New Hampshire Motor Speedway Magic Mile Notebook: Toyota Owners 400

PRESS RELEASE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Kevin Harvick won last year's Richmond April event (Photo: Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick won last year’s Richmond April event (Photo: Getty Images)

**LOCAL TIDBITS**

Speedway Star Competition Set for Tomorrow
The top contestants from a talented entry pool have been whittled down to 10, as the top singers from New England will compete in front of a celebrity panel of judges at the fifth annual Speedway Star singing competition tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. Two contestants will win the opportunity to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of thousands of fans at a NASCAR sanctioned event in July and September. The contest will be held at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester at the JC Penney Court.

*Contestant info:
Catherine Martinez, Age 22, Bow, N.H.
Christine Labore, Age 37, Jefferson, N.H.
Lynda Butler, Age 33, Lebanon, N.H.
Cara Peters, Age 24, Mont Vernon, N.H.
Alan St. Louis, Age 52, Nashua, N.H.
Amanda Letendre, Age 21, Pembroke, N.H.
Ginger Smith, Age 50, Auburn, Maine
Jilly Martin, Age 27, Chelmsford, Mass.
Whitney Doucet, Age 23, Fitchburg, Mass.
Ashley Tucker, Age 26, Worcester, Mass.

Formula Hybrid Set to Return for 8th Annual Competition
The only such contest of its kind in the United States, Dartmouth’s eighth annual Formula Hybrid Competition returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway April 28 through May 1. Featuring high-performance hybrid and electric race cars built by teams of undergraduate and graduate engineering students, the Formula Hybrid Competition is run by the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth. A total of 24 schools and universities, including teams from Canada, India and Turkey, are registered for the four-day Formula competition – the only of its kind in the nation to focus primarily on hybrid-car technology. Tufts University (Medford, Mass.), University of Vermont (Burlington, Vt.), Dartmouth College (Hanover, N.H.) and Yale University (New Haven, Conn.) will represent New England.

Oxford Casino to Sponsor Pole Day on July 11
With the exciting new NASCAR knockout style pole position format being unveiled at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this season, Oxford Casino has anted up with a buy-in as the new official pole day sponsor. Speedway officials announced today that the Oxford Casino Pole Day will be named for Friday, July 11 when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers qualify for the Camping World RV Sales 301. There is plenty of on-track action scheduled for Oxford Casino Pole Day on Friday, July 11, including the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Modified All-Star Shootout at 2:10 p.m.; two rounds of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying for the Camping World RV Sales 301 beginning at 4:35 p.m.; and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Granite State 100 at 6:00 p.m.

Weekend Wrap-Up From NHMS
– Doug Stevens, a Legends Car expert, who cut his teeth at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, raced for the first time at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, and he didn’t disappoint. Stevens (Griffin, Ga.) beat T.S. Motorsports teammates Shaun Buffington and Tom Gray to win the opening race in the Granite State Legends Cars’ Moat Mountain Road Course Series. Buffington (Plainfield, Conn.), the defending series champion, finished second, while Gray (Sprague, Conn.) grabbed the final podium spot, placing third.
– Shaun Buffington picked up the victory in the first race of the Granite State Legends Cars’ Sign Works Oval Series. Buffington took first-place honors, while Tom Gray crossed the line in second and Taylor Martin (Windham, N.H.) picked up her 11th straight third-place finish on the mini-oval, dating back to June 1 of last season.
– AJ Eastman did all he could to try and make the pass, but in the end it was Nova Scotia’s Braden Langille holding on for the victory in the Granite State Bandolero Series opener. Defending series champion Casey Call (Pembroke, N.H.) finished third despite starting from the back of the pack.

**NATIONAL STORYLINES**

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make its first stop of the season at Richmond International Raceway this weekend:

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: Toyota Owners 400
The Place: Richmond International Raceway
The Date: Saturday, April 26
The Time: 7 p.m.
TV: FOX, 6:30 p.m.
Distance: 300 miles (400 laps)

Key stats from two weeks ago at Darlington Raceway

Winner: Kevin Harvick

Margin of Victory: 0.558 seconds

Cautions: 11 for 50 laps

Lead Changes: 22 among 12 drivers

Most Laps Led: Joey Logano 238 of 374

Top 16 Driver Points:

(1) J. Gordon 297; (2) M. Kenseth 296; (3) C. Edwards 278; (4) D. Earnhardt Jr. 271; (5) J. Johnson 270; (6) Kyle Busch 269; (7) B. Keselowski 246; (8) J. Logano 245; (9) R. Newman 236; (10) A. Dillon 235; (11) G. Biffle 227; (12) T. Stewart 224; (13) B. Vickers 224; (14) K. Larson 223; (15) D. Hamlin 223; (16) C. Bowyer 219.

Victories:
Kevin Harvick (2)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1)
Brad Keselowski (1)
Carl Edwards (1)
Kyle Busch (1)
Kurt Busch (1)
Joey Logano (1)

This race last year
Winner: Kevin Harvick
Pole Sitter: Matt Kenseth
Margin of Victory: 0.343 seconds
Lead Changes: 10 among 7 drivers
Most Laps Led: Kyle Busch 265 of 367
Top-Five: Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Burton.

