Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Betting News and Notes

Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Betting News and Notes

New Hampshire Odds & Ends
Vegasinsider.com

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Data

Race #: 19 of 36 (07-15-12)
Track Size: 1.058-miles
Race Length: 301 laps / 318.46 miles
Banking/Turns: Variable 2-7 degrees
Banking/Straights: 1 degree
Frontstretch: 1,500 feet
Backstretch: 1,500 feet

Top 12 Driver Rating at NHMS

Tony Stewart............................. 114.1
Jeff Gordon.............................. 109.0
Jimmie Johnson........................ 104.6
Denny Hamlin............................. 98.1
Dale Earnhardt Jr........................ 96.5
Clint Bowyer............................... 95.1
Ryan Newman............................. 95.1
Jeff Burton................................. 94.1
Kurt Busch.................................. 93.3
Kevin Harvick.............................. 91.7
Mark Martin................................. 88.9
Kyle Busch................................. 88.5

Qualifying/Race Data

2011 pole winner: Ryan Newman, Chevrolet (135.232 mph, 28.165 sec., 07-15-11)
2011 race winner: Ryan Newman, Chevrolet (104.100 mph, 3:03:33, 07-17-11)
Track qualifying record: Ryan Newman, Chevrolet (135.232 mph, 28.165 sec., 07-15-11)
Track race record: Jeff Burton, Ford (117.134 mph, 2:42:35, 06-13-97)

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Re: Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Betting News and Notes

Driver's Tale of the Tape at New Hampshire
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Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota)

· Two wins, two top fives, four top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 17.0
· Average Running Position of 12.9, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.1, sixth-best
· 216 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.231 mph, sixth-fastest
· 2,435 Laps in the Top 15 (68.3%), 11th-most
· 348 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 12th-most

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)

· Four wins, eight top fives, 13 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.6
· Average Running Position of 11.9, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.1, eighth-best
· 137 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 746 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.111 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,914 Laps in the Top 15 (69.9%), sixth-most
· 361 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Kurt Busch (No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Inc. Chevrolet)
· Three wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 13.9
· Average Running Position of 12.6, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 93.3, ninth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.176 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,909 Laps in the Top 15 (69.8%), seventh-most
· 449 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota)

· One win, four top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 15.9
· Driver Rating of 88.5, 12th-best
· 709 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· 2,486 Laps in the Top 15 (59.7%), 10th-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet)

· Six top fives, 10 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.7
· Average Running Position of 12.0, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.5, fifth-best
· 205 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 796 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.398 mph, third-fastest
· 3,103 Laps in the Top 15 (74.5%), fourth-most
· 474 Quality Passes, second-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)

· Three wins, 15 top fives, 19 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 10.8
· Series-best Average Running Position of 7.5
· Driver Rating of 109.0, second-best
· 367 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 124.574 mph
· Series-high 3,741 Laps in the Top 15 (89.8%)
· Series-high 503 Quality Passes

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)

· One win, five top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 9.0
· Average Running Position of 11.4, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.1, fourth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.266 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,556 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7%), ninth-most
· 420 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet)

· One win, five top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 14.1
· Average Running Position of 13.3, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 91.7, 10th-best
· 140 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 709 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.079 mph, 11th-fastest
· 2,574 Laps in the Top 15 (61.8%), eighth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

· Three wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s
· Average finish of 10.1
· Average Running Position of 10.3, third-best
· Driver Rating of 104.6, third-best
· 326 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 706 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.302 mph, fourth-fastest
· 3,365 Laps in the Top 15 (80.8%), third-most
· 464 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 39 Army ROTC Chevrolet)

· Three wins, six top fives, 13 top 10s; six poles
· Average finish of 13.0
· Average Running Position of 12.9, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 95.1, seventh-best
· 153 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 3,060 Laps in the Top 15 (73.4%), fifth-most
· 375 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet)

· Three wins, 14 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.5
· Average Running Position of 9.0, second-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 114.1
· Series-high 386 Fastest Laps Run
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.546 mph, second-fastest
· 3,437 Laps in the Top 15 (82.5%), second-most
· 473 Quality Passes, third-most

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LENOX Tools 301 Storylines
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It’s summer and it’s Stewart Time. The winner of last weekend’s Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola has the next eight races leading to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ squarely in his sights. Beginning with Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Stewart has won a combined 20 races at tracks comprising the remaining regular season schedule.

Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman – who’s fighting for a Chase "wild card" berth – won both New Hampshire races a year ago. Newman and Stewart finished one-two in the summer; Stewart picked up his second of five Chase victories in September.

Oh and Daytona’s win No. 3 gives Stewart the No. 1 seed if the Chase were to begin today.

Clint Bowyer, on top of the world just days ago as the winner in Sonoma, finds himself the "bubble boy" – 10th in the standings – headed for New England. Good news: Bowyer is the only two-time winner in Loudon over the past nine races.

The "wild card" race remains anything but tame. A three-way deadlock for the 12th Chase spot was broken in Daytona but Joey Logano can’t take an easy breath. He is, however, a former New Hampshire winner.

Jeff Burton is New Hampshire’s leading winner with four victories but none since 2000. Perhaps last weekend’s second-place finish at Daytona will put him back in Victory Lane for the first time since Charlotte in the fall of 2008.

Saturday’s New Hampshire stop signals the first round of the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ Dash 4 Cash and a $100,000 payoff for four of the series’ elite performers. Points leader Elliott Sadler, Sunoco Rookie of the Year headliner Austin Dillon, defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and rising star Michael Annett face off with the highest finisher claiming the 100K.

