Seven down; one to go.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, host to Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 (1 p.m. ET on TNT, Performance Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio), is the eighth and final stop during the regular season at a track that also hosts a race in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™.
Advantage? So far, no one.
Seven different drivers have taken the new, Gen-6 car to Victory Lane on Chase tracks. All but surprise Talladega winner David Ragan rank among the current top 10. The box score shows three wins by Chevrolet and two each by Ford and Toyota.
Parity or pandemonium – whatever you want to call it – is reflected across the board and especially in the ongoing struggle to qualify for the post season.
Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, both four-time winners, have established themselves as the championship favorites. The race to determine their 10 rivals is unsettled to say the least.
Just 44 points cover drivers ranked ninth through 21st. Jeff Burton, 21st and currently ineligible even for a Chase Wild Card, is 42 points out of the top 10 – a ranking that would give him automatic entry into the post season. Burton is the track’s most prolific winner with four victories including a season sweep in 1998.
One year ago, after the season’s first 18 races, the difference between 10th and 12th places was 56 points. Juan Pablo Montoya, then the 21st place driver, was 139 points outside the top 10.
The importance of the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway can’t be understated. In 2012, seven of July’s top-10 finishers earned a Chase berth on points. Each member of the top 10 in points after the season’s 19th race also moved into NASCAR’s post season.
New Hampshire’s summer event has seen eight consecutive different winners with the Granite State track minting 10 straight different winners overall. Last year’s winners – Kasey Kahne in July; Denny Hamlin in September – are outside the championship top 10. Kahne holds a potential Chase Wild Card. Hamlin is 122 points outside Wild Card eligibility.
Four drivers – Johnson (2010), Tony Stewart (2005), Kurt Busch (2004) and Jeff Gordon (1995) – have won New Hampshire’s July race and the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in the same season. The quartet has won 12 of the track’s 36 races.
Over the past 16 races, Stewart ranks No. 1 in Driver Rating (111.7) and has led the most laps (887). Gordon owns the track record for top–five (16) and top-10 (21) finishes.