New Hampshire Motor Speedway Magic Mile Notebook: Duck Commander 500

PRESS RELEASE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Kyle Busch celebrates victory at Texas Motor Speedway last year (Getty Images)

Kyle Busch celebrates victory at Texas Motor Speedway last year (Getty Images)

**LOCAL TIDBITS**

Speedway Star Search Begins
New Hampshire Motor Speedway is in search of New England’s best vocalists for what is expected to be the biggest and most competitive Speedway Star competition to date. Speedway officials have started accepting entries for the fifth annual singing contest. 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 p.m.

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).

NHMS Unveils New Ticket Program
In an effort to introduce the thrill of NASCAR racing to a younger demographic, New Hampshire Motor Speedway has developed a new school ticket program to attract children to experience the racing action in-person at the track. In addition, a portion of the ticket proceeds – sold to other family members – will go back to local schools. The “Speedway for Kids” Program will offer elementary, middle and high school students an opportunity to attend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 and/or SYLVANIA 300 for free. The free ticket voucher, which will be distributed to more 21,000 students throughout 60-plus schools in New England, will also offer discounted tickets for parents and/or guardians who wish to attend either or both races with the student. For each additional $25 ticket purchased, New Hampshire Motor Speedway will give one dollar back to all participating schools. The voucher is good for one free student ticket, with additional discounted tickets available for adults at $25 per race and children 12 and under at $12.50 per race.

**NATIONAL STORYLINES**

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make its first of two stops at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend:

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Next Race: Duck Commander 500

The Place: Texas Motor Speedway

The Date: Sunday, April 6

The Time: 3 p.m.

TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m.

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 501 miles (334 laps)

Key stats from last week at Martinsville Speedway

Winner: Kurt Busch

Margin of Victory: 0.263 seconds

Cautions: 14 for 92 laps

Lead Changes: 33 among 12 drivers

Most Laps Led: Jimmie Johnson 296 of 500

Top 16 Driver Points:

(1) D. Earnhardt Jr. 227; (2) M. Kenseth 218; (3) C. Edwards 217; (4) J. Gordon 216; (5) J. Johnson 209; (6) Kyle Busch 189; (7) B. Keselowski 188; (8) J. Logano 187; (9) A. Dillon 179; (10) R. Newman 174; (11) P. Menard 168; (12) D. Hamlin 165; (13) B. Vickers 165; (14) M. Ambrose 162; (15) T. Stewart 154; (16) A. Allmendinger 152.

Victories:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1)
Kevin Harvick (1)
Brad Keselowski (1)
Carl Edwards (1)
Kyle Busch (1)
Kurt Busch (1)

This race last year
Winner: Kyle Busch
Pole Sitter: Kyle Busch
Margin of Victory: 0.508 seconds
Lead Changes: 18 among 7 drivers
Most Laps Led: Kyle Busch 171 of 334
Top-Five: Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano.

7’s Up: Will We See Another New Winner?
Kurt Busch set a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup era record the moment he hit the finish line to close last Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway – six different winners in the first six races. And incredibly, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson – the top two winners from the 2013 season – aren’t among that group. Neither are marquee winners like Kasey Kahne or Greg Biffle or Jeff Gordon or Denny Hamlin. In other words, expect that list of different winners to grow, and maybe as soon as this weekend. If that does happen, here are two nuggets to consider. The last time there were seven different winners in the first seven races was 2003. The record for different winners to start the season is 10, in 2000. In neither of those seasons were there more than 16 winners after 26 races. There were 13 different winners after 26 races in 2000, and 16 different winners after 26 races in 2003 (and the points leader at the time, Matt Kenseth, was indeed one of them). So, historically speaking, it’s a very safe assumption that the six different winners thus far will be safely in the Chase after Richmond.

