THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 preview

Kyle Busch looks like he will be in the mix this week. Kylebusch.com

NASCAR heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway  this weekend for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301. Opened in 1990, this track is a 1.6 mile oval with absolutely no banking whatsoever and while technically it isn’t considered a short track, the track is known to be difficult to pass at due to its flat surface. Another unique aspect of this race is its distance. In 2008, then title sponsor Lenox Industrial Tools decided to add a lap as an ode to their employees and suppliers who “go the extra mile.” Even though the title sponsor has changed, the race distance became a crowd favorite and stuck around one decade later. This distance gives the second place driver one more chance to go and run down the leader and take the victory.

Last week at Kentucky, Martin Truex Jr went on to claim his fourth win of 2018 as he led a race high 174 laps. From the drop of the green flag, it was clear that the race would be for second place as Truex dominated every aspect of the weekend. He qualified on pole Thursday and was able to win all three stages of the race and claim maximum playoff and regular season points. It would appear now that Truex and his Furniture Row racing team are the guys to beat. Of the last four races, They have won two (Sonoma and Kentucky) and have not finished worse than fourth. However this week should be a little more challenging for the reigning champion. While, he has run pretty good here at New Hampshire, Truex has an average finish of 12.95. He has a total of five top 5’s and ten 10 10’s respectively but with all of these numbers, This is one of the tracks that he has never won at. Look for him to try and change that come Sunday.

The top storyline coming out of last week's race was the verbal sparring between Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Kyle Busch. If you are a fan of NASCAR, you know Kyle Busch getting into a “feud” with another driver is nothing new as he is easily the most outspoken driver in the garage. After the two were involved in an incident two weeks ago at Daytona, Busch took exception to Stenhouse not “reaching out” and apologizing for crashing him.

When asked if it would change how he would race Stenhouse, he replied with “I can’t worry about people who are that far back in the field.” Stenhouse responded by saying that “Busch should pick and choose his battles wisely” and he felt he didn’t need to reach out to Busch because he “ran his mouth enough.” P

ersonally, I think that both drivers should go out and confront each other rather than talk about each other through the media like they did this weekend. Both drivers do make good points though, Stenhouse Jr probably should have called  and apologized for nearly turning Busch head on into the wall but Busch’s comments only added fuel to the fire. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t foresee this riff extending to the race track due to scrutiny that these drivers go through by the powers that be but it sure gave more talking points to a race that was fairly uneventful. Keep an eye out for when these two are close together on the track.

Appropriately enough, the favorite going into this weekend is Busch. In his 26 starts, Busch has won here three times including last year's fall race. Anytime the Cup series comes here, most experts pick him to win here and usually he does. Of all of the active drivers, he and Matt Kenseth have the most wins with three. Look for the No. 18 Interstate batteries Toyota to be the car to beat this weekend.

My pick to win this weekend is the other Kyle in the field -- no not Kyle Weatherman -- Kyle Larson. All year, he has come so close but for whatever reason luck just hasn’t been on his side but this week I think it should be a different outcome for him. In his last four starts here, he has a 7.75 average finishing position including a second place finish in the fall race last year. Look for lady luck to finally be on his side as Larson will take the checkered flag and solidify his spot in the “playoffs.”

One of my sleepers this week is Matt Kenseth. This week Kenseth is returning from a three week hiatus and while it’s been a season to forget so far for him, New Hampshire is easily his best track. In his last four starts, he has an average finish of 2.50, the best of anyone in the field and even though he is no longer driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, I still think that he can put together a decent run to get his team back on track. Kenseth should be in contention for a good result on Sunday.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Refrence.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

 

Joey Logano. Getty Images.


This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for ISM Raceway for the ISM 400 in Phoenix, Arizona. This is NASCAR's semi-final race before the championship race at Homestead. Many would consider this one of the most important races of the season considering it decides who will get to race for a championship. This track is a mile and a half oval that races like a short track. Last season, this track was reconfigured and completely changed the landscape. The Finish line was moved all the way to the front stretch and both the corners were inverted. This should be interesting should we see someone try to make a last second pass now that they have more time to pull it off.

Last week, Kevin Harvick went on to win his fourth race of the season after passing his teammate Aric Almirola. This race was a wreckfest, there were plenty of big names to crash including championship favorites Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. During the weekend, Texas Motor Speedway track officials added a tire compound to try and add more grip to the race track. This did not sit well with the cars as we saw many just spin out by themselves. The trouble area seemed to be turns three and four as that was where the majority of the wrecks were. Many fans were not happy with the product on the track but if it did do one thing - it allowed for some newer drivers to run up front such as Daniel Suarez and Willam Byron. All together though, the cream rose to the top and Kevin Harvick still had a fairly dominant race as he led 119 laps before winning and advancing to the championship race at Homestead.

As we draw closer to Homestead, many wonder what has been going on with Kyle Busch. As many know, it has been June since the 2015 NASCAR Champion has won a race and since then he has just kind of been around. He has had many moments to forget during this time such as when his engine blew at the Charlotte oval or when he ran into the back of Garrett Smithley at Las Vegas but because of the massive amount of points he has gained all throughout the season, he has been able to stay in the top four. Regardless of where he is in points, it is clear that he is in a slump and this team is doing everything they can to get him out of it as we get closer and closer to Homestead next week. We will see how he responds this week at the track he has won the last two times they have come here.

The championship picture definitely looks pretty much the same as it has been over the past two seasons as Martin Truex, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano make up the top four spots. While Truex and Harvick are locked in with victories at Martinsville and Texas, the focus shifts to third and fourth as both Busch and Logano hold firm. After a disastrous weekend at Texas, Denny Hamlin finds himself 20 points out of the top four. While 20 points may seem like a lot to make up, it is actually fairly manageable. Should he go on to win both stages and Logano not finish top 10, he would make up the difference and move into a tie with Logano for the fourth spot. He could also finish in the top 10 in those stages as well and make a big dent in the points should Logano run into trouble but that will be tough considering how good he runs on a weekly basis. The drivers behind Hamlin are Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. While Elliott crashed in the early stages and was never really a factor, Kyle Larson on the other hand looked like he had a car that was capable of contending for the victory. On lap 241, Larson entered pit-lane for his pit-stop and everything went off without a hitch until Bubba Wallace spun out in turn two catching Larson on the tail end of the lead lap eliminating any opportunity for a win. This caution led many to speculate that Wallace spun himself out on purpose to get a caution and not go a lap down but this has not been proven as Wallace had a flat tire before the spin. Out of the three, the driver that came out looking the best was Blaney. By no means was it the day Blaney and his Penske team would have liked to have had but overall the No. 12 had a pretty respectable race. Throughout the day, Blaney's car was not handling well at all but this team battled back and went on to a top 10 finish. It will be interesting to see how he will respond at Phoenix this week.

The driver that I predict will win this week is Denny Hamlin. As I mentioned earlier in this article, Denny has a steep path to climb to get back into the final four and a win is the only guarantee he can race for a championship. Overall, this has not been a track that he has been able to put up the best numbers but I think with the added pressure looming, this should be the car to beat. It will be interesting to see what car owner Joe Gibbs does to try and get Hamlin back into the top four considering his teammate Kyle Busch is one of the two standing in his way. Still I look for the #11 Fedex Toyota Camry to go to Victory lane and get back in the championship hunt.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).





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