New Hampshire Motor Speedway Magic Mile Notebook: 5-Hour Energy 400

PRESS RELEASE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Matt Kenseth celebrates his 2013 victory at Kansas Speedway (Photo: Getty Images)

Matt Kenseth celebrates his 2013 victory at Kansas Speedway (Photo: Getty Images)


Johnson, Dillon to Attend ‘Champions Breakfast’
Six-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson, and 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, Austin Dillon, will make an appearance at the Speedway Children’s Charities “Champions Breakfast” on the morning of Friday, July 11 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The event, which will run from 8-10 the hospitality area behind the main grandstands, will take place during the July NASCAR weekend, which will feature four races over the weekend.

Jimmie Johnson Ticket Package Unveiled
Already having built one of the most impressive résumés in NASCAR history, six-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will spend his race morning with fans of all ages in an exclusive Q&A opportunity and a Lowe’s Build & Grow Clinic for children before the Camping World RV Sales 301 on Sunday, July 13 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Johnson, the last Sprint Cup Series driver to win back-to-back races at the Magic Mile, is offering fans an opportunity for special ticket buyers to attend a Q&A and a special build-a-car workshop for children. The $48 ticket package will include either two children’s grandstand tickets or one adult grandstand ticket along with access to a special 15-minute Q&A session with Johnson.

Cara Peters Wins 5th Annual Speedway Star Competition
There was no buckling under the pressure for Cara Peters. At last Saturday’s Speedway Star inside the Mall of New Hampshire, the part-time cowgirl gave a stirring rendition of the national anthem, earning first-place honors in the fifth annual singing competition and a spot singing the “The Star Spangled Banner” on the speedway stage during the July NASCAR Camping World RV Sales 301 race weekend. Peters, who does competitive cowboy-mounted shooting on horseback in her spare time and wore an oversized belt buckle in honor of it, garnered the most points from a celebrity panel of judges that included Cliff Blake of Republic Nashville Records, legendary NASCAR pit reporter Dick Berggren and WOKQ’s Karen Kiley of the “Morning Waking Crew with Mark and 2K.” Kiley’s co-host, Mark Ericson, served as the emcee. Defending Speedway Star champion Whitney Doucet (Fitchburg, Mass.) finished second and will sing the national anthem at the September NASCAR SYLVANIA 300 race weekend.

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.


The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make its first stop of the season at Kansas Speedway this weekend:

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: 5-hour Energy 400
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 10
The Time: 7:45 p.m.
TV: FOX, 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)

Key stats from last week at Talladega Superspeedway
Winner: Denny Hamlin
Margin of Victory: Under caution
Cautions: 8 for 31 laps
Lead Changes: 48 among 23 drivers
Most Laps Led: Greg Biffle 58 of 188

Top 16 Driver Points: (1) J. Gordon 347; (2) M. Kenseth 344; (3) Kyle Busch 343; (4) D. Earnhardt Jr 328; (5) C. Edwards 328; (6) J. Logano 305; (7) J. Johnson 304; (8) G. Biffle 300; (9) R. Newman 299; (10) B. Vickers 297; (11) B. Keselowski 294; (12) D. Hamlin 292; (13) K. Larson 286; (14) A. Dillon 281; (15) A. Allmendinger 279; (16) M. Ambrose 268

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

This race last year
Winner: Matt Kenseth
Pole Sitter: Matt Kenseth
Margin of Victory: 0.150 seconds
Lead Changes: 13 among 8 drivers
Most Laps Led: Matt Kenseth 163 of 267
Top-Five: Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

5 Guys: Premier Group Of Drivers Eye Kansas For Breakthrough Win
From the “Something’s Gotta Give” department …
As NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers keep winning and virtually assuring themselves spots in the revamped Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, a number of other drivers remain winless. And outside-looking-in is not where you want to be in 2014 and beyond.

Heading into Saturday night’s 5-hour ENERGY 400 at Kansas Speedway, we are faced with the strangest of polar-opposite statistics; the five drivers sharing the all-time lead in Kansas victories all are winless thus far this season. Stretching the strangeness: this is a most elite, power-laden lineup.

Our collective 0-for-10 hitters: Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) … Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet) … Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) … Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) … Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford).

The first four have combined for 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. Biffle hasn’t won NASCAR’s biggest title but he’s been close, finishing as the series’ runner-up in 2005. Biffle also has won NASCAR’s two other national series championships, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2000 and the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2002.

This story gets better, thanks to the insight provided by Loop Data statistics. The five drivers listed above have the top five Driver Ratings over the course of Kansas Speedway’s brief (since 2001, 16 races total) but impactful history in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Here’s that rundown: Jimmie Johnson 118.9; Matt Kenseth 109.6; Greg Biffle 106.9; Jeff Gordon 99.6; Tony Stewart 97.5.

As for which one of the five could indeed break through Saturday night, Biffle could be the smart pick. His team, Roush Fenway Racing, has won four times at Kansas Speedway, accounting for all of Ford’s victories at the 1.5-mile speedway, with wins by former RFR drivers Kenseth and Mark Martin joining Biffle’s two. Also, Biffle comes off an impressive second-place effort at the largest and most precarious track in the series, Talladega Superspeedway.

Biffle was asked about becoming the first three-time Kansas winner, post-race at ’Dega. “I didn’t know that stat; I’d be super-excited to win there to start with, but to be the first guy to win three there would be pretty neat … I love that race track,” he said. “It sure would have been nice [at Talladega] to get a win [working] toward the Chase, but we’ve got some great race tracks coming up, as well. … It would have been nice.”

