New Hampshire National Series Preview: Kyle Busch Eyes First 2017 Win In Loudon

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Staff Report ~ NASCAR Wire Service

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has produced 11 different winners through 18 races, the halfway point of the season. Surprisingly absent from the group is 2015 champion Kyle Busch, who’s won nine races the last two seasons.

Busch will attempt to visit Victory Lane for the first time this year in Sunday’s Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) – a track where he’s taken the checkered flag twice.

“New Hampshire is a Martinsville-like short track, but it’s just over a mile,” said Busch, who in addition to his two New Hampshire wins, boasts nine top fives, 13 top 10s and a 13.8 average finish there. “It’s a little more spread out, but there’s some rooting and gouging going on because it’s a one-lane track and everybody fights for that particular groove.”

Busch enters the race coming off a fifth-place finish at Kentucky where he led 112-of-274 laps. He has seven top-10 finishes, including five top-five showings in his last nine starts.

The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver sits third in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings, 100 markers behind leader Martin Truex Jr. Busch owns four playoff points earned from his four stage wins.

“You don’t (want to make a mistake at New Hampshire) because you’re always on edge there,” Busch said. “You’re trying to go as fast as you can into the corners, as deep as you can into the corners while rolling as much speed, or just a bit higher than everyone else so you are able to get back to the gas sooner. You’re going harder than everyone else in order to make the straightaway a little bit longer and get your momentum built back up. It’s definitely a challenging racetrack.”

Byron Hitting His Groove

He’s only a 19-year-old Sunoco Rookie, yet William Byron is performing like a veteran as the NASCAR XFINITY Series enters the second half of its season.

Byron has been the highest-finishing XFINITY regular in the last four races, sandwiching wins at Iowa and Daytona between a runner-up showing at Michigan and a seventh-place finish at Kentucky last week.

The Charlotte native, who leads the series with two wins, will attempt to notch another victory in Saturday’s Overton’s 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Byron has never raced at “The Magic Mile” in XFINITY action, but won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the New England track last year, as well as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series race there in 2015.

“I am really excited to get to New Hampshire,” Byron said. “It’s really one of my favorite tracks and I know JR Motorsports has been great on short tracks this season. We’re ready to get there and hopefully get a win.”

Byron currently ranks second in the XFINITY Series standings, 45 points behind his JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler. He leads the circuit with 11 playoff points.

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Race: Overton’s 301
Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Sunday, July 16 at 3 p.m. ET
Tune-In: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 318.46 miles (301 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 75), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on lap 301)
What To Watch For: Martin Truex Jr. goes for his second straight win after sweeping the stages and leading a race-high 152 laps at Kentucky. … Joe Gibbs Racing tries to grab its first win of the season. JGR drivers Matt Kenseth (three wins), Denny Hamlin (two) and Kyle Busch (two) have all won at New Hampshire. … Chase Elliott eyes his first career win following a third-place finish at Kentucky. He’s racked up five top-eight finishes in his last six starts. … Eleven different drivers have won through the first 18 races of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. There have been three first-time winners. … Two months after injuring his back at Kansas, Aric Almirola returns to the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.

NASCAR XFINITY Series
Race: Overton’s 200
Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, July 15 at 4 p.m. ET
Tune-In: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 211.6 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)
What To Watch For: The last five NASCAR XFINITY Series races at New Hampshire have been won from the Coors Light Pole – a series record for any track. … Brendan Gaughan hopes to make a playoff push with 10 races left in the regular season. He sits 22 points below Blake Koch on the cutoff line. … Cole Custer, who became the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history when he won at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2014, makes his track NASCAR XFINITY Series debut. … Kyle Busch goes for his 175th NASCAR national series victory.

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