Can Kyle Busch extend his three-race Loudon victory streak but this time as an owner-driver? Busch has yet to take his No. 54 Toyota to Victory Lane and this week offers his best opportunity yet at a track where he’s the only multiple series winner.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors return to action in Saturday’s American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway. Three Iowa races have produced three different winners with resurgent Matt Crafton, coming off a fourth-place finish and Keystone Light Pole at Kentucky Speedway, hoping to duplicate last year’s victory.

Points leader Timothy Peters hasn’t had much success at Iowa Speedway and with a four-point lead over Justin Lofton and Ty Dillon, the Providence, N.C. native will be challenged to retain his spot at the top of the standings. Dillon won last year’s Iowa ARCA race and helped 2012 champion and older brother Austin Dillon celebrate his first NCWTS victory in 2010 at Iowa Speedway.

Daytona Success Leads Into Stewart-Haas New Hampshire Stronghold

Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 couldn’t come at a better time for Stewart-Haas Racing and drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Stewart won his fourth Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola last weekend with Newman finishing fifth – the latter’s first top five since his April 1 victory at Martinsville Speedway. The duo finished one-two (Newman first, Stewart second) in last year’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway summer race. Stewart won at Loudon in the fall, the second of five Chase victories that led to his third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Newman was the Coors Light Pole winner both times – including his most recent pole, his 49th, in the September race at New Hampshire.

Stewart’s Third Victory Adds To Historic Summer Success

Tony Stewart’s third win of the 2012 campaign matches Brad Keselowski for the most victories by a driver in the top 10. Were the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ field to be set today, Stewart would be the No. 1 seed with Keselowski second holding matching 2009-points totals. Stewart’s pair of second-place finishes would break the tie if the season were to end today.

History suggests Stewart will get another win before the Chase field is set following Richmond International Raceway’s Sept. 8 Wonderful Pistachios 400. Summer is the season in which Indiana native thrives: 24 of Stewart’s 47 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories have come between June 1 and Richmond’s early September event. Stewart has won on all eight tracks remaining before the post season begins and 20 times overall.

Keselowski, however, has also been a summer sensation with four of seven wins – including three in 2011 when he qualified for the Chase as a "wild card" – during the June-August portion of the calendar.

Bowyer Looks To Regain Chase Momentum

Things happen fast in the world of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Two weeks ago, Clint Bowyer was on top of the world having won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup road race in Sonoma, Calif., an event that moved him up to seventh in the points standings. Two finishes outside the top 15 later Bowyer is the "bubble boy" – 10th and staring back at an oncoming Carl Edwards. Edwards, who finished sixth at Daytona, is ranked 11th 31 points out of the top 10.

For Bowyer, the news has a positive side as well. He’s only a point behind ninth-place Brad Keselowski and could qualify for the Chase as a "wild card." Bowyer is returning to one of his best tracks on Sunday – New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Bowyer has won twice at NHMS, most recently in 2010 with a Driver Rating of 149.4. He is the only repeat winner at the track in the past nine races, winning the September 2007 event with a perfect Driver Rating after leading 222 laps.

Second ‘Wild Card’ To Former NHMS Winner Logano

Now it’s Joey Logano’s turn to grip the second of two Chase "wild card" qualifying slots. Logano escaped the late-race carnage that claimed Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to finish fourth in the Coke Zero 400.

Logano’s hold on the "wild card" is tenuous. He’s a point ahead of defending race winner Ryan Newman; three ahead of Coca-Cola 600 winner Kasey Kahne.

Busch continues to hold the first "wild card" spot. He’s 12th in the overall standings, two positions and 13 points ahead of Logano.

The Connecticut driver is one of eight consecutive different winners at NHMS collecting his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in the 2009 LENOX Industrial Tools 301.

Revived Burton Eyes Fifth New Hampshire Victory

That was a sigh of relief you heard from Jeff Burton following his second-place finish in the Coke Zero 400. Burton’s last top five came in February in the Daytona 500. The drought over, the Virginian heads to one of his favorite tracks. He’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s most prolific winner with four trips to Victory Lane, the most recent in 2000.

Kevin Harvick is the only current member of Richard Childress Racing to drive one of the organization’s cars to victory in New Hampshire. RCR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing rank third in wins at the track with four apiece. Hendrick Motorsports (eight) and Roush Fenway Racing (seven) rank one-two.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Etc.

Matt Kenseth’s 25-point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the largest of the 2012 season. RFR teammate Greg Biffle, third in the standings, had a 19-point advantage after April’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. … Interestingly, neither Dale Earnhardt nor Dale Earnhardt Jr. appears on the list of New Hampshire Motor Speedway winners. … Tony Stewart is nominated for two ESPYS, for "Best Championship Performance" and "Best Driver." ESPN’s broadcast is Wednesday, July 11 at 7 p.m. EDT. … The eventual NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has won a race in New Hampshire in four different seasons since the Chase began including the past two years. … Thirteen former New Hampshire winners have entered Sunday’s race. Five – Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart - can join top winner Jeff Burton with a fourth victory. … Kevin and DeLana Harvick welcomed the couple’s first child, a son Keelan Paul Harvick on July 8.

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Driver Notes & Quotes for LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire
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KEVIN HARVICK ON LOUDON: “New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) is a track that I enjoy. It’s a track where you have to have a good handling car, you have to have track position, and you have to have everything go right. If you get yourself stuck in the middle of the pack you’re not going to have a very good day, unless you have a really good car. Overall New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) is a track that I enjoy and hopefully we will run well.”

