Lennox Industrial Tools News and Notes

Lennox Industrial Tools News and Notes

Loudon preview
June 26, 2007
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com


This week the Cup Series travels in what is likely their longest road trip of the season. When the haulers left Sonoma Sunday night, they set on a cross country trip for their home bases in Charlotte, about 2,800 miles. On Thursday, they’ll load the trucks again in Charlotte and set sail for the Loudon, New Hampshire which is another 900 miles northward.

This is a Car of Tomorrow race, the 8th COT race of the season. Following Loudon, only Talladega and Watkins Glen will remain as tracks that we haven’t seen the COT scheduled to race on for 2007 season.

Before we get into the race, wasn’t one of the advantages of the COT that teams didn’t have to go back to the shops after each race? The idea was that it’ll be the same chassis for each race with some mild tinkering done to get it ready for each and every track alike. It’s supposed to be a cost effective move that allow for not just the powerful teams to compete because they are saving so much money on building cars and travel. Old School was Darlington to Charlotte and then to North Wilksboro, no big deal. In the modern age they go from Daytona to Charlotte to California. Then they go from California, back to Charlotte, and then back west to Las Vegas.

Jeff Gordon has been the best thus far from the results of seven COT races. He still remains the only driver to have finished in the top 10 of every COT race having come away with a pretty good road course run of 7th last week. Denny Hamlin is next best in average finishes with a solid run in each race followed by Gordon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Many are starting to wonder just how good the Hendrick Dynamic duo are after last weeks failed inspection prior to qualifying. We’re starting to hear many detractors claim that the edge Gordon and Johnson has all season is because their cheating. Cheating is such a harsh word. I like the word “creative” much better. All the testing and time spent taking the COT to its limits gave the Hendrick team a chance to do some different things that made them faster.

We must be fair to the Hendrick team because they did pass each COT inspection at all six of the other tracks they ran on. For the road race, which is set up completely different in weight placement and suspension, the two teams got a little bit too creative. NASCAR didn’t like the way the two teams had made a few adjustments which in turn would have given Gordon and Johnson an advantage on the track. We can likely expect some season points to be taken away from both Johnson and Gordon.

For Chad Knaus, Johnson’s crew chief, he may have a little more explaining to do regarding his creativity. Knaus has been one of the more creative chiefs on tour the last three seasons. His file is thick with violations and suspensions, but I’d lay a good price that just about every driver on tour would want Knaus being creative for them.

Beyond the fines that will be placed, how does the entire situation map out for this weeks COT race in Loudon? We say they passed all the COT tests at the other tracks, but maybe NASCAR never saw what the teams were doing to give them an edge. Maybe they have been doing it the whole time. How does that play into all the data and knowledge we have already gathered for this race? Who do you take? Do you stay conservative and take Gordon or Johnson to win this week at a modest price? Or do you go bold and look for another 25 to 1 like Martin Truex Jr had on him a few weeks ago at Dover?

What we do know for sure is that the crew chiefs that were successful at Richmond and Phoenix, will bring those same chassis’ and set-up notes to New Hampshire. The 3 tracks look completely different, but because of the slight banking and distances, they run very similar. If we look at the figures from those two COT races earlier this year, we have Gordon and Johnson each getting wins with a 4th in the other race. Denny Hamlin finished 3rd in both races. Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart each had a 2nd place finish and a top 10 finish in the other.

So there it is! Why go on about how maybe Ryan Newman or Kurt Busch have a possible shot at joining Truex Jr as a long shot to win? The Childress cars are all at 15 to 1, what’s wrong with that? Kevin Harvick was the Richmond, Phoenix, and New Hampshire man last season, why can’t he do it again? Jeff Burton has forever been strong on those 3 tracks, what about him? And why can’t Clint Bowyer join the first time winners club with Truex Jr, Mears, and Montoya? It’s happened at 3 of the last 5 races so it can happen again, right?

I’d love to believe it, but the Gibbs and Hendrick cars are just a notch above the rest. It would take some fuel mileage issues to de-rail those 5. We’ll go for a mild upset this week and take Gibbs to win their first race of the season.

TOP 5 NHIS Finish Prediction:

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (7/1)
2) #5 Kyle Busch (11/1)
3) #24 Jeff Gordon (5/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (4/1)
5) #20 Tony Stewart (7/1)

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Re: Lennox Industrial Tools News and Notes

LENOX INDUSTRIAL TOOLS 300 - Odds to Win

Jimmie Johnson 9-2 
 
Jeff Gordon 5-1 
 
Tony Stewart 6-1 
 
Denny Hamlin 6-1 
 
Matt Kenseth 12-1 
 
Kevin Harvick 10-1 
 
Kyle Busch 10-1 
 
Carl Edwards 25-1 
 
Jeff Burton 15-1 
 
Dale Earnhardt Jr 15-1 
 
Kurt Busch 20-1 
 
Martin Truex Jr 20-1 
 
Ryan Newman 20-1 
 
Clint Bowyer 25-1 
 
Greg Biffle 30-1 
 
Jamie McMurray 35-1 
 
Kasey Kahne 40-1 
 
Casey Mears 50-1 
 
Juan Pablo Montoya 100-1 
 
Scott Riggs 100-1 
 
Elliott Sadler 100-1 
 
Reed Sorenson 100-1 
 
Bobby Labonte 100-1 
 
Regan Smith 100-1 
 
David Stremme 100-1 
 
Joe Nemechek 100-1 
 
Dave Blaney 100-1 
 
JJ Yeley 100-1 
 
Jeff Green 100-1 
 
Ricky Rudd 100-1 
 
Tony Raines 100-1 
 
David Gilliland 100-1 
 
Elliott Sadler 100-1 
 
Field (Any Other Driver) 60-1 
 


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Re: Lennox Industrial Tools News and Notes

Grading the top 10 after Infineon
Sporting News

Here's our weekly grading of the top 10 drivers in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series points standings. All race and performance references are from Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

1. Jeff Gordon, A; 2,538 points. I know Gordon is a lightning rod, and the upcoming penalties won't help, but you have to give this guy his props. He started 41st and finished seventh. He was 15th with 11 laps to go and didn't settle. Just a great effort.

2. Denny Hamlin, A; 2,267. Speaking of great efforts, Hamlin started 36th, was 21st with 11 laps to go and still finished in the top 10 (10th). He also led three laps � and he repaired his gearshift in the car during the race. All in all, I'd say he had a much better weekend than the folks who parked cars at the Milwaukee Mile.

3. Jimmie Johnson, B; 2,172. Johnson joined Gordon in the back of the field and managed to lead a lap on the way to a 17th-place finish, moving up from 27th with 11 laps to go. The five points for leading a lap will help take a small bite out of whatever penalties NASCAR will hand down.

4. Matt Kenseth, F; 2,105. A race to forget, and we're thinking Kenseth will. He was part of an accident on the first lap, which foreshadowed the remainder of his day. His 34th-place finish lowers his average finish at Sonoma to 23.5 with no top 10s.

5. Jeff Burton, A; 2,084. Hats off to Burton and Richard Childress Racing, which finished 2-3-4. Burton's third-place finish is his first top 10 since winning at Texas nine races ago. He tied Jamie McMurray for most laps in the top 15 with 103.

6. Tony Stewart, A; 2,058. Stewart led six laps en route to his sixth-place finish. He also ran the fastest lap 16 times, second only to Robby Gordon's 30 -- and Robby had the point for 48 laps.

7. Carl Edwards, B; 2,019. Edwards' grade drops a notch because of his 18th-place finish, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He led 12 laps, third-most behind Gordon and Jamie McMurray (30). It came down to fuel mileage. "We had an awesome car and tried to stretch it on fuel and just didn't make it," Edwards said. "We had to try it." Here, here. No reason to points race at this point of the season.

8. Kevin Harvick, A; 1,964. Excellent run for Harvick. You have to wonder, though: If the No. 29 team didn't think Juan Pablo Montoya was going to fall short on fuel, would Harvick have been more aggressive? What a finish that might have been. Still, a second-place finish is worth celebrating.

9. Clint Bowyer, A; 1,934. Bowyer completed RCR's dominance with a fourth-place finish. He didn't challenge for the win, but his strong finish enabled him to solidify his spot in the top 12 with 10 races to go before the Chase begins.

10. Kyle Busch, A; 1,905.Not even an early spin could prevent the current MVFA (most valuable free agent) from another solid run. Busch started 24th, and a spin on Lap 22 dropped him to 38th. But Busch recovered to finish eighth and moved up a spot it the standings.

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Re: Lennox Industrial Tools News and Notes

Lenox Industrial Tools 300 Preview
Author: Jeffrey Gutowski

After a fuel mileage fiasco of a road course race in California the series heads to Loudon, New Hampshire this week. If NASCAR wants their viewer ratings to go up they had better think a little harder before they try and change things on the cars like the fuel cells. Yes, safety should be their number 1 concern but they also have to think about entertainment value. After all it is a business.

This week’s race is another COT race. That makes you think Hendrick, Gibbs, Penske and Childress to be the serious contenders. I am going to go with Tony Stewart for the win this weekend. Tony has finished 1st or 2nd in 3 of the last 4 races run at Loudon. He also had the car to beat at Bristol earlier this year in the first COT race ever run.

The Hendrick teams have won almost every race run with the COT this season but Jimmie Johnson has been average here since sweeping the events in 2003 and Jeff Gordon has only 3 top 10’s in his last 11 races in Loudon. Kyle Busch won the race here last spring but followed it up with a 38th place finish last fall.

