New Hampshire Motor Speedway Magic Mile Notebook: Kobalt 400

PRESS RELEASE

(Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

**LOCAL TIDBITS

Krieger Promoted to Senior Account Executive
Acknowledging a track record of producing positive results and first-rate service at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Whitney Krieger has been promoted to senior account executive by David McGrath, vice president of corporate sales. In her newest role, Krieger will manage account activation and branding for over 60 accounts, ranging from employee ticket promotions to major race sponsorships. Krieger, who is responsible for the entitlement sponsorships of the UNOH 175 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Bond Auto Parts ACT Invitational American-Canadian Tour races, will expand on her previous responsibilities as she continues to drive new companies, products and services to the speedway.

Gappens to Speak at Leadership Forum
The Rivier University President’s Circle will host a Leadership Forum on Wednesday, March 26, featuring a presentation by Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “Racing to Success,” a discussion of the strategic and operational planning of the speedway, will talk about the broad impact of sports marketing on the New England economy.

Trucks Return to Magic Mile
Anchored by its two traditional NASCAR Sprint Cup weekends, New Hampshire Motor Speedway will welcome the return of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in September. Absent from the Magic Mile since 2011, the UNOH 175 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event will run on Saturday, Sept. 20, the day before the OSRAM SYLVANIA 300 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship event on Sunday, Sept. 21. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time driver Kyle Busch won the last three Truck Series races at the Magic Mile from 2009-11.

Border War: Northern, Southern Mods Invade Magic Mile
The debut of a new, all-star shootout event for NASCAR National and Southern Whelen Modified Series will create one of the biggest and most diverse pole days on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule on Friday, July 11 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Long known as the Super Bowl venue for the exciting NASCAR Whelen Modified Series, the Magic Mile will be the stage for the inaugural $25,000 shootout event. The special event will feature 20-24 cars, representing previous winners and champions from the national and southern touring series along with the 2013 Sunoco Rookies of the Year for both tours. The 30-minute race will pay $4,000 to win and $800 to start in the $1,000-lap shootout.

Win On Sunday, Sell on Monday: Toyota Renews with NHMS
If there’s a company that knows how to “win on Sunday and sell on Monday” at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it’s Toyota. Speedway officials recently announced that it has renewed its relationship with the popular manufacturer, retaining Toyota as the speedway’s “official vehicle” through 2016. Toyota has been the speedway’s partner since 2011, and has enjoyed tremendous success both on the track and throughout the Boston region marketplace. Drivers have piloted Toyota Camrys into victory lane in three straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races dating back to 2012, while the manufacturer continues to be a leader in American automotive production, maintaining 10 manufacturing plants throughout the United States.

Global Appeal
New Hampshire Motor Speedway ticket officials have sold tickets across the globe for both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekends in 2014. Fans in Canada, Austria, Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Hungry and New Zealand have all purchased tickets for either/both the Camping World RV Sales 301 (July 10-13) or the OSRAM SYLVANIA 300 (Sept. 18-21). The Magic Mile has also sold tickets to all 50 states in North America.

Speedway Star
The Speedway Star search is underway, as the Magic Mile will begin accepting entries for the fifth annual national anthem singing competition from all New England area singers on March 24 at 8:00 a.m. The Speedway Star competition will be held at the Mall of New Hampshire on Saturday, April 26. Prospective contestants are asked to submit a DVD, CD, .wav file or .mp3 file of them singing “The Star Spangled Banner” a cappella style (without music or other accompaniments). Submissions will be accepted until Friday, April 11 at 5:00 p.m.

**NATIONAL STORYLINES

From the desert the strip, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make its only stop of the season this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 1.5-mile tri-oval has seen five different winners steer into victory lane following a stretch that saw six-time champion Jimmie Johnson win three straight from 2005-07:

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: KOBALT 400
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, March 9
The Time: 3:00 p.m.
TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m.
Radio: PRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 400.5 Miles (267 laps)

Key stats from last week at Phoenix
Winner: Kevin Harvick
Margin of Victory: 0.489 seconds
Cautions: 8 for 38 laps
Lead Changes: 14 among 8 drivers
Most Laps Led: Kevin Harvick 224 of 312
Top 16 Driver Points (regular season):
(1) D. Earnhardt Jr. 90; (2) B. Keselowski 84; (3) J. Gordon 80; (4) K. Harvick 79; (5) J. Johnson 78; (6) J. Logano 75; (7) M. Kenseth 70; (8) D. Hamlin 68; (9) C. Edwards 65; (10) G. Biffle 64; (11) C. Mears 64; (12) J. McMurray 64; (13) R. Stenhouse Jr. 63; (14) Kyle Busch 61; (15) R. Newman 60; (16) A. Dillon 56
Victories:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1)
Kevin Harvick (1)

This race last year
Winner: Matt Kenseth
Pole Sitter: Brad Keselowski
Margin of Victory: 0.594 seconds
Lead Changes: 22 among 8 drivers
Most Laps Led: Kasey Kahne 114 of 267
Top-Five: Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards

2 Down, 14 To Go
Never in the 65-year history of the series has a win held this much importance. It means more than a trophy, and a trip to victory lane. In all likelihood, it means a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup; a chance at a championship. It means hope. Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows the feeling, winning the Daytona 500 and admitting he can now take bigger swings in the hopes of piling up victory after victory. And now Kevin Harvick knows the spoils of a victory. His dominant – and with a Driver Rating of 149.9, near-perfect – win at Phoenix put the Chase directly in his crosshairs. Both Earnhardt and Harvick will make the Chase unless there are more than 15 different winners in the first 26 races – something that’s happened only twice in the 65-year history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In other words, they should feel pretty good.