CONGRATS TO DELANA AND KEVIN, IT'S A BOY: On Sunday, July 8, the Harvick’s announced the birth of their son Keelan Paul Harvick. Affectionately referred to as ‘Baby Otis’ during the pregnancy, Keelan was born Sunday afternoon weighing in at 6.8 pounds and 19.5 inches long. He is the couple’s first child.

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 320 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301. This former No. 33 racer was transformed to a No. 29 entry during the off-season and has been used once this season at Martinsville Speedway where Harvick notched a 19th-place finish.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Burton will race chassis No. 382 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 31 Chevrolet was utilized in February at Phoenix International Raceway where engine issues thwarted Burton’s top-five run and relegated him to a 33rd-place finish. This car also raced at Richmond International Raceway where an on-track incident knocked Burton and the No. 31 team out of contention, forcing them to settle for a 31st-place finish.

BURTON LOUDON STATS: This race marks Burton’s 35th start in “The Granite State” and 638th-career Sprint Cup Series entry. He has amassed four wins, eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes at one-mile facility.

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Menard will pilot Chassis No. 349 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last utilized at Martinsville Speedway in April where Menard started 11th and finished 26th.

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Allstate team will bring Chassis #1210 back to New Hampshire. Chassis #1210 was raced at Martinsville earlier this year, where it finished 20th.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Degree team will come to New Hampshire with Chassis #1203. This chassis has two races under its belt this season: Phoenix where it finished 11thand Richmond where it came across the line 12th.

KURT BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 will be the third race of the 2012 season for Chassis No. 662. This car’s best finish was also its first race of the season when the team competed with at Phoenix International Raceway in early March. Busch qualified 19th and raced the car to a respectable 15th-place finish. The team also used this particular car at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in May, when perpetual issues with blown tires relegated the team to a 28th-place finish.

CARL EDWARDS ON LOUDON: “Loudon has been really hot and cold for us. It is a great race track for us because the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group are based up there. A win would be huge to have there. It is a flat, simple track and that makes it really hard because most people know how to get around it but you have to have the car perfect and drive perfectly. We had a chance to do the tire test up there a couple months ago and I think that helped me a little bit. It is a deceivingly tough track.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 Fastenal Blue Team will be bringing RK-801 this weekend to New Hampshire. This car previously ran at Phoenix and Richmond this year. Edwards led 206 laps with this car at Richmond.

MATT KENSETH ON LOUDON: “Loudon has been a track that we’ve struggled at for the past four or five years but our last outing we ran pretty competitively so I’m looking forward to building upon that. New Hampshire is an interesting race track because it drives like a short track even though it’s a one-mile track, and it’s challenging in the fact that there isn’t a lot of room to pass, so track position is very important there. We’ve just got to run a clean race, with a good afternoon in the pits as well, and hopefully we can have a solid run there.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-802 (last raced at Dover)

GREG BIFFLE ON LOUDON: “I’m looking forward to Loudon this weekend. I like that racetrack and I have a win there, so I’m looking forward to going back and getting a good solid top-five finish, and possibly a win to get away from these two 21st-place finishes in a row.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-778 Last ran Richmond – finished 18th; Backup: RK-759 Last ran Phoenix in ’11 as the No. 6 – finished 33rd

ARIC ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 43 team has prepared chassis No. 804 for Loudon. This car ran earlier this season at Phoenix and Richmond.

MARCOS AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 754 for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire. This DEWALT Ford was run previously this season at Martinsville and Dover.

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON LOUDON: “A lot of people assume I consider Dover my home track. But I believe Loudon is. It may be further from New Jersey, but I grew up going to the track with my dad. I watched him race there a lot. Then I started racing in the Busch North Series and we raced at New Hampshire Motor Speedway four times a year. I’ve actually logged more laps at Loudon than at Dover. I have a lot of experience at New Hampshire. I’ve won a bunch of races. I have a lot of great memories there. It’s a home track for me. It’s a place I really enjoy going to and it would mean a lot to me to be able to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event there.”

BRIAN VICKERS ON LOUDON: “Loudon’s a fun, fast, flat track. The entry is really important into each corner. A lot of guys will slide the left front into the corner and ruin the lap. If you get the entry wrong, you can’t roll the center, which is really key to getting a good exit off for the two long, high speed straights.

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON LOUDON: “It’s always a lot of fun when we go up to Loudon to race. The fans really love what we do and they show it by filling the stands. It’s one of those tracks we can go to and almost guarantee that it will be sold out. The racing that we put on at New Hampshire sometimes gets a bad rap, but I think it has produced some of the most exciting finishes over the last few years. It’s a one-mile track, but it races like a short track. There is a lot of beating and banging and bumping and running – all of the things that the fans love.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-810 during Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) in Loudon, N.H. Keselowski last raced this chassis to a 15th-place finish at Darlington Raceway in May.

AJ ALLMENDINGER STATEMENT: “I have informed NASCAR that I have requested that the “B” sample be tested, following the steps according to NASCAR’s 2012 rule book regarding this situation. I fully respect NASCAR’s drug usage policy and the reasons they have it. I am hoping this can get resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get back to driving the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge. I am sorry that this has caused such a distraction for my Penske Racing team, our sponsors and fans. Obviously I would never do anything to jeopardize my opportunity here at Penske Racing or to my fellow drivers. I am very conscious about my training andhealth and would never knowingly take a prohibited drug.”

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Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Preview
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Half of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season is in the books with 18 races remaining heading into New Hampshire this week. Matt Kenseth expanded his overall lead in the standings to 25 points last week at Daytona -- the largest lead by anyone this season, and is showing that he’s not your ordinary lame-duck driver. How long his lead will last remains to be seen, but based on his performance in the first half, 8/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $800) at the LVH Super Book looks pretty enticing.

In the LVH’s latest Sprint Cup Championship odds, Jimmie Johnson is the 3/1 favorite followed by Tony Stewart (6/1), Kenseth, Denny Hamlin (8/1), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (8/1) with Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski at 10/1.

We’ve had 12 different winners in the first half with Kesleowski and Stewart leading the way with three wins each. On a consistency platform, it’s Johnson, Kenseth and Earnhardt Jr. with 13 finishes in the top-10. The next closest is Greg Biffle with 10 top-10’ finishes.

My brain says Johnson will win it all, but my heart roots for Earnhardt Jr. and I’m not even part of his legion of fans. It’s hard not to root for a guy that has had to swallow his pride and have his ego deflect all kinds of criticism for not winning with the great Hendrick Motorsports equipment that is now finally showing some success. I’ll admit I’m caught up in the moment. But so are millions of NASCAR fans and its part of what has made this season so enjoyable. Dale Earnhardt Jr. matters once again!

In the end, reality will probably side on favor of either Biffle or Kenseth with their amazing run of consistency this season. The remainder of the schedule is littered with tracks the Roush organization has always been stellar at, including five 1.5-mile tracks during the Chase.

When we go to New Hampshire the first order of business when deciding who might be the best candidate to win is referring back to races run this season at Phoenix and Richmond. Although New Hampshire’s layout is vastly different from Phoenix and Richmond, the flat banking makes the set-ups almost identical. If a driver had success on one of the tracks, he’ll likely be good on the others.

The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch won the races at Phoenix and Richmond this year and were two of five drivers to finish in the top-10 of both races. Johnson, Keselowski and Mark Martin were the others. Only Hamlin finished in the top-5 of both events with Busch finishing sixth at Phoenix.

Incidentally, Martin will not be driving the No. 55 MWR car this week. Brian Vickers will start for the fourth time this season. In his first three starts, Vickers has finished in the top-5 twice. Not a bad success rate.

After we see who should be good based on this year’s races at Phoenix and Richmond, the next step is to look at the past New Hampshire history. Hamlin won at New Hampshire in 2007 and has a track best average finish of 9th-place. In three of his last five starts, he’s finished runner-up twice and third once.

Kyle Busch has a 2006 New Hampshire win under his belt, but his last top-5 finish came in 2009. His recent engine troubles make him a risky proposition, but yet still hard to resist.

We saw Tony Stewart win last week at Daytona to give him three wins on the year and it was at New Hampshire last season that he kicked off his Championship run with a win. That victory was his first of the season and he would eventually win four more times during the Chase. Overall, Stewart has three wins at New Hampshire and finished third at Richmond this season.

Stewart’s teammate Ryan Newman has to be considered just because he won at New Hampshire in the first of their two races last season. Overall, Newman has three wins on the one-mile track and is dialed in on the winning strategy it will take to do it again this week.

“I think this track is the key place when it comes to being aggressive and patient all at the same time," said Newman. "There is a different style of driving that you have to have there. You can’t really be overaggressive at this racetrack. It’s kind of a combination of patience and aggressiveness. You want to take what the car will give you because the track is flat.

"With banking, the faster you go, the more it pushes the car down into the racetrack. We don’t have that there, so it’s just a matter of feeling that razor-blade-edge of grip and getting everything you can and I’ve been successful at it there. It’s kind of clicked with me since the beginning. I really like the racetrack and obviously know how to drive it, which is a big part of it. It’s a good place to start up front because it’s a short race, and it’s not the easiest place to pass.”

Johnson is a three-time New Hampshire winner, the last coming in 2010. However, in his last three starts there he’s had poor finishes of 25th and 18th.

Earnhardt Jr. has never won at New Hampshire, just like his father, but did finish runner-up at Richmond this year. His 2011 runs at New Hampshire were very mediocre, but he did average a 6th-place finish there in the two 2010 races. Junior is one driver where most past history can be thrown out the window. He's more equipped now to win at Loudon than ever before, both physically (car) and mentally.

The final piece of the puzzle after going through Phoenix and Richmond results, along with past New Hampshire history, is seeing how the drivers perform in final practices. We have the advantage this week of seeing two final practices run on Saturday where everyone will be in race trim at the same time.

Congratulations are in order to Kevin and Delana Harvick who had a baby boy, Keelan Paul Harvick, on Sunday. He's the couple's first child and his daddy has a good shot of winning this week based on past history. Harvick's 2006 season is the perfect example of a driver's success at Phoenix and Richmond translating to New Hampshire where he combined to win four of the six races that season.

We didn't mention any Fords as candidates this week just because they haven't fared well at New Hampshire over the last few years. Kenseth is one of those drivers that will be front and center trying to snap a winless streak there.

"Loudon has been a track that we’ve struggled at for the past four or five years but our last outing we ran pretty competitively so I’m looking forward to building upon that," Kenseth said earlier this week. "New Hampshire is an interesting race track because it drives like a short track even though it’s a one-mile track, and it’s challenging in the fact that there isn’t a lot of room to pass, so track position is very important there. We’ve just got to run a clean race, with a good afternoon in the pits as well, and hopefully we can have a solid run there.”