So yes, Biffle, like four other guys who know a lot about winning, looks forward to Kansas Speedway. Optimism is evident when ones talks to the six-time champion Johnson, the proverbial elephant in this winless room. Historically, Johnson excels on 1.5-mile tracks.

“I feel pretty good [about the season],” he said last week. “We’ve had strong runs … I think at Texas, we didn’t get to go very far (because of an early-race incident) but through practice and qualifying we had a lot of people concerned. We led a lot at California. Vegas went well. I feel very good about our 1.5-mile stuff. We still want to be better … but we’ve been in there fighting for wins.”

The fight continues.

Denny’s Grand Slam Helps Brush Off 2013
Last season never seemed so far away for Denny Hamlin.

The 2013 season was a forgettable one for Hamlin, to say the least. He missed four races – and most of a fifth – with a back injury, missed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time in his career and needed all 36 races for his first victory.

This year, he needed only 10 races to capture his first win (Talladega), which also happened to be his first points win at a restrictor plate track.

And with the new championship format for 2014, last Sunday’s victory at Talladega virtually guarantees Hamlin a spot in the Chase, which would be his eighth in nine full seasons.

Of course, this season has not been without its hiccups. He missed the race at Auto Club Speedway with what turned out to be a small piece of metal in his eye. And, returning to the track the following week, slogged through four consecutive finishes outside the top 10.

But his victory in Talladega erased all those ill wills. Now Hamlin heads to Kansas Speedway, site of his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in 2005. In his Kansas career, Hamlin has totaled 11 starts, one win (April of 2012) and three top fives.

No Place Like Home For 300th Career Sprint Cup Start
Clint Bowyer returns home, flying high and feeling good.

On Sunday, he scored his best finish of the 2014 season, a third at Talladega.

And on Monday, via Twitter, he announced that he and his wife Lorra were expecting their first child. That same day, Michael Waltrip Racing announced that Bowyer signed a multi-year contract extension.
Now, he head’s to Kanas for a major career milestone.

In Saturday night’s 5-hour ENERGY 400, the Emporia, Kansas native will make his 300th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. Over the first 299, he has tallied eight wins, 52 top fives and 140 top 10s – and made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup five times in his eight full-time seasons, including 2012 when he finished second in championship points.

Bowyer will look to become the first driver to win in his 300th start since … Denny Hamlin on Sunday at Talladega. Four others have accomplished the feat: NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Rusty Wallace, and Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch.

“Every time you see one of these 300 starts or 400 starts … it really doesn’t register until you get back to thinking about how it all began and what it really means,” Bowyer said. “I’m very fortunate to be a part of this sport for 300 races. … Love this sport, love being a part of it, and hopefully we’re a part of it for a long time. All of that coming down to Kansas, my home track, is even that much more special to be able to celebrate my 300th win right here in my own backyard at Kansas Speedway.”

For Edwards, There Are Plenty Of Places Better Than Home
Though his home state is Missouri, when it comes to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, Carl Edwards calls the 1.5-mile oval in Kansas City, Kansas his home track.

And thus far, victory has eluded the talented local boy.

This one’s a Holy Grail win of sorts for Edwards, who is winless in 13 starts at the track. He’s come close on a number of occasions. His best finish was second, in 2008, part of a Kansas resume that includes five top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish there is 10.8, which ranks fifth among active drivers.

Edwards, clearly, would like a win at Kanas – but he doesn’t need one. His victory earlier this season at Bristol all but locked him into the Chase. A second win would erase any lingering doubt about a playoff spot – multiple win guarantee a driver a spot among the 16-driver Chase Grid, provided he/she finishes in the top 30 in points after race No. 26 and attempt to qualify for every race.

Rookie Contenders Finding Groove 10 Races In
This season’s crop of Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates continues to impress – especially Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon, who currently sit 1-2 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. The two are separated by only 18 points (122-104).

Larson is out front early, and for good reason. He has posted two top fives and five top 10s in his last seven starts, including a runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway. In the first 10 races, he has posted an average finish of 15.4. Larson is also the highest ranked rookie in the NSCS driver standings (13th) passing Dillon (14th) following his top-10 finish at Talladega.

Though Larson has garnered much of the spotlight early this season, Dillon has enjoyed solid runs in the early going. Dillon returns to Kansas Speedway, the sight of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut (2011), having posted one top-10 finish this season. Dillon’s average finishing position almost mirrors Larson’s (15.4) at 16.0. Dillon’s one start at Kansas produced a 26th-place finish.

Though Larson slightly betters Dillon in several key Loop Data categories their performances have been fairly similar through the first 10 races of 2014:

Larson – Driver Rating (78.7); Avg. Running Position (18.5)
Dillon – Driver Rating (70.8); Avg. Running Position (20.1)

Gas ’N Go
Kyle Busch led one lap at Talladega, pushing his career total to 9,971 laps led. He now needs 29 more laps led to become the 15th driver to reach 10,000 career laps led. Busch has led 29 or more laps at Kansas only once in 13 starts. … Reed Sorenson will be making a milestone career start this weekend; his 200th in the series. … Ryan Blaney, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran Dave Blaney, will be making his series debut in the No. 12 SKF Ford for Team Penske this weekend at Kansas Speedway. Ryan Blaney has made one start in the NCWTS at Kansas resulting in a third–place finish and one start in the NNS producing an 11th-place finish. Dave Blaney is also entered this weekend.

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