When Will Johnson, Kenseth Quench Wins Thirst?
Here’s a stat that properly illustrates how weird this Jimmie Johnson/Matt Kenseth “drought” is: The last time neither won any of the first eight races, Johnson wasn’t even in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series yet. The year was 2001. Johnson was in his second full season of NASCAR Nationwide Series competition. Kenseth was in his second full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and battling a bit of a sophomore slump. He went winless and finished outside the top 10 in the final championship standings. Few would’ve predicted they’d combine to win seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships over the next decade and a half, or win a combined 96 races.
The point: Though an eight-race drought doesn’t constitute as a panic situation, it can certainly be categorized as bizarre. Last year at this time, they each had two wins. But the wait likely won’t last too much longer. Though Richmond might be the place, tracks beyond this weekend may provide a slightly better opportunity. Johnson has three wins at Richmond, the last in 2008 – and he’s finished outside the top 10 in each of the last three Richmond races. Kenseth has finished in the top 10 in each of the last three Richmond races, but hasn’t won a race at the Virginia short track since 2002.

Richmond Kicks Off Part 2 Of NSCS Season
Richmond International Raceway has been called “the perfect track” … which makes this Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 the perfect way to start the second portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. And with the new championship format, it’ll be a fascinating watch. Consider this: Among the tracks scheduled for the “middle” portion of the 26-race regular season are Richmond, Talladega, Sonoma, Pocono, Daytona and New Hampshire, which is the king of competitive balance these days. New Hampshire Motor Speedway has seen 12 different winners in the last 12 races – including last July’s shocking victory by Brian Vickers, who was running fulltime in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the time.

Piling On: Harvick Wins Might Come In Bunches
For Kevin Harvick in 2014, when it rains … it pours – both positively and negatively. In Harvick’s two wins this year, he dominated. At Phoenix, his first win of the season, Harvick led 224 of the 312 laps for a driver rating of 149.9 (a perfect rating is 150.0). At Darlington, he led 238 of the 374 laps, recording a driver rating of 148.9. That’s the positive. Then there’s the negative. When the bad luck hits, boy does it hit. Joining his two victories are four finishes of 36th or worse. In three of those – at Las Vegas, Bristol and Texas – he led at least one lap. Good days turned bad, in the worst possible way. In those instances, it poured. So, is this a success-in-bunches portion of the program for Harvick? The statistics say “yes.” Harvick has won three races at Richmond – including two of the last five – and has finished in the top 10 in 16 of his 26 starts. And with another 55 laps led on Saturday night, Harvick will reach 1,000 Richmond laps led in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.

Points Lead Nice, A Win Would Be Better
Jeff Gordon owns the points lead. That gets him some pretty sweet perks. Among them: Recognition, a primo hauler spot in the garage … and a guaranteed spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup if he holds it after race No. 26. Regardless of win count, the points leader will earn a berth in this year’s Chase under the new rules. But, it’s a tenuous position for Gordon. A bad day could swipe the points lead away in a heartbeat. A victory would put the 88-time winner in a much more comfortable spot. You have to believe it’s coming sooner than later. A 16-time winner at short tracks, Gordon has two career wins at Richmond, and has finished in the top 10 in two of the last three Richmond races. Though his last victory at the Virginia short track came in 2000, he did have a streak of seven consecutive races with top 10s from 2007-10.

Edwards Looks To Make It Back-To-Back At Richmond
Quick: Who won the last 10 Richmond fall races? That’s about as hard as it gets when it comes to NASCAR trivia. The fall Richmond winner often shares the spotlight with the 12 drivers who JUST made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. It’s easy to get overshadowed, and it’s understandable. Last September, Carl Edwards won the fall Richmond race; it was his second win of the season. If he can do the same this weekend, it would again be his second win of the season. It would guarantee that he’d be among the top 15 winners and thus land him a Chase spot, provided he doesn’t miss any races or fall out of the top 30 in points after race No. 26. And, the spotlight would be all his. Edwards, who is currently third in points, has one win and 10 top 10s in 19 starts at Richmond. Known more for his success at bigger race tracks, Edwards clearly feels just as comfortable at the .75-mile short track. He has scored top-10 finishes in seven of the last eight races.

Gas ’N Go
– After a prolonged wait, figure this Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway as the likely spot for Kyle Busch to reach 10,000 career laps led. He needs 30 more laps led to become the 15th driver to reach the milestone. Busch has led 30 or more laps in seven of his 18 Richmond starts.
– AJ Allmendinger, driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG / Daugherty Racing, will make his 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start this weekend, at Richmond. His best career finish is second, on April 1, 2012, at Martinsville Speedway – like Richmond, a short track.
– Marcos Ambrose, who drives the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, will also make his 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start on Saturday night. He has two wins in his career, both at Watkins Glen.
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