NHMS National Series Preview: Joe Gibbs Racing Looking For Return To Winning Ways

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Staff Report ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards at the USS Constitution Museum last month in Boston

Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards at the USS Constitution Museum last month in Boston

A couple months ago it seemed like Joe Gibbs Racing could not be beat. The Huntersville, North Carolina-based racing outfit’s four-driver stable of Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth won seven of the first 12 races of the season and 17 of the last 31 contests dating back to the Kentucky race last July.

There’s no need to panic for JGR, but it’s looked mortal lately, going winless over the last six races. JGR looks to return to its winning ways in Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) – a track it swept last year with Busch in July and Kenseth in September.

Busch, Kenseth and Hamlin know how to maneuver around The Magic Mile. All three boast two wins apiece in the Granite State. Edwards has never won there, but finished second at New Hampshire in July 2006.

“(New Hampshire) is a Martinsville-like short track, but it’s just over a mile,” said Busch, who won the ESPY for Best Driver on Wednesday night. “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. To be fast at Loudon, you have to have good brakes and you have to roll the center really well and get that good forward bite off the corners and make sure it sticks.”

The New Hampshire races have featured plenty of parity in recent years. Dating back to 2008, 14 different drivers have won in the last 16 events there.

One driver who might be on the verge of mastering the track is Kenseth, who’s won two of the last five races at The Magic Mile.

“It’s important to find that balance where you can still restart really well but also be decent in the long run (at New Hampshire),” Kenseth said. “It’s challenging to find the balance necessary in order to be decent at the start, but then also to have your car turning well enough to be competitive at the end of the run. (New Hampshire) is so unique in its characteristics that I really don’t think that you can compare it to anywhere else that we race.”

Erik Jones Looking Forward To NHMS

Erik Jones’ season has been a healthy mix of champagne and, well, just pain. Interspersed with a series-leading two wins are four finishes outside the top 25 and three outside the top 30.

And that explains how he somehow isn’t dominating the points standings, despite the nine top-five finishes that rank first among series regulars.

Still, after a fourth-place finish last week at Kentucky, he climbed to fourth in the standings, which matches his high-water mark of the past nine races.

Jones gets the chance to continue the climb in Saturday’s AutoLotto 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) where he will make his first NASCAR XFINITY Series start. In two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at “The Magic Mile,” Jones finished seventh twice.

The Michigan native has been one of the fastest drivers in the XFINITY Series all season. He leads full-time competitors with two victories, nine top 10s, 207 laps led and a 107.5 driver rating.

“I’m excited to get to New Hampshire this weekend and make my first XFINITY series start there,” Jones said. “I’ve run the track a couple of times in the Truck series and both times we had a really good Tundra. Short tracks are where I learned to race and have the most comfort. Between that and the experience from the Truck Series, if we can line everything up and have things fall our way, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be around at the end with a shot at the win.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Race: New Hampshire 301
Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Sunday, July 17 at 1:30 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 318.46 miles (301 laps)
What to Watch For: Brad Keselowski goes for his third consecutive win. With a victory, he would join Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano as the only drivers to win three consecutive races in the Chase era. … Fourteen different drivers have won the last 16 races at New Hampshire. … Joey Logano, who became the youngest winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history at New Hampshire in 2009, goes for his third career win at the 1.058-mile track. … Five Chase berths remain with eight races left until NASCAR’s playoffs. … Rising stars Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon continue to search for their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano all notched their first victories at New Hampshire.

Race: AutoLotto 200
Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, July 16 at 4 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 211.6 miles (200 laps)
What to Watch For: Daniel Suárez attempts to increase his nine-point lead over second-place Elliott Sadler as he goes for his fourth top five in five races. … After starting the season off slow, Darrell Wallace Jr. rides a string of two top-10 finishes in his last three races to New Hampshire.

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