The only current Roush driver to win at New Hampshire was Biffle in 2008. In years prior, Roush had four wins with Jeff Burton and two with Kurt Busch.

One positive sign for Carl Edwards is that he'll be using the same chassis that led 206 laps at Richmond this year before settling for ninth-place.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (10/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
4) #14 Tony Stewart (8/1)
5) #39 Ryan Newman (20/1)

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Re: Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Betting News and Notes

New Hampshire NASCAR Preview
By Greg Engle
Examiner.com

It’s the summer time and no one is hotter heading into Sunday’s Lenox Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway than Tony Stewart. Stewart is fresh of his third win of the season last week at Daytona and is looking to add to that win total this week.

History is on Stewart’s side in the coming weeks; 24 of his 47 career Sprint Cup wins have come between June 1 and the September race in Richmond, just eight events from Sunday. He was second in this race last year and won in the fall, the last time the series visited here.

“Loudon was awfully good for us last year,” Stewart said. “To start 1-2 and finish 1-2 in this race last year, and then to come back in the fall and have Ryan (Newman) win the pole again and for us to win the race, it really doesn’t get much better than that. When you run that well someplace, you love coming back. We had a dream weekend last July at New Hampshire and, really, a dream year. Now, we’ll just try and duplicate it.”

Stewart’s teammate Ryan Newman was the winner of the race here last summer. He is fighting for the Wild Card berth in the Chase. Newman has a win this season making him eligible for the Wild Card and coming off a fifth place finish last week at Daytona is looking to add to his win total. Five winners have started from the pole here, the most recent of those was Newman who started out front and finished there last year.

“You can’t really be overaggressive at this racetrack. It’s kind of a combination of patience and aggressiveness. You want to take what the car will give you because the track is flat,” Newman said. “It’s just a matter of feeling that razor-blade-edge of grip and getting everything you can and I’ve been successful at it there. It’s kind of clicked with me since the beginning. I really like the racetrack and obviously know how to drive it, which is a big part of it. It’s a good place to start up front because it’s a short race, and it’s not the easiest place to pass.”

Clint Bowyer is currently tenth in the standings and on the bubble to make the Chase. Coming off his surprise win on the road course at Sonoma a few weeks ago, he was seventh in the standings. Bowyer is looking to make up ground and this week the odds are with him to do just that. New Hampshire is one of Bowyer’s best tracks. He has two wins here, the most recent in 2010 and is the only repeat winner in the last nine races having led 222 laps in route to victory in 2007.

“When you go to certain race tracks as a racer, there's just certain places you take to better than others,” Bowyer said. “That's certainly been one of the places for me. We probably should have won a lot more races than just two Cup races there. I mean, we've dominated a few Truck races and some Nationwide races, but just never could get everything to fall our way. That being said, it's hard to get things to go your way 100 percent. It's one of the biggest races of the year for us.”

Party Crasher: Don’t count out Brad Keselowski. Keselowski was second here in the fall and like Stewart, has also been a summer performer with four of his seven wins – including three in 2011 when he qualified for the Chase as a Wild Card – coming during the June-August portion of the calendar.

Bottom Line: Hendrick Motorsports has won eight races at New Hampshire, more than any other organization. The deepest in the field that a New Hampshire race winner started was 38th, that being Jeff Burton in 1999. There have been five winners who started from the pole. The last race winner to win from the pole was Ryan Newman last season.

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Re: Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Betting News and Notes

Driver Handicaps: New Hampshire
By: Jeff Wackerlin
Racingone.com

Motor Racing Network brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lenox Industrial Tools 301.

Who's HOT at New Hampshire

• Tony Stewart finished second and first, respectively, last season.
• Ryan Newman, who is the defending race winner, combined to lead 181 laps in both races last season.
• Jimmie Johnson, winner of this event in 2010, leads all drivers in top 10s (8) in the 10 races with the COT chassis.
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in average finish (7.1) with the COT chassis.
• Clint Bowyer, who the 2007 and 2010 September race, leads all drivers in laps led (451) with the COT.
• Denny Hamlin leads all drivers with a 9.0 average finish.

Keep an Eye On at New Hampshire

• Kevin Harvick (10.8) is ranked fourth in average finish in the last four races at New Hampshire.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Regan Smith, Bobby Labonte and Paul Menard each participated in the Goodyear tire test at New Hampshire. Brand new tire codes will be run in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.
• Jeff Burton, who is coming off his best finish of the season at Daytona, leads all drivers with four wins at New Hampshire.
• Kurt Busch's 8.0 average finish is the best among all drivers that have competed in the last eight races at New Hampshire.
• All of Joey Logano's top 10s at New Hampshire have come in this event the last three years, including a win in 2009.
• Sam Hornish Jr., who finished 10th in his last New Hampshire start in 2010, will be back in the No. 22 Dodge this weekend.
• Juan Pablo Montoya has scored two poles and two top 10s in his last five starts at New Hampshire. He will be racing the same car that finished 11th and 12th, respectively, at Phoenix and Richmond.
• Series points leader Matt Kenseth is coming off his first top 10 (sixth) at New Hampshire in his last eight starts.
•  Brian Vickers, who will be back behind the wheel of the No. 55 this weekend, finished fifth in his last start at New Hampshire.
• Greg Biffle has finished in the top 10 three times in the last seven races at New Hampshire, including a win in 2008.
• Kasey Kahne will make his first New Hampshire start with Hendrick Motorsports in the same car that he finished fifth with at Richmond.
• Martin Truex Jr. recorded his first top 10 at New Hampshire with Michael Waltrip Racing last year in this event.
• Brad Keselowski, a three-time winner this season, is coming off his first top five at New Hampshire in second.

MotorRacingNetwork.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Denny Hamlin 
Pete Pistone: Clint Bowyer 
Ricky Hamber: Ryan Newman
John Singler: Tony Stewart

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

(All stats/notes are in regards to New Hampshire unless noted)

Matt Kenseth: Coming off first top 10 (sixth) in last eight starts; 12 top 10s and an average finish of 14.0 in 24 starts; Has yet to lead a lap in last nine starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 802) that he finished third with at Dover International Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Three top 10s and a 15.1 average finish in eight starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Last of six top fives in 25 overall starts came in the 2010 September race; Combined to lead 108 laps in his first two track starts with HMS; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 721) in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.

Greg Biffle: Coming off seventh top 10 (third) in 19 starts; Winner of the 2008 September race; Has only led two laps since leading 58 en route to the win; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 778) that he finished 18th with at Richmond International Raceway.

Jimmie Johnson: Scored third win in 20 starts in this event in 2010; Second among all drivers in average finish (10.8); Has finished ninth or better in eight of his last 10 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 715) that he finished sixth with at Richmond International Raceway.

Tony Stewart: Finished second and first, respectively, last season; 8.0 average finish and 244 laps led in six starts with Stewart Haas; Posted two wins in previous starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 710) that he led 118 laps with at Richmond International Raceway en route to a third-place finish.

Kevin Harvick: Winner of the 2006 September race; Has led 55 laps in 10 races since the win; Finished fifth in both races in 2010; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 320) that he finished 19th with at Martinsville Speedway.

Denny Hamlin: Leads all drivers with a 9.0 average finish; Coming off worst finish in 29th; Has finished third or better in three of the last five races; Will have the same crew chief that helped guide Tony Stewart to a 1.5 average finish in both races last season; Has yet to lead a lap in last four starts.

Martin Truex Jr: Eighth-place finish in this event last year was fifth top 10 in 12 starts; 16.5 average finish in four starts with Michael Waltrip Racing; Best finish (third) came in this event in 2007 with Dale Earnhardt Inc. after leading 46 laps.

Brad Keselowski: Second-place finish in last year's September race was first top five on five starts; 17.4 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 810) that he finished 15th with at Darlington Raceway.

Clint Bowyer: Two-time winner of the September race; Last win in 2010 was last of four top 10s in 12 starts; Combined to lead 399 laps en route to the two victories; Will make first track start with Michael Waltrip Racing driving a new car (chassis No. 718) in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301.

Carl Edwards: Coming off third top 10 (eighth) in 15 starts; 13.9 average finish; Best finish came in this event in 2006, in second; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 801) that he finished 10th with at Richmond International Raceway.

Kyle Busch: Won this event in 2006 with Hendrick Motorsports; 17.3 average finish in eight starts with Joe Gibbs Racing; Last of six top 10s came in the 2010 September race in ninth; 15.9 average finish in 14 overall starts.

Paul Menard: Has yet to finish inside the top 20 in 10 starts; Coming off best finish in 20th; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 349) that he finished 26th with at Martinsville Speedway.

Joey Logano: Winner of this event in 2009 (rain shortened); All three of his top 10s have come in this event the last three seasons; 16.6 average finish in seven starts.

Ryan Newman: Defending race winner after leading 119 laps from the pole; Won the pole and led 62 laps last September en route to a 25th-place finish; 12.7 average finish in six starts with Stewart Haas; Scored two wins in previous 14 starts with Penske Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 645) that he won with at Martinsville Speedway in April at New Hampshire last year.

Kasey Kahne: Finished sixth in this event last year; Finish was sixth top 10 in 16 starts; Will make first track start with Hendrick Motorsports in the same car (chassis No. 663) that he last finished fifth with at Richmond International Raceway.

Jeff Gordon: Three-time winner; Has finished sixth or better in four of last six starts; Combined to lead 97 laps last season; 10.8 average finish and 1,304 laps led in 34 starts.

Jeff Burton: Leads all drivers with four wins; Best finish in 15 starts with Richard Childress Racing came in the 2008 September race in fourth: Led 89 laps and finished 12th in this event in 2010; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 382) that he finished 33rd with after engine issues took him from a top-five run.

Marcos Ambrose: Led four laps and finished ninth in this event last year: Finish is only top 10 in six starts; 20.8 average finish; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 754) that he last finished 10th with at Dover International Speedway.

Jamie McMurray: 18.8 average finish in last four starts with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing; Last of four top 10s (third) in 18 starts came in the 2010 September race; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1210) that he finished 20th with at Martinsville Speedway.

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Re: Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Betting News and Notes

Driver Notes & Quotes for LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire
Nascar.com

KEVIN HARVICK ON LOUDON: “New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) is a track that I enjoy. It’s a track where you have to have a good handling car, you have to have track position, and you have to have everything go right. If you get yourself stuck in the middle of the pack you’re not going to have a very good day, unless you have a really good car. Overall New Hampshire (Motor Speedway) is a track that I enjoy and hopefully we will run well.”

CONGRATS TO DELANA AND KEVIN, IT'S A BOY: On Sunday, July 8, the Harvick’s announced the birth of their son Keelan Paul Harvick. Affectionately referred to as ‘Baby Otis’ during the pregnancy, Keelan was born Sunday afternoon weighing in at 6.8 pounds and 19.5 inches long. He is the couple’s first child.