Ryan Newman has 2 wins and 7 top 10’s in 10 races run at Loudon. The Penske teams have been gaining momentum in the COT races as the season has progressed. Kurt Busch has also won at Loudon before, sweeping here in 2004 and then coming out to finish 2nd in the spring race of 2005. Since then Kurt has struggled a bit at the track.

Denny Hamlin has only 2 starts at Loudon but he seems to favor the flatter tracks on the circuit anyway. Denny finished 6th and 4th in his starts at the track last season and should be a serious contender when all is said and done.

Kevin Harvick won last falls race at Loudon as the Chase began. Kevin was awesome on these types of tracks all last season and the Childress teams have had good COT’s this year. They just seem to have some type of trouble mechanically during the races. Jeff Burton has 3 straight top 10 finishes at Loudon and has won here in the past. He also gave Kyle Busch a run for his money at Bristol earlier this year in the first COT race.

Martin Truex Jr. and DEI won the last COT race not taking into account last weeks race at the road course. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has 5 top 10 finishes in his last 8 races here while Martin had finishes of 18th and 22nd last season in his only 2 Cup starts at this track.

Roush Racing seems to be the big name team who is a little behind the curve when it comes to the COT. I’m not saying that they are terrible it just seems that they don’t have quite enough to contend for a win in these races. Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards find themselves towards the front of the pack during the races but just can’t seem to find the right adjustment to make at the end to give them the shot at winning. Matt has finished in the top 10 at Loudon in 8 of his last 9 races. Greg has 3 top 5 finishes in his last 4 starts here and Carl finished second here last spring.

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Re: Lennox Industrial Tools News and Notes

LENOX Industrial Tools 300 PreQ    
       
In the last five races there have been three first time winners, Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr., and Juan Pablo Montoya, while another driver, Carl Edwards ended a nearly two season winless drought. It ended what was the dominance of Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson in which the duo combined to win seven of nine races. The PreQ forecast for this weekend’s event at New Hampshire International Speedway has again a driver looking to end a winless drought in Denny Hamlin. The second year driver has been “oh so close” for plenty of races this season only to falter at the end of the event. Hamlin is desperately seeking his first trip to victory lane this season and has a good chance ending his drought. In two career starts at New Hampshire he has posted a pair of top 10s with an average finish of 6th place. Hamlin knows how to get around the speedways posting a 9th place average finish with eight top 10s in 11 starts on the track type. He should be in store for a yet another strong run in the LENOX Industrial Tools 300.

There seems to be a pattern in the PreQ forecast with Tony Stewart closely linked to Hamlin when it comes to looking at pre-race favorites. Each is looking for their first win of the season and each is running extremely well. Stewart had a good chance of winning at Infineon but fuel mileage played into the strategy of the other competitors and he had to settle for a top 10 finish. It was disappointing but Stewart will have a chance to quickly make amends at New Hampshire where he is a two time winner and three time runner-up – including a win and two second place finishes in the last four. In 16 career starts at the track he has an impressive 10 top 10s with an average finish of 13th place. Stewart and Hamlin could easily be battling for the win when it comes to down to it on Sunday. Expect both Joe Gibbs Racing drivers to be up front all day.

The aforementioned Carl Edwards was finally able to end his winless streak at Michigan a few weeks ago. He has been coming on strong over the last few months running in the top 20 after posting back-to-back finishes outside the top 20 to start the season with the exception of a blown engine relegating him to a 42nd place finish at Talladega. Edwards was running well in the road course race at Infineon before having to stop late for fuel knocking him back to 18th place. Still, Edwards has shown that his ‘sophomore slump’ is over and should once again be considered a contender each and every week. Look out for the #99 Office Depot Ford at New Hampshire where Edwards has never finished outside the top 20.

It has been a tough year for Scott Riggs and his #10 Valvoline Dodge team. Riggs has had to race his way into the event for the last couple of months as he is fighting to work his way back into the top 35 in the point standings. It hasn’t gone very well as he has failed to qualify for two of the last six races and the events he has made he has run poorly. He has just one top 10 and four top 20 finishes in 14 starts this season and will once again have to race his way into the event at New Hampshire. Even if he does qualify Riggs has not had much luck at the track. In six career starts he has just one finish in the top 25 with an average finish of 27th place. Riggs would like nothing more for this season to be over with but even if that can’t happen at least this weekend to be over with.

Clint Bowyer had a surprising top 5 run at Infineon thanks in large part to fuel mileage strategy. Bowyer is solidly in the top 10 in the point standings and is picked by many to be the next first time winner, which is more than likely to happen, just not this weekend. In two starts at New Hampshire Bowyer has struggled finishing outside the top 20 in each event. He is not a bad speedway driver averaging an 18th place finish in 11 career starts but this track has been particularly troublesome for Bowyer. It might be a good move to stay away from the #07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet for this race.

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Re: Lennox Industrial Tools News and Notes

Matt McLaughlin's Driver Handicaps: New Hampshire Edition
Matt McLaughlin

*2007 New Hampshire “1” Driver Handicaps *

Jeff Gordon – Gordon has three wins at Loudon, but none since 1998. In fact, his third place finish at NHIS last Fall put to bed a streak of three straight finishes outside of the Top 10. But overall, Gordon has thirteen Top 10s in 24 career starts at this track – and do you want to bet against a Hendrick driver at a CoT event?

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin finished fourth and sixth here last year as a rookie – and he has done well in the CoT races to date, making him a threat this Sunday.

Matt Kenseth – While seldom a threat to win, Kenseth does run well here. He has Top 10 finishes in eight of his last nine Cup starts at Loudon, and his overall career average in fourteen starts is 11th. He also won a Busch race here in 2004.

Jeff Burton – Burton has four wins here, with his most recent victory coming in 2000. That race was doomed from the start by NASCAR’s ill-fated decision to shush up drivers complaining about safety by running with restrictor plates. Starting second, Burton made winning look easy that day, leading all 300 laps to score the first flag-to-flag win in Cup since 1973. Overall, he has eleven Top 10 finishes in 24 starts here.

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson won both races at NHIS in 2003, snagging Top 10 finishes in half his ten starts. But despite many good runs, Johnson hit a bump in the road here last Fall; a 39th place finish almost derailed his title hopes before they began.

Tony Stewart – Stewart has won here twice already, and would have won a third in his rookie season had he not run out of gas back in 1999. (Fans may recall that fateful day, as it was the first time we saw the petulant side of Stewart). All in all, this is a good track for Smoke, who’s racked up nine Top 5 finishes in sixteen career NHIS starts.

Carl Edwards – Edwards finished second in this race last year to post his only finish of note in five Cup starts at NHIS. He did finish first and second here in the last two companion Busch events.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick won at Loudon last Fall and finished fifth in this race last year. Overall, he has Top 10 finishes in seven of his twelve Cup starts at the track, as well as three second place finishes in the Busch Series here.

Clint Bowyer – NHIS wasn’t kind to Bowyer his rookie season – he finished 24th and 27th here last year. However, he did lead 23 laps in this race one year ago before things went south.

Kyle Busch – Busch won this race last year and finished fourth in the 2005 edition of this event.

Martin Truex, Jr. – Truex averaged a 20th place result in his two Cup starts here last year as a rookie. That won’t get your mug on a trading card – but Truex did win a Busch Series race at NHIS in 2005.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – Junior is averaging a nineteenth place finish at Loudon in fifteen career starts. As a historical bit of trivia, he suffered his first DNF in a Cup car here back in 1999, finishing dead last after ignition problems. He also finished dead last in this race last year after blowing an engine, a finish which threatened to derail his Chase hopes at the time.

Ryan Newman – Newman scored his first ever career Cup victory here in a rain-shortened event in 2002. He won here again in 2005 and has Top 10 finishes in seven of his ten Cup starts at NHIS.

Jamie McMurray – McMurray scored three straight Top 10s in the Granite State early in his career, but has been off his game at NHIS recently. In the last four races, he’s posted three finishes outside the Top 25.

Mark Martin – Martin has never won a Cup race here, but he does have eight Top 5 and thirteen Top 10 results in 24 starts at New Hampshire.

Kurt Busch
– Busch won both Cup races here in 2004 and has finished second at NHIS twice. However, his inconsistency at this track has dragged his average finish down to sixteenth after twelve starts.

Greg Biffle – Biffle finished third in this race last year to claim his third consecutive Top 5 result at NHIS, a streak that ended with his fourteenth place finish here in the Fall.

J.J. Yeley – Yeley finished twelfth and eighth here last year as a rookie.

Bobby Labonte – Labonte finished second at this track in 2000, but has been off his game at NHIS as of late, with just one Top 10 finish in the last eight races.

Casey Mears – NHIS hasn’t been the best track for Mears, who’s averaging a 23rd place finish in eight Cup starts. He is still looking for his first Top 10 result, never finishing better than 16th in his career here.

Others To Watch

Robby Gordon
– Robby bumped by the “other” Gordon on his way to a win in the 2001 season finale at NHIS.

Ward Burton – Burton won a Cup race here in 2002 under incredibly difficult circumstances, as the track surface fell apart during the event.

Joe Nemechek
– Nemechek scored his first ever Cup victory at NHIS in 1999. Surprisingly, only twelve other drivers who competed that day are still running the Cup series full-time.

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Fantasy Picks 'N' Pans: Lenox Industrial Tools 300
Cami Starr and Mike Neff

The Nextel Cup Series heads to the Northeast this weekend to the cozy confines of New Hampshire International Speedway, the 1.058-mile flat track in Loudon, New Hampshire. The eighth Car of Tomorrow race of the season, this weekend up north is likely to send the usual CoT cast of characters near the front of the pack. But pay particular attention to those championship contenders on your fantasy team; those drivers will certainly be focusing their efforts even more keenly on this track this weekend with the Chase in mind.

So, who’s more likely to enjoy the summer breeze in New England, and who’s ready to be swept up in disaster? We have all the fantasy info you need to know in this week’s edition of Picks ‘N’ Pans.

Cami’s Race Rewind:

Kyle Busch won his third career Cup Series event and first of the 2006 season in last year’s Lenox Industrial Tools 300. After a crash with two laps to go forced the race to go eight laps over the scheduled distance, Busch had to race in overtime to secure his third career win. Those extra laps made things a bit more interesting with teams already close on fuel mileage before the yellow. Carl Edwards passed Denny Hamlin as he ran out of gas to claim second place, while Greg Biffle, Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick rounded out the Top 5. Hamlin coasted into sixth place, the best amongst the Gibbs drivers after Tony Stewart was caught up in an early wreck with polesitter Ryan Newman while leading. Stewart finished 37th and Newman, who got in a wreck during the restart after his contact with Stewart, finished 39th.

Mike’s Keys to the Race:

Loudon is another Car of Tomorrow race on the schedule, a fact that should not be overlooked by fantasy owners. There has been a very distinct chasm between the haves and have nots when it comes to the CoT races this season – leaving a few select organizations as heavy favorites. Another factor to consider is this track’s similarity to Martinsville – in fact, the facility has often been called Martinsville on steroids. Check out the Spring results from that track’s race in April to figure out a darkhorse if you need one.

As for who to watch, the Hendrick teams should be front and center on everyone’s wish list for this weekend. Even though their crew chiefs will not be present, expect both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson to be strong this weekend. The Joe Gibbs’ drivers will also most likely be a factor. Finally, you cannot discount DEI after they showed some strength early this season in CoT races; Remember that Martin Truex, Jr. dominated the race at Dover.

Mike’s Picks:

Crank ‘Em Up:


Jeff Gordon has visited Victory Lane at New Hampshire many times before, and owns the highest average finish of anyone who has run more than two races at the track. Forget about the fact that Gordon will be without his crew chief this weekend; with modern technology at his disposal, Steve LeTarte will be in constant contact with the team and have plenty of input into the final decisions that take place on the car this weekend. Also, don’t forget the fact that Hendrick has dominated the CoT races this season…clearly, he’ll be a man to beat come Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson, who also drives for Hendrick Motorsports, will be missing his crew chief this weekend as well; however, that has never been a problem for him in the past. Everyone remembers the Daytona 500 from last season – Chad Knaus was not on the pit box for that victory, nor a second one that followed during a four-race suspension with interim crew chief Darian Grubb at the helm. Johnson has an average finish of 11.7 at Loudon and has won at the track twice. So, expect the No. 48 team to come out with a vengeance this weekend after the bad publicity of Sonoma.

Sit ‘Em Down:

Bobby Labonte has been doing a very admirable job in Petty Enterprises equipment this season, but he simply hasn’t been getting it done at Loudon as of late. Labonte’s last three finishes here have been 24th, 23rd, and 40th, so this just feels like a weekend where it would be best to leave the Cheerios in the box.

I’ve never been high on Jamie McMurray; any longtime reader of this column is very aware of that fact. But this time, my criticisms have plenty of facts to back them up. McMurray’s average finish at Loudon is 22.0, and I think it is safe to say that he’s not going to be strong again this weekend. McMurray has been hit or miss in CoT races, and I think this will be a miss weekend for the No. 26 team.

Roll The Dice

J.J. Yeley has shown some signs of promise after finishing second at Lowe’s the end of May. On top of that, he is running Joe Gibbs CoT equipment, which certainly gives him a chance to run well this weekend. It is certainly a gamble, but one that’s worth taking this weekend after Yeley collected two Top 15 finishes at Loudon last year.

Cami’s Picks:

Crank ‘Em Up:


Only a run-in early in the race last year with Ryan Newman has kept Tony Stewart from possibly going four races in a row with a first or second place finish at Loudon. Barring last year’s 37th place finish, Stewart has a win in 2005 and two runner-up finishes in the last four New Hampshire races. The CoT shouldn’t affect Stewart’s performance here, either, especially since he has Top 10s in all but two CoT starts. Look for Stewart’s summer to get kicked off in high gear on Sunday.

Four-time Loudon winner Jeff Burton heads to one of his favorite tracks this weekend fresh off his third place finish last weekend at Sonoma – his best run since April’s win at Texas. While Burton’s had mixed results in the CoT races, his past successes at Loudon should give him a positive attitude heading into this week’s race. RCR as a whole has been pretty up and down this year, but after last week’s results, they are on an upswing. Look for Burton to continue that this weekend.

Sit ‘Em Down:


Casey Mears has been on a roll as of late following his win in the Coca-Cola 600, but that train could derail this weekend at Loudon. Mears and the No. 25 team haven’t had the same success in the CoT as their Hendrick counterparts have, and this is a track where Mears historically has trouble. In eight starts at NHIS, he has a best finish of 16th and an average finish of 23.3. Give Mears his moment to cool down…and then look to use him again in a couple of weeks.

Not much has gone right for Elliott Sadler this year, and I don’t look for that to suddenly change this weekend at Loudon. Sadler’s best finish with the CoT came in its first week out at Bristol, and things have gone downhill ever since. Looking at his Loudon record, there isn’t much hope that will change. He has scored a few Top 10s here and there, but his overall average finish of 20.3, combined with his lackluster performance this season, doesn’t lead me to believe he’ll squeak out another Top 10 this week.

Roll the Dice

Ryan Newman’s road back to being a contender has hit a few speed bumps in recent weeks, but he is in a good position to get back on track this Sunday at Loudon. In ten starts at the track, he has seven Top 10 finishes to go along with two victories. Prior to his 20th place finish at Sonoma, Newman had three straight Top 10s in the CoT, and he’ll be racing the car he drove to a fourth place finish at Darlington in May. Look for the No. 12 team to dial up another strong performance this week.

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Re: Lennox Industrial Tools News and Notes

Buy/Sell

Don't mess with the Car of Tomorrow (COT).

That is the message NASCAR is sending to teams this week in the form of a 100 point penalty against Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, $100,000 fines and most importantly the suspension of crew chiefs Steve Letarte (no. 24) and Chad Knaus (No. 48).

The penalties resulted from unapproved alterations to the front fenders of their cars before the Toyota / SaveMart 350k, during which both drivers were also kept from qualifying and forced to roll off the grid from the very back of the field. On a road course, that was a substantial penalty in itself.

If the infractions had occurred on the old body style, the drivers and teams would likely have not earned any penalties at all. They would simply have been told to fix the fender and come back through inspection, but the COT is supposedly inviolate—although NASCAR still has not seen fit to color the gray areas black in the rule book.

Buy
Jeff Gordon may be expensive, but he is out to prove something now that NASCAR has issued a harsh penalty for an unwritten infraction. Sending him to the back of the pack at Infineon Raceway failed to slow the No. 24 team when he stormed to the front and finished seventh, and suspending his crew chief is not going to have any lasting impact either. Last year teammate Jimmie Johnson won races at the beginning of the season and eventually won the championship after his crew chief Knaus was suspended for rules violations at Daytona International Speedway and history has a way of repeating itself.

Even with the penalty, Gordon has a 171-point lead over second-place Denny Hamlin, which is nearly one complete race. The 100 points docked from Johnson dropped him to fifth in the standings, but he is still comfortably in the top 12 by 257 markers and all that matters this year is that a driver qualifies for the Chase when the points will be completely reset after race number 25.

Hendrick Motorsports is simply too deep in talent for the suspension of two men to completely derail their efforts. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been operating without his crew chief Tony Eury Jr. for the past several weeks for a similarly harsh penalty and he's stepped up his efforts, while Matt Kenseth won the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway this spring without Robbie Reiser on the box. In the six weeks that both the No. 24 and 48 chiefs wait at home, expect their drivers to win at least three races.

Sell
Hamlin's brute force has softened somewhat in recent weeks, even though he continues to earn top-10s. After finishing in the top five at Phoenix International Raceway, Richmond International Raceway and Darlington Raceway, the No. 11 has only one such finish is his last four attempts.

Of course, all four of those races ended in top-15s, but the only track on which he could really be said to have dominated was Pocono Raceway—where he won both races in 2006—and in that race he was relegated to a sixth when rains halted the event. Before the end of the season, this amazing Young Gun is going to start to suffer through a sophomore slump, and you want to get ahead of that curve.

Watch
He had to dive into the pits on the next to last lap of the Toyota / SaveMart 350k for a splash of fuel, but right up until then Jamie McMurray looked very strong. The No. 26 qualified on the pole for that race and was determined to keep his car under him for a complete circuit after spinning out on the first lap of that same race the year previous. McMurray showed maturity and gave way to Robby Gordon on the road course, but he ran with the leaders and stayed in the gas until it ran out.

His finishing result was a disappointing 37th, but he survived the race with momentum intact because of how well he ran for 99 percent of the road race. Near the start of the season, McMurray earned six top-10s in a span of seven races from Las Vegas Motor Speedway through Talladega SuperSpeedway and after finishing eighth at Michigan International Speedway two weeks ago, he is prepared to re-mount his charge.

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Driver Handicaps: New Hampshire

This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to New Hampshire International Speedway for the LENOX Industrial Tools 300 - the eighth Car of Tomorrow event of the 2007 season. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 300-lap event.

Who's HOT at New Hampshire
* Kevin Harvick finished fifth and first, respectively, in 2006.
* Jeff Gordon is the leader in top fives (10), races led (16) and laps led (1,104).
* Jeff Burton leads all drivers with four victories.
* Jimmie Johnson has finished inside the top 15 in nine of his 10 starts.
* Denny Hamlin leads all drivers with a 5.0 average finish.
* Two-time winner Ryan Newman has the most poles (4) among all drivers.

Keep an Eye on at New Hampshire
* Carl Edwards has the best average finish among the Ford drivers with the COT at 11.1.
* Kyle Busch, who has one win with the COT, won at NHIS last July after leading 108 laps.
* Matt Kenseth has finished in the top 10 in eight of his last nine starts at New Hampshire.
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, "DEI worked really hard testing all three cars at Milwaukee."
* Kurt Busch was one of the first drivers to test the COT in 2006 at Milwaukee.

COT Performers
Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in finishing average (3.9) in the seven Car of Tomorrow races that have been contested so far. Gordon is tied with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for the most wins with two. Kyle Busch, who won the first COT race driving for Hendrick, has a finishing average of 10.9. Denny Hamlin has dominated the competition by leading an impressive 566 laps, but has yet to win a race. Hamlin ranks second in average finish at 5.6. Excluding Boris Said and P.J. Jones - Carl Edwards (Ford), Ryan Newman (Dodge) and Brian Vickers (Toyota) hold the best average finish among their manufacturers at 11.1, 17.6 and 25.7, respectively. David Gilliland has the worst average finish among all the drivers that have made every COT start at 34.4. COT Driver Averages | COT Lap Leaders

New Hampshire Rookie Report
None of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates have made a NEXTEL Cup Series start at New Hampshire International Speedway. Last week's winner Juan Pablo Montoya is the only rookie that has yet to make a NASCAR start at the track. Paul Menard has two top 10's in the Busch Series, while David Ragan, David Reutimann and AJ Allmendinger have made a combined six starts in the Truck Series. Reutimann, who made three starts, is the only one that has a top 10 to his credit. Rookie Standings

Qualifying Tidbits
Kevin Harvick is the latest pole winner at New Hampshire International Speedway. He also became the third person to win from the pole at the 1-mile track. Ryan Newman has won four of the last seven poles when qualifying has been contested at NHIS with his last coming in this event last year. Newman's 2003 lap of 133.357 mph still stands as the track record. In 2005, Brian Vickers and Tony Stewart, respectively, won both poles at New Hampshire International Speedway giving Chevrolet a season sweep and their first track pole(s) since 2001. Qualifying has been cancelled three times over the last 11 races due to weather. Newman is also the last to win a pole in a Ford, accomplishing the feat in 2002. In the 24 races at NHIS, 13 have been won from within a top-10 starting position. Jeff Burton won from the furthest stating position in the July event in 1999 when he started 38th. The following drivers are required to qualify on time: David Reutimann, Ward Burton, Scott Riggs, Paul Menard, Bill Elliott (past champion's provisional available), Dave Blaney, Jeremy Mayfield, Kevin Lepage, Chad Chaffin, Dale Jarrett, Michael Waltrip, Kenny Wallace, AJ Allmendinger and Brian Vickers.

Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

1. Jeff Gordon
(Points: 2438): Gordon is the leader among active drivers in top fives (10), races led (16) and laps led (1,104) at New Hampshire International Speedway. His last of three victories at NHIS came from the pole on August 30, 1998. Gordon's worst finish in the last eight Loudon races came in the 2005 July race when he suffered a late race problem when his brakes gave out less than 15 laps from the checkered flag. After running in the top 10 most of the day, Gordon was credited with a 25th-place finish. In 2006, Gordon finished 15th and third, respectively, and led a combined 35 laps at NHIS.

2. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -171): Hamlin leads all drivers with a 5.0 average finish at New Hampshire International Speedway. Last year in this event, Hamlin ran out of gas on the last lap while running second and ended up sixth. In the fall he led four laps en route to a fourth-place finish in his second career start at the track. Hamlin will be racing the same car (chassis No. 162) that won the pole and finished third at Martinsville.

3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -333): Kenseth holds the best average finish (10.9) among all drivers that have made more than two starts at New Hampshire International Speedway. His finishing average is bolstered by nine consecutive finishes of 14th or better. Kenseth, who has led 86 laps at NHIS, will return in the same car (chassis No. RK-451) that has posted an 8.7 average finish in three starts this season.

4. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -354): On no other track has Jeff Burton scored more victories than New Hampshire International Speedway. He has claimed four victories at the "Magic Mile", one each year beginning in 1997. His last win there was on September 17, 2000, and he started second and went on to lead all 300 laps of the race. In his third win at the track, Burton won from the furthest back of any NHIS winner after he started 38th and led for only two laps. The track is sentimental as well for one other reason, as it was the site of his NEXTEL Cup debut at this event in 1993. He has started in every race at the track since, with a total of seven top fives, 11 top 10s and has led a total of 694 laps in 10 races. Last year he led a combined 89 laps en route to a pair of seventh-place finishes. This weekend he pilots the same car (chassis No. 196) that most recently finished 12th at Dover.

5. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -366): Last September at New Hampshire International Speedway, Johnson experienced engine problems early and then got caught in a chain reaction accident making contact with Sterling Marlin on lap 80 and hitting the wall hard. The team made repairs to the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, but Johnson was credited with a 41st-place in the end, marking his first finish outside the top 15 in 10 starts. Although Johnson has yet to win a pole at NHIS, his starting average of 11.7 ranks No. 2 among all active drivers. Johnson, who swept both NHIS races in 2003, will be back behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 424) that won at Richmond in May.

6. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -380): In 16 starts at New Hampshire International Speedway, Stewart has two wins (most recently in the 2005 July event), nine top five and 10 top-10 finishes. Stewart, who has led in eight races for 764 laps, led a combined total of 388 laps in the two races he won. Last year in this event, Stewart finished 37th after a tangle with polesitter Ryan Newman early in the race. Last fall he started 32nd and finished second. This weekend he will be behind the wheel of the same chassis (No. 157) that was tested at Milwaukee last month.

7. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -419): Edwards scored his only top-10 finish at New Hampshire International Speedway in this event last year, finishing second. In his sixth track start on Sunday, he will be driving the same car (chassis No. RK–453) that finished 12th at Richmond. Edwards also won the Busch last July race after leading 58 laps. Along with a runner-up finish in the Busch Series event the year prior, Edwards also finished second to Jimmy Spencer in his first Craftsman Truck Series race at NHIS in 2003.

8. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -474): This weekend Harvick will be seeking his fourth consecutive top-10 finish at New Hampshire International Speedway. Last September, he captured his seventh top 10 with his first win in 12 starts at the track. He led 196 of his track total 264 laps in that event. After testing in Milwaukee, Harvick will pilot the same car (chassis No. 190) that has posted an average finish of 19.4 in six starts this season.

9. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -504): Bowyer posted an average finish of 25.5 in his first two NEXTEL Cup starts at New Hampshire International Speedway. He will be driving a car (chassis No. 192) in Sunday's race that has an average finish of 14.5 in five starts in 2007. Bowyer tested in Milwaukee this week in preparation for the LENOX Industrial Tools 300.

10. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -533): Busch won this event last year after leading 107 laps from the fourth starting position. It marked his second top-five finish in four starts at New Hampshire International Speedway. Busch's finishing average is hindered by two finishes of 27th and 38th in the fall race after coming together with two separate drivers in each incident. In 2005, Busch tangled with Kasey Kahne on the race track and then in 2006 he made contact with Jeff Green on the opening lap, cutting a tire that damaged his Kellogg's Chevrolet. Busch will be driving the same chassis (No. 423) that was tested at Milwaukee earlier this month.

11. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -575): Truex Jr. finished 18th and 22nd, respectively, in his NEXTEL Cup rookie season at New Hampshire International Speedway. This weekend he will look for a strong finish driving the same car (chassis No. 020) that he won the Dover race with. Truex also has one Busch Series victory in 2005 at NHIS.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -623): Last year in this event, Earnhardt Jr. posted his third DNF (finished 43rd) at New Hampshire International Speedway after losing an engine. He started 25th in that race and spent 80 laps in the top 15 before the problem struck, and the result ended a streak of three consecutive top 10s. Last September he bounced back to finish 13th. Earlier this month, Earnhardt tested at Milwaukee in preparation to Sunday's race.

13. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -719): New Hampshire International Speedway is the site of Newman's first career NEXTEL Cup victory. The win came after he won his first of four poles at the "Magic Mile" in the 2002 fall event. His second victory came again in the fall race, in 2005, after leading 66 laps from the 13th starting position. Newman has led in all but one of his 10 Loudon starts for a total of 515 laps, which is fourth among all drivers. In September 2004, Newman lost the engine in the Alltel Dodge while leading, relegating him to a 33rd-place finish, his only DNF at NHIS. This weekend, Newman will be racing the same car (chassis No. PRS-513) that finished fourth at Darlington in May.

14. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -752): McMurray hasn't had much luck at New Hampshire International Speedway with Roush Fenway Racing, finishing 33rd and 29th, respectively, in his first two starts in 2006. His previous six starts came with Chip Ganassi Racing, where he posted three top-10 finishes. In the 2005 July event, McMurray posted his second DNF after crashing out of the race early. The incident, which was brought on by Matt Kenseth, relegated McMurray to a 40th-place finish. This weekend McMurray will race the same car (chassis No. RK-463) that finished 41st at Richmond in May. The team will test the chassis in Milwaukee this week.

15. Mark Martin
(Points Behind: -776): Martin will not be racing in Sunday's race. Regan Smith will be piloting the No. 01 when he makes his first start at New Hampshire in the NEXTEL Cup Series.

16. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -794): In 2004 Busch swept both races at New Hampshire International Speedway after leading a combined 265 laps. He started fifth, led six laps, and finished second in the July event. The finish was his fifth top 10 at NHIS. In the last three races Busch has posted an average finish of 30.7, including respective finishes of 38th and 19th in his first two track starts with Penske Racing.

17. Greg Biffle
(Points Behind: -822): Biffle has four top-10 finishes and four finishes of 27th or worse, including two DNFs, in eight starts at New Hampshire International Speedway. Biffle's record at NHIS has turned around as of late with three top fives in the last four races. This weekend Biffle will drive the same car (chassis No. RK-472) that finished sixth at Dover earlier this month. Although it's not the same car that Biffle tested at Milwaukee, the team feels it's their best COT in the stable.

18. J.J. Yeley (Points Behind: -834): Yeley had a successful rookie season at New Hampshire International Speedway in 2006 posting respective finishes of 12th and eighth. He tested at Milwuakee in preparation for Sunday's race and will race the same car (chassis No. 164) that finished 21st at Phoenix.

19. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -867): Labonte has started in every race at New Hampshire International Speedway posting nine top 10s - his last (third) coming in the July event in 2005. His best finish at NHIS was a second place result on September 17, 2000, after he started on the pole for the only time at the track. Labonte has led 62 laps in eight races, with the last time in the 2001 fall event. Last year, he finished 23rd and 40th, respectively, in his first starts at NHIS with Petty Enterprises.

20. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -882): Mears will be making his first start with Hendrick Motorsports at New Hampshire International Speedway. He tested at Milwaukee last month and the team has selected chassis No. 427 for Sunday's race. This is the same car that finished 35th at Darlington in May. Mears has yet to crack the top 10 in eight career starts at NHIS - all coming with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

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A Flat Out Speedway

Fantasy owners have gotten a taste of who does and does not have a handle on the Car of Tomorrow (COT) by this point in the season. So far, the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series has rolled out the new ride seven times, two of which were on the short, flat tracks of Phoenix International Raceway and Martinsville Speedway. This gives owners a slight edge in narrowing the field at New Hampshire International Speedway, but lately, the tide has started to shift.

In the first five COT races, Martin Truex Jr. had a high of 11th and an average finish of 25th in those events. When he got to Dover International Speedway, however, he dominated the race and earned his first career win. Fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on who is doing the best at the moment. While it always helps to have someone in the lineup who has a history of success on the flat tracks, momentum can carry drivers a long way in NASCAR's senior circuit.

Favorites
Once again, the Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets lead the charge in pre-race coverage. Fantasy owners may be getting tired of seeing these drivers, but if they have been utilizing their talents, they've had a lot of success. Recently, there have been other players moving into the mix of favorites, but until someone else is as consistent as the Gibbs and Hendrick drivers, these two teams remain on top of the heap.

Denny Hamlin cannot be ignored on any track, but he's been particularly strong on the flat tracks. The sophomore driver has a five-race streak of finishes fourth or better in the COT on ovals, two of which were thirds at Phoenix and Martinsville. Owners should remember that Hamlin's only two career wins came on the larger flat track of Pocono Raceway and he had two top-10s at Loudon last year. After getting off to a slow start in 2007, he has rocketed through the standings and is overdue for his first win of the season.

Jeff Gordon showed his resolve by overcoming the pre-race penalty and driving from 41st to seventh last week at Infineon Raceway. That makes him the only driver who is a perfect seven-for-seven in terms of top-10s in the COT. He won on the flat track of Pocono earlier this month and he was superb at the smaller flat tracks of Phoenix and Martinsville this year, earning a win in Arizona and a second at the latter.

Dark Horses
Other organizations are showing that they too have figured out how to handle the COT. Penske Racing South has been coming on strong as well as Dale Earnhardt, Inc., which makes their drivers prime fantasy targets for Sunday's race.

With Ryan Newman's struggles last year, it is easy to forget that he won his second race at New Hampshire less than two years ago and that the first victory of his career came in his rookie season. Throw out last year's results and he has six top-10s in seven chances there. Moreover, his team has shown that they have the handle on the COT. The last three oval outings in the Dodge Avenger have resulted in a sixth at Richmond International Speedway, a fourth at Darlington Speedway and a second at Dover. He was 14th at Martinsville and also had a car capable of finishing in the top five before he was caught in the pits when a caution flag waved at Phoenix.

J.J. Yeley does not have the COT finishes of his Gibbs' teammates, but he has been improving lately. Last month, he grabbed a 14th at Richmond and then followed that with an 18th at Darlington. Fantasy owners will recall that as a rookie, he finished 12th in the July race at New Hampshire and then earned his first career top-10 with an eighth there in September. The first-time winners have been doing well lately and it is a prefect time for Yeley to get to victory lane.

Avoidance Principal
Casey Mears is driving his heart out lately. Ever since he scored his first win at Lowe's Motor Speedway, he has been a fixture in the top five and top 10 nearly every week. He will hit a brick wall in the form of New Hampshire this week. For his career, he has never been better than 16th there and that was in his first career attempt at Loudon in 2003. He will have the advantage of momentum and Hendrick Motorsports power this time around, but don't expect too much out of Mears.

Reed Sorenson has not gotten the hang of driving the new car. So far, he has a best of 15th and that is only one of two top-20s in the Dodge Avenger. Last year, he was securely in the top five and top 10 virtually all afternoon in the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 before the race went into overtime and he had to pit for gas. However, that was in the old car and until Sorenson shows that he can drive the COT, it is best to steer clear of him. If his practice numbers are solid, however, he may be worth revisiting.

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Toyota earns first Nextel Cup pole win
June 29th, 2007

Loudon, NH (Sports Network) - Dave Blaney won the pole for Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 to give manufacturer Toyota its first Nextel Cup pole victory. The No.22 Bill Davis Racing Toyota circled the 1.058- mile flat oval in 29.426 seconds (129.437 m.p.h.).

When told of his time, Blaney could only say "Wow!"

The pole victory was Blaney's first of the season and second of his Nextel Cup career. His other pole victory was in 2003 at Rockingham.

"We've had a tough year, we've had so many DNFs (did not finish) it's been killing us," said Blaney. "But the guys never give up, their attitudes are great, they dig in...and its paying off."

Starting alongside Blaney will be Kurt Busch who posted a second-best time of 29.484 seconds.

Reed Sorenson (29.620) and Johnny Sauter (29.640) will make up row two. Infineon Raceway winner Juan Montoya was fifth quickest.

Other drivers of note and their starting positions: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (sixth), Kevin Harvick (seventh), Jeff Gordon (eighth), Jimmie Johnson (10th), Denny Hamlin (11th), Ryan Newman (12th) Tony Stewart (14th), Kyle Busch (18th) and Matt Kenseth (31st).

Johnson swept both events at NHIS in 2003 and Kurt Busch matched that in 2004. Tony Stewart won the summer of 2005 event and just missed, finishing second, in the fall race that year.

Last year Kyle Busch won this race while Kevin Harvick finished fifth. Harvick would bring that knowledge to the fall race and win it to take the early lead in last year's "Chase."

Harvick was pretty good last Sunday, finishing second to Montoya. He lead his RCR teammates to a two-three-four finish. All three are currently qualified for the "Chase" in what is turning out to be a very good year for Richard Childress Racing.

"Kevin is our leader on the road-course thing and really has made us as competitive as we are," said Burton. "That's as much to do with our performance today as anything is Kevin pushing them (the crew) to get better fuel mileage, to build better cars."

The race is set to drop the green flag on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (et).

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Vickers goes home as car fails post-qualifying tech
SCENEDAILY.COM

LOUDON, N.H. - Brian Vickers' No. 83 Team Red Bull Toyota failed post-qualifying inspection Friday afternoon at New Hampshire International Speedway, knocking the team out of the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 field and giving the spot to BAM Racing's Chad Chaffin.

The car for Vickers was ruled to be an eighth of an inch too low on its left front, and Vickers' qualifying time was disallowed.

The team was looking at shocks and springs to see why the car was too low.

"We go through inspection [before qualifying], the car is presented and it is correct," said an exasperated Doug Richert, crew chief for Vickers. "We never raise the hood. We didn't turn the screws. But now we go back through, we get thrown out and have to send our team home.

"I really don't have a good answer why. ... Did something go wrong? Did the spring go out? We don't see anything."

Because Vickers' team is outside the top 35 in owners points, he does not make the field. If he was inside the top 35 in owners points and his time was disallowed, he would have started in the rear of the field.

Vickers had qualified 28th fastest.

"We have no mulligans - we have to either get in on time or we go home," Richert said. "Now we get an opportunity to make it, and we get thrown out because the car is too low.

"I'd much rather swallow it if I had ran the whole race, I had adjusted on the race car. ... How do I control something I didn't do?"

Richert said being too low wouldn't have been an advantage.

"The bad thing is being low doesn't mean nothing when you run bump stops [in the shocks]," Richert said. "It's not like you're gaining an advantage. They're stopping in the same spot no matter if you start an inch off the ground."

The disappointment for one team turned into joy for another as Chaffin made the field, the first time in 10 races that BAM had made a race. It was Chaffin's first weekend with the team.

"I know Doug very well and I know Red Bull wouldn't deliberately do something to get into a race," BAM crew chief Lee McCall said. "Unfortunately it was probably the settling of the springs, but they do have a height rule and sometimes you've got to take that into consideration.

"We've been through a very tough time the past few months, and for Chad to come in here today and not even sit in the seat until he got here [and then make the race] was a big accomplishment for the race team and for Chad also. It's a big momentum-builder. No matter how you get in, it's so hard to make these races nowadays, it's a great relief to know that we're racing tomorrow."

A NASCAR spokesman said there will be no further penalties for the Vickers team stemming from the car being too low.

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Driver Updates - New Hampshire
June 30, 2007
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com 

Top 5 cars after all practice and qualifying sessions:

1) Jimmie Johnson
2) Jeff Gordon
3) Clint Bowyer
4) Kevin Harvick
5) Denny Hamlin

Best long shots with legitimate chance at winning:

1) Clint Bowyer 15 to 1
2) Jeff Burton 15 to 1
3) Martin Truex Jr 20 to 1
4) Ryan Newman 20 to 1

Top cars to pick on in matchups that had good practice times:

1) Dave Blaney
2) Juan Pablo Montoya
3) David Stremme
4) Reed Sorenson

Top big name drivers worth a shot betting against

1) Tony Stewart
2) Kurt Busch
3) Kyle Busch
4) Dale Earnhardt Jr

Lower level drivers worth taking a shot on in matchups:

1) Jeff Green
2) Bobby Labonte
3) Johnny Sauter
4) J.J. Yeley

Name drivers that didn't practice great, but should do well and get plus money in matchups:

Team Roush-Fenway

1) Carl Edwards (love the Ted Williams "9's" on the car)
2) Matt Kenseth (great in every COT race that's not a road course)
3) Greg Biffle (poor practice, will be too undervalued)
4) Jamie McMurray

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Green Flag: Lenox Tools 300

It's only fitting that the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series follows Infineon Raceway with New Hampshire International Speedway. The Loudon track is an oval, but it drives more like a road course than any other circular track.

Just like Infineon, it is hard to pass at New Hampshire. There is basically only one groove, so the drivers will need to follow closely behind one another and wait for that opportunity to get around his competition. The best way to do this is, like any road course, is under braking. For that reason, Loudon has more similarities to the small flat track of Martinsville Speedway—which is also hard on brakes—than Phoenix International Raceway.

The biggest fantasy questions this week deals with the younger crowd. This is not necessarily a track for the inexperienced drivers. However, several rookies did well in last year's Lenox Industrial Tools 300. That was in the old set-up, and the Car of Tomorrow (COT) is harder to drive, so this may be a different story than in 2006. Still, some of the sophomore drivers will be worth a second look this week.

Tier One
Jeff Gordon has a question mark beside his name this week, but it is a small punctuation mark. Crew chief Steve Letarte is beginning the first of a six-week suspension, but the No. 24 Chevrolet team is too strong from top to bottom not to overcome it this week. Gordon is a solid flat track driver, has already won at Phoenix and was second at Martinsville earlier this season. He is also the only driver who has swept the top 10 in the COT.

Tony Stewart ran into some hard luck last July, tarnishing a near-perfect record when he was otherwise capable of winning the race. Well, actually Ryan Newman did that for him when he pushed the leader Stewart into the wall in his race last year and caused both of them to crash. Still, he has the 2005 victory in this race and two more runner-up finishes in the other New Hampshire races. So far this year, Stewart's worst result on a flat track was his seventh at Martinsville in March. Since last year, he has a win—at Martinsville in March 2006—and 10 top-10s in 12 tries on the flat tracks.

Denny Hamlin had a car good enough to win last year's Lenox Industrial Tools 300, but fuel mileage in the overtime laps made him settle for sixth. During his next outing at Loudon, he earned a fourth. Hamlin's New Hampshire finishes are clear examples of his prowess for the flat tracks. His two Nextel Cup Series wins were on the larger flat track of Pocono Raceway. He enters the weekend with a 10-race streak of top-10s on the low-banked speedways.

Martin Truex Jr. has quietly put up good numbers on the flat tracks. His only two top-10s have come in the last two races at Pocono, but he has seven top-20s during his flat track career. Only twice has he finished below 24th on these speedways. His teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been one of the best on the flat tracks in his career, so Truex appears to have learned well from his teacher. With Earnhardt's impending departure, it seems that Truex is getting the better equipment in the Dale Earnhardt Inc. camp, which makes him the better choice this week.

Tier Two
Matt Kenseth has been close to perfect in terms of top-10s at Loudon for nearly six years. He had trouble in July 2002 and finished 33rd, but that has been one of only two finishes outside the top-10 in the past 11 races there. For his career, that 33rd was his only result outside the top-20. He was 14th in the 2006 Lenox Industrial Tools 300, but he had worked his way into the top 10 before he experienced brake problems halfway into the race. The only dark cloud over his head this week has been him qualification and practice times, both of which have been mid-pack

Kevin Harvick was the best on the flat tracks in 2006. During those nine low-banked races, he won twice at Phoenix and owned New Hampshire in September. His worst finish in that span was his 13th at Pocono last June. The problem is that those finishes were all earned in the old car. Since hitting the flat tracks in his Chevrolet Impala, Harvick has only one top-10. Things have been looking up for him in the COT; his fuel-mileage earned him a second at Infineon, which gives him two top-fives, four top-10s and six top-20s in the seven races in the new car.

Casey Mears is the only Hendrick Motorsports driver who has not won a race at New Hampshire. While he may have the equipment, Mears has not shown the flat track prowess to get into victory lane. Dating back to March 2006, he has had only one top-10 and two top-20s on the short, flat tracks, and he has never had a top-10 at Loudon. He has been behind his Hendrick teammates in the COT, posting six consecutive finishes of 13th or lower in the new car while they have dominated.

Tier Three
J.J. Yeley has been proving his worth on the flat tracks. Out of 12 races on the low banked tracks since last year, he has seven top-20s and only three finishes worse than 23rd. He has been particularly good at Loudon. Last July, he went home 12th and then got his first career top-10 with an eighth there in September. So far in 2007, Yeley has not been as strong as his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates in the COT, but this is a track where he has the potential to hang in the top 10 with them.

Reed Sorenson had one of his best all-around runs of his rookie year in the Lenox Industrial Tools 300. On that day, he stayed with the top five for much of the race, but he had to stop for fuel just before it went into overtime. His biggest problem this year has been in the COT. In the Dodge Avenger, he has had only two top-20s. The promising aspect of that is that those top-20s both came on flat tracks.

Tier Four
Tony Raines gets to hop back into the driver's seat this week. He gave up the wheel of the No. 96 Chevrolet to Ron Fellows last week and the team walked away from Infineon with a top 20, so they are riding a little higher in the saddle. Raines is ready to go this weekend. He has only one finish lower than 22nd for his career on the short flat tracks and that was a 26th. So far this year, he has top-20s in both flat track starts in the COT, giving him four consecutive finishes of 21st or better on the smaller low-banked speedways.

The last time the Nextel Cup Series made it to a flat track David Stremme was a hot fantasy pick. Entering the Phoenix weekend in April, he was coming off his first career top-10 and had only one finish outside the top 20. In the past seven races, however, he has only one top-20 and five races of 32nd or lower. New Hampshire is a good place for him to get his momentum back. Last July, Stremme was having a rough time on the senior circuit and walked away with an 11th-place finish. When the series returned to Loudon in September, he picked up a 20th. The Achilles heel for him is the COT. The No. 40 Dodge has not been higher than 32nd in the last six COT races.

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Loudon looks good for leaders
Sporting News

Here's a look at the top five in points and five drivers to watch in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. All statistical references are for Cup races at Loudon unless otherwise indicated.

1. Jeff Gordon. Most of Gordon's NHIS success came early in his career -- three wins and eight top fives in his first 13 races. In the past 11, however, he is winless with two top fives and an average finish of 19.2. The big question mark this week is how Gordon will do with a new crew chief.

2. Denny Hamlin. Hamlin's only races came last year in his rookie season, and he did quite well, with finishes of sixth and fourth. He led only five laps, though, so he was not setting the pace.

3. Matt Kenseth.
Kenseth needs a bounce-back this week. The past two weeks he has finished 34th and 42nd. He's winless in 14 races at Loudon, but he has nine top 10s, including three of the past four races.

4. Jeff Burton. Loudon is a good track for Burton, although most of his success, including his four wins, came in his first 12 races. In the past 12, he has four top 10s, but three came in his past three races. He posted two seventh-place finishes last year.

5. Jimmie Johnson. Johnson also has a new crew chief this week. This is not new to the 48 team. Last year Darian Grubb replaced Chad Knaus and led Johnson to two wins, including the Daytona 500. Johnson has two wins and five top 10s in 10 races at Loudon. His only blemish came last September when he finished 39th. His average finish in the other nine races is 8.7.

