Finally, it’s a home race for New Englanders as the Monster Energy Cup Series makes their one and only stop in the Northeast in the Granite State for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The flat one-mile track has had difficulty producing exciting races and finishes in year’s prior with the one-lane racing groove, but the addition of PJ1 definitely helped last year and we saw Kevin Harvick make contact and move Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win the race.
Unfortunately for the first time in three years I will not make it up for the Cup Series race due to work, but I plan to watch the dirt track race from the new quarter-mile track on Friday night that has a few cup regulars competing. Last weekend at Kentucky Kurt Busch battled his brother Kyle for his first win of the season in the final restart. Overall my picks were pretty much spot on with Jones, Hamlin, Larson and Kurt Busch all returning value with a few sleepers hitting as well. Brad Keselowski did me in however as he battled with his car all day and was off the lead lap early despite looking like the car to beat from practice results. Still found a way to cash in most lineups, but I’m ready to take on the “Magic Mile” this weekend.
NHMS Race Preview:
Six guys in the field are tied for active wins with 3 a piece in New Hampshire: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman. Over the last five races in New Hampshire, the 18 owns the best average finish of 5.4 with four top 10’s and a win to his name. Busch was the runner-up last year and has a series-best 11 top 5’s. Kevin Harvick has been consistently good at NHMS through his career with 3 wins, 19 top 10’s, 11 top 5’s. This could be the week the 4 gets that first win of the season.
Denny Hamlin has the best career average finish in New Hampshire among active drivers at 10.20 with 3 wins, 9 top 5’s and 14 top 10’s in 25 career starts. Hamlin is one of the best short-track racers in the series and should be in contention for another win like he had two years ago. Jimmie Johnson is right behind him in average finish throughout his career at 10.58 with 3 wins, 10 top 5’s and 22 top 10’s in 33 career starts. He’s ready for a bounce-back performance and the one-mile flat track could be the perfect opportunity.
A few other guys that have run well and are poised for a win in NH are Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. Logano, the native New Englander, has two career wins in New Hampshire (last one in ’14) had a string of four-straight top 5’s before running into trouble over the last few years, but he’s as good a bet as anyone in the field, especially having a caution take one away from him last Saturday night. MTJ is another driver who’s on the cusp of breaking through at this track. Although he’s yet to win on one of his “home tracks”, the results have been there with three straight top 5 finishes where he led 83, 112 and 137 laps respectively.
Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 Odds:
-Kyle Busch 5/2
-Martin Truex Jr. 4/1
-Kevin Harvick 6/1
-Brad Keselowski 9/1
-Joey Logano & Denny Hamlin 10/1
-Chase Elliott 14/1
-Clint Bowyer 16/1
-Kurt Busch & Ryan Blaney 20/1
-Aric Almirola 25/1
-Erik Jones & Kyle Larson 30/1
-Jimmie Johnson & Alex Bowman 35/1
-Daniel Suarez 50/1
-William Byron 80/1
-Ryan Newman 200/1
New Hampshire Motor Speedway DraftKings Picks:
Martin Truex Jr. ($11,500): I think this is the week MTJ finally holds the lobster in New Hampshire. Joe Gibbs Racing has been so dominant there over the years between Busch, Hamlin and Kenseth and now officially in the JGR camp, I can see Truex winning for this first time after being so dominant in recent years and falling just short. He’s got a good starting spot inside the top ten, and track position will be critical. Kyle Busch has the numbers and speed to back him up this weekend, I’m just leaning Truex on Sunday, but you can go either way.
Kevin Harvick ($11,100): Harvick is the defending race winner and appears to have a fast car ready to contend for the win once again. He was 4th fastest in final practice and rolls off 14th, he should get up inside the top five and run up there all day long. Harvick ended Saturday top 5 in consecutive lap average.
Denny Hamlin ($9,700): Hamlin is a lock this week in the DraftKings format. Not only does he have the best average finish in his career among active drivers, but he is tied for the lead in wins, runs for JGR who always seems to get around this place the best and rolls off 23rd after a tough qualifying performance. Lock Hamlin in!
Alex Bowman ($8,700): After getting his first win and locking himself into the playoffs, Bowman blew a drive shaft in qualifying and starts in the rear on Sunday (37th). He also wrecked his backup car in final practice and has to use Jimmie Johnson’s 48, but with that HMS equipment should still return great value. He’s a lock and although he will be highly owned, you cannot risk fading the 88 with that place differential upside. He finished 11th last year in his first run at NHMS for Hendrick Motorsports.
Ryan Newman ($7,600): Newman has three career wins at NHMS and while it has been some time, this team and driver have been resilient in picking up spots during the course of a race and scoring points. It’s why they are in the thick of the points race and this team scored a top-15 with Matt Kenseth in the 6 car last year. Starting 26th in a backup car, another top-15 finish would return huge value for Newman.
Matt DiBenedetto ($6,600): DiBi had a solid run a few weeks back on a road course and this track will also be hard to pass and with track position being king. The 95 car has the JGR affiliation in a Toyota, so the equipment and results are there and he starts 7th on Sunday. DiBi was top five in speed for opening practice and top 10 in consecutive lap average in second practice. Great potential here.
Daniel Hemric ($6,400): I like Hemric this weekend. This team has shown speed and was top 10 in the second practice. He grew up racing legends cars, such as he did on Friday night on the flat track in New Hampshire and his history bodes well on this type of race track. He has back-to-back top 15’s in the Xfinity series for RCR in New Hampshire.
Ryan Preece ($6,000): The native New Englander makes his Cup Series debut at his “home track”. While I’m not expecting him to pull a Joey Logano and win his first career race in New Hampshire this weekend, I do expect a good run from the 47 team. He rolls off 28th which makes this an easy call and last year in good equipment in the Xfinity Series, he finished in third place and nearly won the race.
Foxwoods 301 Winner Prediction:
Martin Truex Jr. is the guy I would put my money on this Sunday. He’s due for a win there and the results from practice and qualifying are to his advantage. Truex was top 5 in consecutive lap average in both of Saturday’s practice sessions and in a relatively short race I’ll go with MTJ and Cole Pearn to come out ahead on Sunday over Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick.