NASCAR New Hampshire Preview: Kevin Harvick Hobbles To Loudon In Dire Need Of Win

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Staff Report ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kevin Harvick (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kevin Harvick’s hopes for capturing a second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship took a “spin” for the worst during last Sunday’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Following contact from Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 car, Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet developed a left-rear tire rub, eventually causing Harvick to spin directly into the wall. As a result, Harvick finished 42nd and is 15th on the Chase Grid, 22 points below the final transfer spot.

Virtually in too deep of a hole to advance from the 16-driver Challenger Round to the 12-man Contender Round on points, Harvick knows what he needs to survive and advance.

“We’ve just got to go win one of these races,” said Harvick, referring to the final two events of the Challenger Round, at New Hampshire and Dover.

His task – easier said than done – begins with Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), a place he has only won once in his career (fall 2006).

“Loudon (N.H.) is tough just because the track position is so important there,” Harvick said. “It’s really hard to pass. It always seems like there is some kind of crazy strategy that plays out toward the end of the race with fuel mileage or something along those lines of when you pit, when you don’t pit. Restarts always play a big factor but, at Loudon, there is definitely going to be a lot of strategy involved.”

Harvick and Johnson’s on-track tangle led to a heated off-track confrontation between the two series champions, one that could again play out on the racing surface over the next two races — especially at Dover International Speedway next week. Johnson and Harvick finished 1-2 there in the May race.

Dillon ready to catch up to Buescher at Kentucky

Time is ticking on Ty Dillon’s NASCAR XFINITY Series title chances.

Only seven races remain for the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing driver – second in the XFINITY Series standings – to erase the 25-point deficit championship frontrunner Chris Buescher has built between them.

He gets his next chance to cut into Buescher’s points advantage in Saturday’s 300 at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“This is always one of the most exciting races of the season,” said Dillon, who has eight top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 26 starts this season. “Kentucky Speedway is one of my favorite race tracks to visit, mainly because it’s competitive, a worn out surface and I’ve been able to win here before (in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series).”

Kentucky has been kind to Dillon in the past. In three career starts at the 1.5-mile track, he owns one top-five and two top-10 finishes. In last season’s 300, he placed third after winning the pole.

“This will be a critical race for our team and a great opportunity to put one in the win column,” Dillon said. “There’s a lot riding on this race and I’m sure the fans will really enjoy watching.”

NASCAR record-holder Custer returns to site of first win

Cole Custer – at 16 years, 7 months, 28 days – was barely old enough to legally drive a street car when he made his seventh career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last fall.

Custer’s youth and inexperience failed to stop him as he led 148-of-175 laps on his way to Victory Lane to become the youngest race winner in NASCAR national Series history.

The No. 00 Chevrolet driver returns to The Granite State on Saturday for the UNOH 175 (1 p.m. on FS1) with his sights on a repeat triumph. He can etch his name in the record books again by winning the NCWTS’ 500th race.

“Getting back-to-back wins at that place would be a great accomplishment for us,” Custer said.

“I’m really excited and I think we will definitely have a shot at the win.”

On the season, Custer owns one victory (Gateway), one top-five and three top-10 finishes in seven starts.

He will run the same truck at New Hampshire he won with last year and claims the team made it even faster.

“I’ve had this race marked on my calendar for a while,” Custer said. “It has always been a great track for me. I got my first win there last year, and we’re actually bringing the same truck back. The team has put a lot of work into this truck and we’re even better this time.”

NASCAR Race Weekend Guide

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Race: Sylvania 300
Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Sunday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, 1:30 p.m., PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 317.14 miles (300 laps)
What to Watch For: Jeff Gordon will surpass Ricky Rudd as NASCAR’s all-time consecutive starts leader by beginning his 789th consecutive race on Sunday. … Denny Hamlin, competing with a torn ACL, goes for his second straight victory after winning the Chase opener at Chicagoland. … Brad Keselowski tries for his 11th straight top-10 finish. He is only the fifth driver in the Chase Era (2004 – present) to log 10 consecutive top-10 finishes. … Joey Logano attempts to defend his New Hampshire victory from last fall. … Kyle Busch – the spring New Hampshire winner – can become the first driver this season to sweep a track if he wins at The Magic Mile on Sunday. … NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standout Ryan Preece makes his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.

Race: 300
Track: Kentucky Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
What to Watch For: Chris Buescher attempts to hold his 25-point standings lead with seven races left in the season. … Defending race winner Brendan Gaughan will try to Visit Victory lane again in the Bluegrass state. … Two-time race winner Erik Jones will compete at Kentucky after racing at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series earlier in the day. … Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr. continue to battle for the award. … Ryan Blaney, who won his first NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Kentucky in 2013 takes the seat of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Race: UNOH 175
Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. ET
Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 185.15 miles (175 laps)
What to Watch For: Saturday’s event marks the 500th race in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history. The NCWTS began in 1995 and is in its 21st year of operation. … John Hunter Nemechek goes for his second straight win after capturing his first career victory at Chicagoland last week. … Erik Jones attempts to maintain his standings lead over Tyler Reddick (-10 points) and Matt Crafton (-11). … Kyle Busch Motorsports truck chief Chris Showalter will compete in his 500th race as a crew member.

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