Five to watch:


Tony Stewart, 6th. Stewart's driver rating is tops at 122.9, and it would be even better if he hadn't played footsie with Ryan Newman in last year's race. The result was a 37th-place finish that ultimately cost him a spot in the Chase. In the other three races over the past two years, he has a win and two seconds.

Kevin Harvick, 8th.
After winning the Daytona 500, Harvick cooled considerably -- except for the week his car caught on fire at Martinsville. But it appears the pendulum has swung. He finished second last week and seventh the week before. He excelled at Loudon last year with a win and a fifth-place finish. His driver rating of 105.6 is third best.

Martin Truex Jr., 11th. Before his 24th-place finish at Sonoma, Truex had finishes of 1, 3 and 2. Did Sonoma break his momentum? He has finishes of 18 and 22 at Loudon in Cup races, but he won the Busch race there in 2005.

Casey Mears, 20th. Ditto for Mears on the momentum front. He was working on back-to-back fourth-place finishes and then finished 27th at Sonoma. This will be his first start at Loudon for Hendrick Motorsports. In eight races with Ganassi, he had no top 10s and his average finish was a very noncompetitive 23.2.

Juan Pablo Montoya, 21st. I have absolutely no idea what Montoya will do this weekend, and here's proof: Two weeks ago I predicted he would finish in the top 10 at Michigan, and he finished last. Last week I said he wouldn't win at Infineon, and he did. Maybe I should play it safe and say he'll finish right in the middle.

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Hamlin gets first victory of 2007
July 1, 2007

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) -A two-tire gamble for Denny Hamlin paid off with his first NASCAR Nextel Cup victory of the season Sunday at New Hampshire International Speedway.

Hamlin, last year's top rookie, is second in the season points, but he's been frustrated this season, leading laps and contending without being able to take a checkered flag in the first 16 races.

It appeared he would fall short again this time, with Martin Truex Jr., series points leader Jeff Gordon and Truex's teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., all running ahead of Hamlin late in the race.

But the leaders made their final scheduled pit stops on lap 255 during a caution period and Hamlin was the only one of the quartet to take two fresh tires instead of four. He vaulted from fourth to first and stayed out front to the end of the Lenox Industrial Tools 300.

``It's amazing to finally get a win,'' Hamlin said after winning for the third time in his budding Cup career and the first time since last July at Pocono.

While Hamlin worked hard to stay out front, Gordon was working over Truex, trying hard to get by. The two Chevrolets spent a lot of time side-by-side and nose-to-tail until Gordon finally squeezed past seven laps from the end of the 300-lap race on the 1.058-mile oval.

Gordon, racing with an interim crew chief after NASCAR suspended both his and teammate Jimmie Johnson's crew chiefs for six weeks after their teams were caught the previous week at Sonoma with illegally modified front fenders, nearly chased down Hamlin.

The four-time series champion got right up on the rear bumper of the leader's Joe Gibbs Racing Chevy on the final turn. Hamlin held on to win by just 0.068-seconds - less than a car-length.

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RacingOne Rewind: New Hampshire
RacingOne.com

A look back at Denny Hamlin's third career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in Sunday's LENOX Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway including news, notes and observations by the RacingOne staff.

Inside Line

Denny Hamlin scored his first win in 33 NEXTEL Cup races Sunday, holding off Jeff Gordon to give Joe Gibbs Racing its first-ever Car of Tomorrow victory.

Keys to Victory Lane
Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford elected to take two tires only during their last pit stop of the day, a move that gave Hamlin the track position necessary to score his third career Cup win.

Zero to Hero
Got to be Matt Kesneth, who after starting 30th, crept back into the top 10 and scored a ninth-place finish.

Hero to Zero
After giving Toyota its first-ever NEXTEL Cup pole, Dave Blaney sunk to the back of the field and posted a 29th place finish in the Caterpillar Camry.

Rookie of the Race
David Ragan got caught up in a last lap mishap with Kurt Busch, but managed to come home 15th for Roush Fenway Racing.

Notables

Jeff Burton started the day 25th and came home seventh. Jamie McMurray was mired back in 38th when the day started and posted a top-20 finish with a 16th-place run. And after starting 31st, Bobby Labonte gave Petty Enterprises a 18th place finish on Sunday.

Pit Stops
* Denny Hamlin captured his third career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win in his 60th start. Detailed Active Driver Wins
* Hamlin won the 56th race for car owner Joe Gibbs. Detailed Active Car Owner Wins
* Hamlin became the second driver to win at NHIS from the 11th position. He also became the 48th driver overall to win a race from that position. Starting Position Facts
* Hamlin won the 14th race of the season for Chevrolet. It was also the 611th overall win for the manufacturer. All-Time Manufacturer WinsJeff Gordon (second) notched his 11th top five of the season and 10th at New Hampshire.
* Martin Truex Jr. (third) scored his fourth top five in the last four races.
* Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fourth-place finish was his seventh top-10 finish at New Hampshire during his NEXTEL Cup career.
* Jimmie Johnson (fifth) scored his first top-five finish in the last six races.
* Jeff Green's top-10 finish Sunday was his first since Phoenix in April.
* Jeff Burton (seventh) scored his eighth top-five finish at Loudon in 25 career starts.
* Sunday was Kevin Harvick’s eighth top-10 finish at New Hampshire in his 13th career start.
* After two straight finishes outside the top 30, Matt Kenseth notched his 11th top 10 of the season wih a ninth-place finish.
* Ryan Newman (10th) has only finished outside the top 10 at Loudon three times in 11 career starts.
* The 300-lap race saw 20 lead changes among 11 drivers and an average speed of 108.215 mph.
* Six caution flags were thrown for 31 laps.
* The LENOX Industrial Tools 300 lasted 2 hours, 55 minutes, 59 seconds.

Lug Nuts
* NASCAR sure showed Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. by suspending their crew chiefs didn't they?
* Good day for some of the superteams with Hendrick, RCR and DEI all getting two drivers in the top 10.
* Anyone that doesn't believe Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be driving a red number 8 with Budweiser sponsorship next year needs to come out of the summer sun.
* Just like the old days - John Andretti driving for Petty Enterprises, and finishing 42nd.
* Great day for DEI all the way around - opps, just saw Paul Menard's finish. Oh well, two out of three.

Garage Talk
* "You can't overdrive this car. "The harder I tried to drive, the slower I went." - Jeff Gordon on the COT
* "Six months ago I'd have been begging for a third, but ... I thought we had the car there toward the end." - Martin Truex, Jr.
* "There's not much you can do about stuff like that." - Carl Edwards, abouthis car falling off the jacks on a late pit stop.
* "Any owner would be foolish not to speak to him to see kind of where his intentions are, what he wanted." - Richard Childress on Kyle Busch

RacingOne Rating
On a scale of 1 to 10 New Hampshire mooses (or is the plural still moose?), we'll give Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 300 a six. Same old Hew Hampshire, pretty dull most of the day until things get spiced up a smidge at the end. Gordon and Hamlin's last lap tangle was a bit exciting, but all in all nothing that will make us count the days until we return to Loudon in September. Next its time to strap on the restrictor-plates for next Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona, where we hope Mother Nature will cooperate.

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Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud : New Hampshire Edition
Thomas Bowles

Editor’s Note : Due to a family emergency, Matt McLaughlin was unavailable for Thinkin’ Out Loud; Managing Editor and SI.com contributor Tom Bowles filled in for this edition. Matt will return next week; in the meantime, please keep the McLaughlins in your thoughts and prayers.

The Key Moment: Crew chief Mike Ford finally figured out the best way for the No. 11 pit crew to keep costing the team a race win; don’t leave the outcome in their hands. Ford gave Denny Hamlin two tires during a pit stop with 44 laps to go at New Hampshire, putting the No. 11 car out front in clean air. The sophomore sensation responded by holding off a frantic late charge by Jeff Gordon to snag his first win of ‘07.

In A Nutshell: A mixed bag. Take a racetrack already hard to pass on, make it ten times harder to pass with the Car Of Tomorrow, and you’ve got yourself a bore. Still, it’s a race that got mildly interesting at the end; intense racing among Hamlin, Gordon, and Truex ended with a close finish that left everyone on their feet.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around The Water Cooler This Week:

Alright, it’s been over 48 hours and I’m still scratching my head. How can Brian Vickers can be sent home after a post-qualifying violation one week after Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were put in the field without even turning a lap? Vickers’ violation was for the car being too low, but at least he had a time good enough to make the field on time; that’s more than Gordon or Johnson could say, as they got in on “provisionals” at Sonoma. Without a guaranteed starting spot, Vickers had no such protections, and as such he packed his bags and handed his starting spot to “44th place” Chad Chaffin. That’s ironic, as it was Chaffin who got sent home at Pocono last year when a similar violation occurred with his old team; other than that, this decision hardly seems fair when compared to the special slots given to the No. 24 and No. 48. Isn’t it time to fix a rapidly destructive provisional system? Or is it time for Red Bull to pony up and become NASCAR’s official drink of choice? Maybe then their car would actually have been allowed to start the race…

Speaking of being too low, the No. 5 and No. 70 cars failed post-race inspection this week for the exact same violation as Vickers. If they’re convicted, that means four Hendrick-supported cars were caught “cheating” in a 10-day time span. This time around, the penalties will likely be worse; if NASCAR’s willing to shell out six-race suspensions for violations on Friday, you can only imagine the carnage that could ensue from problems discovered during the actual race itself. Eight races? Ten? Stay tuned on this…

It looks like I’m going to need more than one tutoring session this week. Please, someone make me understand why someone would try to jack a car back up by using a wheel hub. When the jack fell on Carl Edwards’ pit stop, the response of the jackman was to try and lift the car up by putting it where the left rear tire would go! And with the approval and support of the pit crew coach, no less! No matter what the coach thinks, that blunder easily made the difference in Edwards falling a lap down after the stop; as Kyle Petty said best on TNT, “That’s not very efficient.”