Kurt Busch’s Annual Homecoming Spiced By Special News
The early-season Las Vegas Motor Speedway event always is a highlight for Kurt Busch. After all, they’re from Las Vegas. This time, though, there’s an even brighter spotlight resulting from Kurt’s announcement that he’ll attempt to race in both the Coca-Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500 this year on May 25. Busch seeks to become the fourth person to race in both events on the same day. One of those four is his boss at Stewart-Haas Racing – Tony Stewart, who has done the “double” twice. (John Andretti and Robby Gordon are the other two.) Busch has been talking seriously about wanting to race in both classics – the second of which is NASCAR’s longest and most grueling race – since May of last year when he drove an Andretti Autosport car in a rookie test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He wasn’t able to get a ride last year for the Indy 500.

Earnhardt Resetting Odds, Going Into Las Vegas
Granted, it’s early. But here’s a Dale Earnhardt Jr. statistic worth noting: for the second time in his career, he has led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points for the first two weeks of the season. After his Daytona 500 victory and second-place finish this past Sunday at Phoenix, he’s likely causing odds makers to reset his chances of winning the series championship for the first time, as the series rolls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Only once before has Earnhardt had this sort of start, in 2004 – his first Daytona 500 victory, followed by a fifth-place finish at North Carolina Motor Speedway (Rockingham), which gave him two weeks’ time atop the standings. Las Vegas has been a so-so proposition for Earnhardt through the years, with seven top-10s but only two top-fives in 14 starts. An average finish of 15.6 and a Driver Rating of 88.2, ninth-best in the series, show consistency in lieu of trips to victory lane. Consistency, though, takes a back seat under the new Chase format. It’s all about winning; by capturing the Daytona 500 Earnhardt virtually assured himself a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs.

Remember That Guy Jimmie Johnson?
Austin Dillon, driving the iconic No. 3, won the Coors Light Pole for the Daytona 500 – an unbelievably cool story. Then, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500, capturing everyone’s hearts and minds – and covers … in the case of Sports Illustrated. Then, Kevin Harvick went out to Phoenix and blew the doors off the place. Lots of storylines have swirled around the early goings of the 2014 season – almost none of which has revolved around the greatest driver of the last decade. Weird. Well, Jimmie Johnson’s break from the spotlight just might end come Lap 267 in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 – an appropriate name for a brand that occasionally graces Johnson’s hood. Johnson, one of only two drivers to average a top-10 finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has a series-high four victories at the 1.5-mile track. He has finished in the top 10 in two of the last three races – leading double-digit laps in both. He has led laps in 10 of his 12 starts, which matches Matt Kenseth for most of any driver. And it’s not like Johnson has struggled in the first two races. He scored top 10s in each, with two driver ratings over 100 points.

Hard-Charger Kenseth A Three-Time Winner At Vegas
Matt Kenseth won last year’s Las Vegas event and has three wins overall at the track – second in the series behind Jimmie Johnson’s four Vegas triumphs. It’s safe to say another win would be encouraging for Kenseth. Two of his Vegas wins have come in his two best seasons – his 2003 championship-winning year and last year’s championship runner-up result. (His other Vegas victory came in 2004.) Las Vegas is a track that illustrates that Kenseth is indeed all about winning races; for him, the new Chase qualifying format is made-to-order. Since 2003, Kenseth has won 24 times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – including last year’s series-leading seven wins – and another 14 times in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Along the way, he has won the Daytona 500 twice. That’s hard-charging by any measurement.

Gas ‘n go
– On-track action will start a day earlier than usual, with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing the 2014 rules package on the cars today (March 6). Testing will run from noon until 7 p.m., local time. Changes to the rules package include statically setting the race car ride height and eliminating the pre- and post-race front height rules and inspections. Additionally, the 2014 package includes a square leading edge on the splitter, side skirt and rear fascia adjustments and an eight-inch rear spoiler. Finally, a 43-inch by 13-inch radiator pan will round out changes for 2014.
– Assuming he qualifies for the race, Martin Truex Jr. will make his 300th NSCS start on Sunday.
– The No. 31 (driven by Ryan Newman) will also make a milestone start – 1,000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. Two drivers have won NSCS races in the No. 31 (Jeff Burton, four wins; and Robby Gordon, three wins). Jeff Burton has the most starts in the No. 31 (324); 98 different drivers have started at least one race in the No. 31 car. Burton will make his first start of the season in the No. 66.

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