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 320 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301. This former No. 33 racer was transformed to a No. 29 entry during the off-season and has been used once this season at Martinsville Speedway where Harvick notched a 19th-place finish.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Burton will race chassis No. 382 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 31 Chevrolet was utilized in February at Phoenix International Raceway where engine issues thwarted Burton’s top-five run and relegated him to a 33rd-place finish. This car also raced at Richmond International Raceway where an on-track incident knocked Burton and the No. 31 team out of contention, forcing them to settle for a 31st-place finish.

BURTON LOUDON STATS: This race marks Burton’s 35th start in “The Granite State” and 638th-career Sprint Cup Series entry. He has amassed four wins, eight top-five and 13 top-10 finishes at one-mile facility.

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Menard will pilot Chassis No. 349 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last utilized at Martinsville Speedway in April where Menard started 11th and finished 26th.

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Allstate team will bring Chassis #1210 back to New Hampshire. Chassis #1210 was raced at Martinsville earlier this year, where it finished 20th.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON LOUDON: “It’s a tricky track with the lack of banking and the tight, fast corners. I was able to sweep it there one year and, since then, we’ve been OK. It’s a tough track. I think, for a good day, it’s all about good fuel mileage and good track position.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 715 serves as the primary for Johnson at New Hampshire. Johnson drove this car to a sixth-place finish at Richmond. Chassis No. 689 serves as the backup.

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: With one start already this season, Chassis No. 39-645 is no stranger to victory lane. In its only other start in 2012, Newman drove this chassis to the winner’s circle at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Newman won despite falling one lap down early in the race after receiving a penalty for speeding on pit road. And once he got back on the lead lap, Newman took advantage of every spot in front of him. He took his first – and only – lead of the day on lap 504 of 515, when he dove under the leaders after they collided in turn one. He held off another driver on the final restart in a tough duel before pulling away on the last lap to win. The chassis made four starts last year – two at Martinsville and two at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. This chassis was also the race winner for Newman last July in Loudon, when Newman started on the pole and led 119 of 301 laps en route to his third victory at the track. In five total starts, chassis No. 39-645 has two victories, two poles (both at New Hampshire last year) and three top-10 finishes.

TONY STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car debuted in the Capital City 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in April, where it qualified 22nd and led four times for 118 laps before a late-race caution canceled Stewart’s two-and-a-half second lead and forced him to settle for a third-place finish. It was then tested June 6-7 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and again during a Goodyear Tire Test June 12-13 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon will mark Chassis No. 14-710’s second career start.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Degree team will come to New Hampshire with Chassis #1203. This chassis has two races under its belt this season: Phoenix where it finished 11thand Richmond where it came across the line 12th.

KURT BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 will be the third race of the 2012 season for Chassis No. 662. This car’s best finish was also its first race of the season when the team competed with at Phoenix International Raceway in early March. Busch qualified 19th and raced the car to a respectable 15th-place finish. The team also used this particular car at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in May, when perpetual issues with blown tires relegated the team to a 28th-place finish.

CARL EDWARDS ON LOUDON: “Loudon has been really hot and cold for us. It is a great race track for us because the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group are based up there. A win would be huge to have there. It is a flat, simple track and that makes it really hard because most people know how to get around it but you have to have the car perfect and drive perfectly. We had a chance to do the tire test up there a couple months ago and I think that helped me a little bit. It is a deceivingly tough track.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 Fastenal Blue Team will be bringing RK-801 this weekend to New Hampshire. This car previously ran at Phoenix and Richmond this year. Edwards led 206 laps with this car at Richmond.

MATT KENSETH ON LOUDON: “Loudon has been a track that we’ve struggled at for the past four or five years but our last outing we ran pretty competitively so I’m looking forward to building upon that. New Hampshire is an interesting race track because it drives like a short track even though it’s a one-mile track, and it’s challenging in the fact that there isn’t a lot of room to pass, so track position is very important there. We’ve just got to run a clean race, with a good afternoon in the pits as well, and hopefully we can have a solid run there.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-802 (last raced at Dover)

GREG BIFFLE ON LOUDON: “I’m looking forward to Loudon this weekend. I like that racetrack and I have a win there, so I’m looking forward to going back and getting a good solid top-five finish, and possibly a win to get away from these two 21st-place finishes in a row.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-778 Last ran Richmond – finished 18th; Backup: RK-759 Last ran Phoenix in ’11 as the No. 6 – finished 33rd

ARIC ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 43 team has prepared chassis No. 804 for Loudon. This car ran earlier this season at Phoenix and Richmond.

MARCOS AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 754 for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire. This DEWALT Ford was run previously this season at Martinsville and Dover.

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON LOUDON: “A lot of people assume I consider Dover my home track. But I believe Loudon is. It may be further from New Jersey, but I grew up going to the track with my dad. I watched him race there a lot. Then I started racing in the Busch North Series and we raced at New Hampshire Motor Speedway four times a year. I’ve actually logged more laps at Loudon than at Dover. I have a lot of experience at New Hampshire. I’ve won a bunch of races. I have a lot of great memories there. It’s a home track for me. It’s a place I really enjoy going to and it would mean a lot to me to be able to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event there.”

BRIAN VICKERS ON LOUDON: “Loudon’s a fun, fast, flat track. The entry is really important into each corner. A lot of guys will slide the left front into the corner and ruin the lap. If you get the entry wrong, you can’t roll the center, which is really key to getting a good exit off for the two long, high speed straights.