David Ragan is having a surprising rookie year, but he’s got to stop running into everything that moves. If Kurt Busch wasn’t on probation, he’d be searching for his head on pit road after it was promptly severed in two. Believe me, that’s not a veteran you want to anger.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Carl Edwards spent most of this race tearing through the field like a bat out of…well, that place down below. But as soon as he snagged the lead after starting way back in 22nd, that dropped jack on a pit stop led to his crew falling into chaos; 47.6 seconds later, his chances for the win were all but over, although the Lucky Dog gave him a chance to salvage a respectable 13th.

Fellow Roush driver Greg Biffle appeared to have a car that was reasonably strong as well, and was on his way to trying to impress before a bad tach reading gave him three pit road speeding penalties within 100 laps of each other.

Dave Blaney won the pole, but switched his car with a Caterpillar bulldozer before the race, a move that might have cost him. In all seriousness; for whatever reason, Blaney lost the handle on his Toyota and finished 29th, one lap off the pace to kill what had been a promising weekend. All in all, it was an awful day for every Camry in the field, as David Reutimann lost a cylinder and Jeremy Mayfield’s front splitter broke in two.

Clint Bowyer had a Top 10 car until finding Ryan Newman’s air hose on pit road. At that point, he just became another car with a broken oil line. Bowyer wound up 37th.

The “Seven Come Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Hamlin was lucky to be in contention for the win after nearly spinning out after contact with Juan Pablo Montoya early on; the bump ‘n’ grind left an impression on Hamlin’s left rear bumper panel.

It was clear that having their crew chiefs “suspended” did nothing to diffuse the luck of both Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Both finished in the Top 5 with ease, and Gordon would have won if he had another five laps in the race.

Jeff Green joined Hamlin in taking two tires on his last pit stop; the move brought him up to 4th and he was able to hold on for a solid 6th place finish, matching his best effort of the season to date.

Brian Vickers’ loss was Chad Chaffin’s gain; he took a car that originally didn’t even make the starting field (or 11 other races this season) and brought him off in 36th without any major incidents.

Worth Noting

* Hamlin’s win finally gave him his first Car of Tomorrow victory in eight races; with the victory, he continues to lead all drivers in laps led during these particular events (624).

* Jeff Gordon collected his fifth straight Top 10 finish.

* Martin Truex, Jr. has finished third or better in four of the last five races, including his win at Dover.

* Dale Earnhardt, Jr. picked up his second Top 5 and fifth Top 15 in the six races with Tony Gibson as crew chief (Tony Eury, Jr. returns from his suspension next week).

* Jeff Green’s sixth place finish was his first Top 10 finish since Phoenix in April. He now has three Top 10s on the year; that’s as many as he’s had the past three full Cup seasons combined.

* Jeff Burton (7th) has two straight Top 10s for the first time since April.

* Ward Burton has now made only eight of seventeen races this season, with five of those starts resulting in DNF’s (he was 43rd Sunday).

* In eight Car Of Tomorrow events, not one team has needed to go to a backup car.

What’s The Points?

When the top two drivers in points finish 1-2 in the race, it’s a given they’ll remain on top of the standings, and that’s exactly what happened. Finishing second, Gordon’s margin on Denny Hamlin shrinks to 156, but that’s still enough for nearly a full race cushion on his closest challenger.

Behind the top two, the rest of the Top 12 drivers remained the same, although quite a few moved around. Matt Kenseth holds the third spot, with Jimmie Johnson moving up to fourth and Jeff Burton moving down to fifth. Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, and Carl Edwards remain 6th, 7th, and 8th, with Kyle Busch jumping to 9th and Martin Truex, Jr. holding serve in 10th. Clint Bowyer drops two spots to 11th, with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. holding the 12th and final Chase spot. Junior’s margin over 13th place Ryan Newman now stands at 127; Newman’s the only driver within striking distance to knock someone out with nine races until the Chase.

Overall Rating (with a one being a stinker and a six being a classic): I’m going to give this one three cans of generic local brewery stuff. The Car Of Tomorrow made New Hampshire a bore for most of the race, but another exciting finish was right in line with what this car has provided almost every time out.

Next Up: NASCAR finishes the first half of its 36-race season right where it began; at the hollowed ground of Daytona International Speedway. Although plans are for the CoT to run restricted engines at Talladega, the Pepsi 400 will be the final race of plate madness with the Car Of Soon-To-Be-Yesterday, marking the end of an 18-year-era of nail-biting excitement…with all-too-tragic results far too often. Catch the race Saturday night at 7:30 PM on TNT; the network plans “Wide Open Coverage,” making it the first time any Cup race has been shown flag-to-flag without commercial interruption.

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10 Points To Ponder ... After New Hampshire
Becca Gladden

1. Bonus Points, Part One – In the wake of last week’s penalties against the Nos. 24 and 48, drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kyle Petty said that a better punishment would have been taking away bonus points – the extra 10 points per win that drivers get once they make the Chase. But I don’t see how this penalty could possibly work because not all drivers will have bonus points, making it impossible to apply across the board. Since not every driver with bonus points will make the Chase, taking bonus points away from those drivers would be, well, pointless.

2. Bonus Points, Part Two – If you had any question about whether the new bonus points would encourage drivers to go for the win rather than settling for a good points day, consider today’s admission by race winner Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Ford:

“I don’t know that it gets more aggressive than what we did. We didn’t have the best car, and the only way we had a shot to get those 10 (bonus) points inside the Chase is to shoot for the win.”

The purpose of these bonus points was to shift the emphasis from point racing to winning, and, according to both Hamlin and Ford, it seems to be having the desired effect.

3. Phoenix Vindication? – The tracks at Loudon and Phoenix are often compared as similar flat one-milers, and Denny Hamlin was bitterly disappointed after losing at Phoenix in April to Jeff Gordon despite leading 70 laps there. Gordon won Phoenix with Hamlin finishing third, but Denny held off a hard-charging Gordon in the closing laps to take the win at Loudon. With these two drivers currently first and second in points, the competition will only get more fierce between them going forward.

4. Toyota Takes P1 – Sunday’s Loudon race will go down in history as the occasion of Toyota’s first Cup pole, achieved by Dave Blaney. Blaney led 30 laps early, but lost the handling as the race went on and finished a disappointing 29th in his Camry. Blaney was the highest Toyota finisher, followed by David Reutimann (38th) and Jeremy Mayfield (40th).

5. And Speaking Of Toyota… – What do you guys think about Brian Vickers missing the race? He qualified 28th, but his time was disallowed after he failed post-qualifying inspection by 1/8-inch beyond the 1/4-inch tolerance for minimum height in the left front. If Vickers was in the Top 35, he still could have raced despite the problem, but as one of the drivers outside the top 35, he was disqualified. Fair or not? What about the Top 35 rule in general?

6.
When Dale Junior Talks … – People listen, even at the company that he will soon leave behind. It was May 10, 2007, when Junior officially announced his pending departure from DEI. There had been 10 Cup races before that day and seven races since. In the pre-announcement phase, Earnhardt Jr.‘s average finish was 18.4 – after the announcement, 10.3. Teammate Martin Truex Jr.‘s pre-announcement average finish, 22.2 – since the announcement, 8.6. It’s obvious that Earnhardt’s criticism of DEI lit a fire under a few folks that changed the direction of the company.

7. Trackside Goes International – If you missed SpeedTV’s “Trackside” on Friday, you missed a show with a decidedly international flare. The two drivers interviewed were Juan Pablo Montoya, a native of Colombia, and Marcos Ambrose from Australia. With the Busch series racing in both Mexico and Canada this season (Montreal in August) and the latest rumor of British-born IRL star Dan Wheldon switching to NASCAR, it’s clear that the sanctioning body is forging ahead with it’s goal of world-wide expansion – and it’s working well.

8. Chevy’s Still Superior – Hard to believe that all of the top eight finishers were members of the Bowtie Brigade, with Matt Kenseth in a Ford and Ryan Newman in Dodge rounding out the Top 10. Chevy also has eight of the Top 10 drivers in overall points, with Kenseth and Carl Edwards the only non-Chevy drivers out there…both in Fords.

9. New Hampshire’s New Nickname – Based on both pre- and post-race interviews, there was one phrase that was uttered so frequently it seems like it should be this track’s new motto … or maybe it’s what all of us can look forward to at every Car of Tomorrow track: “Hard To Pass”

10. Kudos to Cousin Carl – Carl Edwards showed a good bit of moxie, recovering from a dreadful pit road incident to finish 13th. Said Edwards,

“The good news is we had an awesome car – the bad news (is) it fell off the jack when were leading the thing pitting under green. Everybody kept their composure,“ Edwards noted. “The car was still good enough. But this is a race-winner right here, not a 13th-place car.”

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