Bad Luck: It’s A Jimmie Thing
Jimmie Johnson’s statistics to open the 2014 season suggest he has won multiple races, is crushing everyone else in points, and maybe set a record for the earliest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup clinch in the history of the playoff system. Factually, of course, none of that is true. He’s winless, fifth in points and far from a Chase berth. For now… You have to expect Johnson’s luck to shift. Check out the numbers. He leads the series in driver rating (115.6), average running position (8.7), laps led (493), fastest laps run (200) and is tied for the lead in top-five finishes with four. He has led more than 100 laps in each of the last two races (including 296 laps at Martinsville). Johnson has an average finish of 8.7 at Texas, second only to Matt Kenseth’s 8.3.

Heavyweight Personalities With Heavyweight Talent
This is a tale-of-the-tape made for Texas Motor Speedway, whose staff always capitalizes on drama. Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch fired verbal daggers in each other’s direction after Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway, and who knows, this grudge match might boil over into this weekend’s race at Texas. Never shy about speaking their minds, these two drivers have compiled an all-star list of feuding dance partners. Keselowski has verbally sparred with the likes of Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch; Kurt Busch, whose career extends a tad further back, has had on- and off-track bouts with names such as Jimmy Spencer, Ryan Newman and even current teammates Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart. The interesting part: They’ll each back up their words with astounding success on the race track. Both are NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions (Busch in 2003; Keselowski in 2012). And both are strong at Texas. Keselowski enters the weekend with three consecutive top 10s at Texas, including a runner-up finish in 2012. Busch has a win at Texas – in 2009, while with Penske Racing.

Rookie Battle As Heated As Expected
Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson are neck and neck on top of the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings through six races (Larson holds a scant two-point edge over Dillon). And while Larson has been flashy and a contender for wins, Dillon has been consistent and relatively quiet since the Daytona 500 – and now finds himself in the top 10 in points. Dillon is ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standing as a result of his consistency. Despite Larson’s close runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway, he is currently 19th in NSCS points, outside the Chase cutoff. The opposite styles on the track have kept the ROY points tight. Texas Motor Speedway could prove to be a turning point in the ROY battle. Larson’s first NSCS start at TMS came last fall, with a 36th-place finish three laps down. His stats from two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts are not much better, with an average finish of 20.5. Though this will be Dillon’s first NSCS start at TMS, he has four starts, and an average finish of 4.8 at the track in four NNS starts.

A Texas-Sized Opportunity For Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing has owned Texas Motor Speedway since the track’s inaugural event in 1997. Jeff Burton won the first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at TMS driving for Roush Fenway Racing. As an organization across NASCAR’s three national series Roush Fenway Racing has 18 wins, 74 top-fives and 3,478 laps led at TMS. Needless to say Roush Fenway will be a prime contender this weekend. The driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford, Carl Edwards is currently tied for the most NSCS wins at TMS with three victories. Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle has two NSCS wins and the third best driver rating at TMS over the past nine races. The third driver on the Roush Fenway line up, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has shown he is ready to carry his NASCAR Nationwide Series success over to the NSCS level this year. Stenhouse has one win and 100 laps led at TMS in the NNS. This Sunday’s race poses a perfect opportunity for Stenhouse to shake off some of the sophomore slump vibes that have plagued the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Stenhouse finished 34th and 40th at Auto Club Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, respectively. Figure on at least a strong starting position for Stenhouse – he made the final round of qualifying and started sixth at Las Vegas, the only other 1.5 mile track run this season.

Gas ’n go
– Kyle Busch won the Coors Light Pole at Martinsville on Saturday, making it six different pole winners in the first six races. That hasn’t happened since 1998.
– The Kyle Busch laps led milestone watch continues. He now stands at 9,960 career laps led, 40 away from becoming the 15th driver in NASCAR national series history to accomplish the feat. In 17 races at Texas Motor Speedway, Busch has led 40 or more laps five times.
– On Friday, Texas Motor Speedway will host an assembly for 4,500 students, crowning the year-long champions of the “Speeding To Read” program. Additionally, Spin Master will present the winner of the “Design A Die-cast” competition with a die-cast of their design by unveiling an actual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series show car bearing the winning paint scheme. The winner will also receive tickets to Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from Texas Motor Speedway and a gift bag with NASCAR officially licensed merchandise from NASCAR.

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