CLINT BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary Chassis No. 718 has not raced in 2012. It served as backup at Phoenix, Martinsville and Dover and tested at Nashville and Bristol. Backup chassis No. 712 raced at Phoenix where it started 16th and finished 30th. It also raced at Richmond where it started 23rd and finished seventh.

BRAD KESELOWSKI ON LOUDON: “It’s always a lot of fun when we go up to Loudon to race. The fans really love what we do and they show it by filling the stands. It’s one of those tracks we can go to and almost guarantee that it will be sold out. The racing that we put on at New Hampshire sometimes gets a bad rap, but I think it has produced some of the most exciting finishes over the last few years. It’s a one-mile track, but it races like a short track. There is a lot of beating and banging and bumping and running – all of the things that the fans love.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will race chassis PRS-810 during Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) in Loudon, N.H. Keselowski last raced this chassis to a 15th-place finish at Darlington Raceway in May.

AJ ALLMENDINGER STATEMENT: “I have informed NASCAR that I have requested that the “B” sample be tested, following the steps according to NASCAR’s 2012 rule book regarding this situation. I fully respect NASCAR’s drug usage policy and the reasons they have it. I am hoping this can get resolved as quickly as possible so that I can get back to driving the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge. I am sorry that this has caused such a distraction for my Penske Racing team, our sponsors and fans. Obviously I would never do anything to jeopardize my opportunity here at Penske Racing or to my fellow drivers. I am very conscious about my training andhealth and would never knowingly take a prohibited drug.”

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Re: Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Practice Notes & Driver Ratings     
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com

Practice Notes - New Hampshire

Rating     Driver     Odds     Practice 1     Qualified     Practice 2     Practice 3
1     Denny Hamlin     6/1     9th     3rd     1st     1st
Notes: 2007 winner; thoroughly dominated Saturday practices with the fastest average speeds.

2     Kyle Busch     12/1     1st     1st     7th     2nd
Notes: 2006 winner; his strong practices usually translate well to race day, more than most.

3     Brad Keselowski     12/1     19th     22nd     12th     3rd
Notes: Runner-up last fall; second fastest 10-consecutive lap average in final practice.

4     Clint Bowyer     15/1     13th     5th     5th     4th
Notes: Two-time winner, owns another at Richmond; does very well on shorter flat banked tracks.

5     Jimmie Johnson     5/1     14th     7th     8th     5th
Notes: Three-time winner, the last coming in 2010; using sixth-place Richmond chassis.

6     Kasey Kahne     12/1     4th     2nd     6th     8th
Notes: Career best of fourth-place came as a rookie in 2004; using fifth-place Richmond chassis.

7     Martin Truex Jr.     15/1     6th     4th     3rd     7th
Notes: Grew up racing on this track; best finish of third-place; consistent practice throughout weekend

8     Tony Stewart     5/1     10th     10th     20th     19th
Notes: Three-time winner, including last fall; using third-place Richmond chassis that led 118 laps.

9     Jeff Gordon     8/1     11th     8th     2nd     12th
Notes: Three-time winner, the last in 1998; fourth-best 10 consecutive lap average in practice 2.

10     Ryan Newman     15/1     16th     6th     14th     15th
Notes: Three-time winner; using chassis that won here last spring and also at Martinsville in April.

Note: Phoenix and Richmond can be used as a great barometer to determine who might do well at New Hampshire because of the similar distances and banking. Hamlin won at Phoenix in March and Busch won at Richmond in April.

Betting Notes: If we were to put this race in terms of a football point-spread, Denny Hamlin would be a double-digit favorite in Sunday's event. That's how good Hamlin looked in Saturday's practices. He didn't just have the fastest individual lap in both of Saturday's sessions, he led the field in average speeds and best 10-consecutive lap average. That's the top-3 speed categories to look for in any practice session and Hamlin swept the board in all of them, twice!

Unfortunately, NASCAR isn't like football. Instead on one team to beat, Hamlin has 42 other drivers to tackle. And in Sunday's race, he'll have about nine other drivers to contend with, one of which is his own teammate Kyle Busch. The thing that is scary about Busch is that when he's good in practice, it usually always translates well to race day.

Not only do we have Busch doing well in practice, but we also have him with a great history on the flat tracks of Phoenix and Richmond, including winning at Richmond in April -- his only win of the year. He was just a notch below Hamlin in all the categories, but if Hamlin should falter in the pits, find some issues on pit road, or have another Gibbs' engine problem, Busch will be right there to scoop up the win.

The Gibbs duo is on another plateau than everyone else for this race, but others have to be considered beginning with Tony Stewart.

Stewart's car didn't show anything special in practice, but that seems to be the norm with him everywhere. His practice speeds look similar to what posted last fall before getting the New Hampshire win to kick off the Chase. He's also using the chassis that led 118 laps at Richmond and settled for third-place.

I really liked what I saw out of Brad Keselowski in the final practice where he held his own against Hamlin in the 10-consecutive lap category. Just like Busch, when Keselowski is good practice, he's good in the race. It has the look of a race he could steal.

Kasey Kahne was strongest among the Hendrick cars in all the practice speed categories, but Jimmie Johnson still has to be rated higher just because of his consistency. It was in March at Phoenix that Kahne had me starry eyed only to watch his day end within the first few laps. He's got a car good enough to win, but buyer beware.

I love all the Michael Waltrip cars as well, but think they may be rated a little too high in the odds offered which decreases their value, especially considering the two beasts they'll have to hunt down.

The top value plays of the race in matchups may be Matt Kenseth, Sam Hornish, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt Jr. might also be a driver to pick on in matchups if the price is right.

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