third in the series.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
It is easy to look at Harvick's 30th-place finish at New Hampshire in July and write him off this weekend, but he actually restarted second with two laps to go but ran out of fuel. Meanwhile, he is a former winner at the track, and he has finished in the Top 12 in six of his last eight starts. Harvick had a Top-5 car at NHMS in the summer, and the same will likely be true Sunday.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He had already molded himself into a solid driver at New Hampshire, and his move to Joe Gibbs Racing has taken Kenseth's performance at the track to the next. Not only is he the defending winner of this weekend's race, but he has a 4.7 average finish in three starts at New Hampshire with JGR. Meanwhile, Kenseth has cracked the Top 15 in his last six starts at the track overall.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Hamlin's 8.9 average finish at New Hampshire is currently the best in the series, and he has only finished outside the Top 15 twice in 17 starts at the track. More importantly, he has 11 Top-10 finishes at New Hampshire and seven Top-5 finishes, including a pair of wins. Since 2012, Hamin also leads all drivers with 363 laps led at the track.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he hasn't really been a threat to win at New Hampshire in recent years, Junior has been a reliable option at the track. He has eight Top-15s in his last nine starts at NHMS, including five straight. Junior also has back-to-back Top-10s at the track, including a sixth-place run last September.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
After a couple of mediocre performances at New Hampshire, Bowyer bounced back with a sixth-place run earlier this year, giving him three finishes of sixth or better in his last five starts at the track. Bowyer is also a two-time winner at New Hampshire, and he would have three wins had he not run out of gas while leading on the final lap a couple of years ago. He offers solid upside this weekend.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Kahne is one of the more underrated options this weekend, and while he isn't known as a flat track ace, he does have a great record at New Hampshire. He has finished in the Top 15 in seven of his last eight starts at the track, and in his last five starts, he has four finishes of 11th or better, including a win.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
There have been few bright spots for Stewart this season, but he did have a solid outing at New Hampshire back in July. He notched a seventh-place finish in the summer race, and in his last six starts at the track, he has five Top-12 finishes, including a win and a second-place finish. For his career, Stewart is a three-time winner at New Hampshire.
Kyle Larson, #42 Target, Chip Ganassi Racing [Yahoo Class C]
The sample size is only one race, but Larson sure looked comfortable at New Hampshire in his track debut earlier this year when he delivered a third-place finish. The rookie has also been showing some consistency to go with his tremendous upside in recent weeks, notching four straight finishes of 12th or better and eight Top-12s in his last nine starts. He is easily the best C-List option in Yahoo! leagues, and he deserves consideration in any format at this point.