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Sylvania 300 Betting News and Notes

Sylvania 300 Betting News and Notes

New Hampshire Odds & Ends: 2012 Sylvania 300

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Data

Chase Race #: 2 of 10
Season Race #: 28 of 36 (09-23-12)
Track Size: 1.058-mile
Variable Banking/Turns: 2 & 7 degrees
Banking/Straights: 1 degree
Frontstretch Length: 1,500 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,500 feet
Race Length: 300 laps / 317.4 miles

Top 12 Driver Rating at NHMS

Stewart won last season and has the top driver rating at New Hampshire

Tony Stewart 112.0
Jeff Gordon 109.3
Jimmie Johnson 105.1
Denny Hamlin 101.4
Dale Earnhardt Jr 97.8
Clint Bowyer 96.0
Ryan Newman 94.8
Kevin Harvick 92.4
Jeff Burton 92.4
Kurt Busch 91.7
Kasey Kahne 90.3
Kyle Busch 89.3

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2012 races (15 total) at New Hampshire.

Qualifying/Race Data

2011 pole winner: Ryan Newman, Chevrolet (135.002 mph, 28.213 sec., 09-23-11)
2011 race winner: Tony Stewart, Chevrolet (116.679 mph, 2:43:13, 09-25-11)
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, 07-13-97)

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Driver's Tale of the Tape at New Hampshire

1 - Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 97.3

2012 Rundown
· Four wins, 11 top fives, 16 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.1
· Led 15 races for 485 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Two top fives, three top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.3 in six races
· Average Running Position of 17.9, 20th-best
· Driver Rating of 78.8, 19th-best

2 - Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.3

2012 Rundown
· Three wins, 13 top fives, 18 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 11.0
· Led 18 races for 1,205 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Three wins, seven top fives, 14 top 10s
· Average finish of 9.9 in 21 races
· Average Running Position of 10.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 105.1, third-best
· 357 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 760 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.406 mph, fourth-fastest
· 3,646 Laps in the Top 15 (81.6%), second-most
· 496 Quality Passes, second-most

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

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 88.4

2012 Rundown
· Three wins, 10 top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.1
· Led 12 races for 381 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Three wins, 14 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.6 in 27 races
· Average Running Position of 9.5, second-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 112.0
· 386 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.563 mph, second-fastest

4 - Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 101.4

2012 Rundown
· Four wins, 11 top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 12.7
· Led 19 races for 900 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, six top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 8.5 in 13 races
· Average Running Position of 10.7, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.4, fourth-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 124.394 mph, fifth-fastest

5 - Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 94.0

2012 Rundown
· Two wins, eight top fives, 14 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 13.9
· Led 7 races for 252 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, two top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 16.8 in 17 races
· Average Running Position of 15.4, 17th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.3, 11th-best

6 - Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.8

2012 Rundown
· Two wins, six top fives, 16 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.5
· Led 8 races for 191 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Two wins, three top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.9 in 13 races
· Average Running Position of 12.5, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 96.0, sixth-best

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

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 99.2

2012 Rundown
· One win, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 9.9
· Led 12 races for 340 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Seven top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 16.2 in 26 races
· Average Running Position of 11.6, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.8, fifth-best
· 218 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 826 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most

8 - Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M / GE Appliances Ford)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 101.9

2012 Rundown
· Two wins, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 9.8
· Led 14 races for 634 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, five top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 16.3 in 20 races
· Average Running Position of 14.5, 13th-best
· Driver Rating of 87.9, 14th-best

9 - Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 97.8

2012 Rundown
· Six top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.2
· Led 11 races for 423 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Three top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 14.8 in 13 races
· Average Running Position of 14.5, 14th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.2, 16th-best

10 - Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.6

2012 Rundown
· Four top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.0
· Led 7 races for 229 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· One win, five top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 13.8 in 23 races
· Average Running Position of 12.9, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.4, eighth-best

11 - Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Zest Ford)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 101.7

2012 Rundown
· One win, 10 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 10.6
· Led 17 races for 364 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Five top fives, 12 top 10s
· Average finish of 14.0 in 25 races
· Average Running Position of 17.6, 19th-best
· Driver Rating of 78.0, 20th-best
· Series-high 919 Green Flag Passes

12 - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)

· Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 95.6

2012 Rundown
· One win, seven top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 15.6
· Led 16 races for 443 laps

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook:
· Three wins, 15 top fives, 20 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 10.7 in 35 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 7.4
· Driver Rating of 109.3, second-best
· Series-high 395 Fastest Laps Run
· 753 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 124.653 mph
· Series-high 4,033 Laps in the Top 15 (90.3%)
· Series-high 539 Quality Passes

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New Hampshire Storylines

Call Brad Keselowski’s victory in the first round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ unexpected. But don’t call it surprising. How the No. 4 seed scored his first Chase victory – and grabbed his initial NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings lead – was the bigger story.

He faced down five-time champion Jimmie Johnson when it counted, passing the Coors Light Pole winner and leader of the most laps of the GEICO 400 in a final, green-flag, pit-stop exchange.

Keselowski’s lead is three points over Johnson while 15 is the difference between first and sixth place as the Chase moves to Sunday’s SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

New Hampshire figures to be another slugfest: Chase qualifiers, led by resurgent Kasey Kahne, took the first nine and 12 of the 13 spots in July’s Loudon race. Kahne, the No. 1 Wild Card qualifier for this year’s chase, advanced six spots from his seeding of 11th with a third-place finish in Chicago.

Four of the last five New Hampshire races have been won by drivers in this year’s Chase: Kahne, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Johnson.

This week’s non-Chase "spoiler" alert: Ryan Newman, last year’s July Loudon winner, who swept both Coors Light Poles and seeks his 50th pole. Newman finished 10th earlier this summer.

The points leader changed in all three national series on the same weekend for the first time in 2012. Keselowski replaced Denny Hamlin in NASCAR Sprint Cup; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. passed Elliott Sadler in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ty Dillon ousted Timothy Peters in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

While the Chase continues in New Hampshire, Nationwide and truck teams share a doubleheader weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Each series saw action at the 1.5-mile track in mid-summer with Austin Dillon scoring his first Nationwide victory and James Buescher annexing one of three truck wins to date.

Stenhouse carries a nine-point lead over Sadler into the Saturday afternoon’s Kentucky 300, but that’s not the only hot battle in the Bluegrass State.

The Nationwide Series owners championship remains very much in play with Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota holding a four-point advantage over Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ second trip of the season to Iowa Speedway saw Ryan Blaney become the division’s youngest race winner (18 years eight months) and hand Brad Keselowski Racing its first victory. Dillon finished second to surge past Peters, who was involved in an early accident and finished 19th. Dillon’s lead is eight points over Peters, 11 over Buescher.

Both Blaney and Dillon, age 20 and hopeful of becoming the NCWTS’ youngest and first rookie champion, will go head-to-head again in Friday night’s Kentucky 201.

Keselowski’s First Time Atop Standings Really No Surprise

Brad Keselowski is the points leader following the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. That’s hardly a surprise considering Keselowski came into the Chase with three regular season victories and scored the most points over the previous 10 races. It’s the first time in the 28-year-old Penske Racing driver’s career that Keselowski has headed the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. His previous best ranking was third twice, the last following 2011’s Chase race at Talladega Superspeedway. Keselowski admits it’s just round one of 10 in what’s certain to be a bruising heavyweight battle. The winner of the Chase’s first race has gone on to become champion just twice – Kurt Busch in 2004 and Tony Stewart a year ago.

Chicagoland Chase Opener Shakes Up The Seedings

Seedings are just a starting point, although the top four entering the Chase remain there – just not in the same order. No. 1 seed Denny Hamlin dropped to fourth, 15 points behind Keselowski, when his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota ran short of fuel on the final lap of Chicagoland’s GEICO 400. Second-place finisher Jimmie Johnson retained the No. 2 spot three points out of the lead while No. 3 seed Tony Stewart is third, eight points back.

Wild Card qualifier Kasey Kahne made the biggest gain – six positions from 11th to fifth, tied with Hamlin and Clint Bowyer 15 points behind Keselowski. Where there are gainers there also are losers. Greg Biffle dropped three spots to eighth; Matt Kenseth three positions to 11th and Kevin Harvick a single position to 10th. Wild Card qualifier Jeff Gordon lost the most in terms of points. A mid-race accident dropped the four-time champion 47 points out of the lead in 12th.

Junior Continues To Focus On Victories As Well As Consistency

Considering he started shotgun on the field – the result of a post-qualifying engine change – Dale Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with an eighth-place finish in the Chase opener. But Junior doesn’t see that performance as being good enough to contend for the championship through the coming nine races. Wins were big in the regular season and, according to Earnhardt, will be what it takes to prevail in 2012. Consistency still is a key component of any title run. Earnhardt is one of two Chase qualifiers with no DNFs (Greg Biffle is the other). He and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson share the most top 10s (18).

Chase Qualifiers Ran The Table At New Hampshire In July

July’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a perfect gauge of driver strength entering the Chase’s second round. Chase qualifiers, led by Kasey Kahne, finished in the top nine positions. July’s top five was Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski. This year’s Chase drivers have won four of the last five races in Loudon (Kahne, Stewart, Bowyer and Johnson) with Ryan Newman the sole outlier (July 2010). Newman could be this week’s non-Chase "spoiler." He swept last year’s Coors Light Poles at the 1.058-mile track and continues to seek his 50th NASCAR Sprint Cup pole.

Eight Chase drivers have New Hampshire victories led by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with three wins apiece. The other winners are Clint Bowyer (two), Kahne, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup New Hampshire preview from Las Vegas
By: Micah Roberts

Coming into New Hampshire this week, we have four races of data from comparable tracks to sort through to help narrow the list of top candidates who should do well in in the second race of the Chase.

The Richmond race two weeks ago, won by Clint Bowyer, offers some of the most relevant information, since it’s the most-recent race on a similar track. We also have the first New Hampshire race of the season, won by Kasey Kahne in July. Then there’s the year's first Richmond race, run in April and won by Kyle Busch, and the Phoenix race in March won by Denny Hamlin.

When looking at those four races, along with the three tracks over his career, no one stands out more than Hamlin, which is why he is the 5-1 co-favorite this week. He‘s finished fourth or better in three of the four races on comparable tracks this season. Over his career, he has a track-best 8.5 average finish at New Hampshire, a 10.9 average at Phoenix and an 8.1 average at Richmond; and four of his 21 career victories have come at the three tracks.

In addition to there being tracks he performs well on, like New Hampshire and Phoenix, on the remaining Chase schedule, there are also four 1.5-mile tracks – the type of tracks he’s won at twice already this season. And then we have his favorite track in his home state of Virginia – Martinsville, where he’s won four times during his career. He’ll be among the favorites in seven of the remaining nine Chase races and therefore has an edge to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship this season.

His 16th-place finish last week at Chicago set him back a little on his quest for the title, but he should be able to make up the ground. Knowing his car was good enough for a quality finish last week, and the fact that the poor finish was due to running out of fuel on the last lap, is a good thing.

Hamlin is currently 9-2 to win the Championship, behind Jimmie Johnson (2-1) and Brad Keselowski (4-1). Prior to Keselowski’s win at Chicago last week, he was 8-1 to win the title.

The expected top performers this week, outside of Hamlin, are Kahne, Keselowski, Johnson and Bowyer.

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Sylvania 300 Preview
By Micah Roberts

Brad Keselowski took his first step to winning a Championship by winning at Chicago last week -- his fourth win of the season -- and the LVH Super Book took the win very seriously chopping his odds to win the title in half, from 8/1, down to 4/1.

Jimmie Johnson, who finished second at Chicago, remains the favorite to win it all and was dropped from 5/2 down to 2/1. The five-time Champion has now finished runner-up three times during his seven races on 1.5-mile tracks, but still doesn’t have a win any on them yet. He’ll have four more shots on them in the next nine races.

The thing you have to like about Johnson is that he went out on a limb a few weeks ago by saying his goal was to win eight championships, the mark that would pass Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, both of whom are tied for the all-time NASCAR Championship lead at seven wins. It was very un-Johnson-like to make such a claim, but I kind of dug it. We usually have this vanilla impression of Johnson being the corporate-type, but when you think about, he's really got no more goals to achieve in NASCAR except setting all-time marks.

The next task for the drivers is to take on New Hampshire and there are a few of the Chase drivers that will have a bit of an edge over the others. We can use past races held at Phoenix and Richmond as a good reference to find out who might do well this week, along with using the first New Hampshire race held on July 15.

All three tracks have different layouts, and aren’t even the same size, but they are all one-mile or less and are relatively flat. Drivers that do well on one usually do well on the other because crew chiefs use the same set-ups for each, and sometimes use the exact same chassis at all three.

Two weeks ago we saw Clint Bowyer win at Richmond and it’s no coincidence that he is a two-time winner at New Hampshire. In the first race held there in July, Bowyer finished third behind eventual winner Kasey Kahne and runner-up Denny Hamlin. This week, Bowyer will be using the exact same chassis that he won with at Richmond.

Hamlin, surprisingly, didn’t fare well at Richmond two weeks ago, but he was one of the best on these types of tracks all season. He won at Phoenix in March and was fourth in the first Richmond race held in April. He hasn’t won at New Hampshire since 2007, but has finished runner-up on three separate occasions and has a track best 8.5 average finish in 13 starts.

Hamlin has an uphill battle to climb after finishing 16th last week, running out of fuel on the last lap. But because of having several tracks of the nine remaining in the Chase, Hamlin should be able to make up the deficit quite easily. He's currently 9/2 to win the Chase and still the best value on the board.

Keselowski has finished fifth and runner-up in his last two New Hampshire starts and becomes even more of a candidate to win this week based on what he’s done on similar tracks, which includes a fifth-place finish at Phoenix. His team gave him a brand new chassis last week at Chicago and it was awesome. This week, he gets another new car that has never seen track time, and similar results wouldn't be a shock. We saw Tony Stewart win two in a row to start the Chase last season, so why not Keselowski?

As for Stewart, we can't forget about him. His win last fall at New Hampshire was his third in 27 starts to go along with 11 other top-5 finishes. He finished fourth two weeks ago at Richmond and third in the spring Richmond race, which should have him well prepared for Loudon's flat track this week.

Last year, The Stewart-Haas team swept New Hampshire with Ryan Newman winning in the spring. It was Newman's third career win at Loudon, and while he hasn't fared as well on these types of tracks this season, it should be noted that he will be using the exact same car from last year’s win. The car also won at Martinsville in 2010.

Newman isn't in the Chase, but can't be discounted because of it. The same goes for Kyle Busch who has to be considered a candidate because of winning at Richmond in the spring.

Jimmie Johnson is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, but hasn’t been his normal dominant self on these types of tracks this season. His only top-5 finish in the four races was at Phoenix in March. But with him being on a mission for another Championship, a top-3 finish would seem appropriate.

Jeff Gordon has won at New Hampshire three times over his career, but none since 1998. He’s finished runner-up multiple times since then and has finished 15th or better in his last 14 starts. The biggest reason to maybe support Gordon this week is that he was super strong at Richmond two weeks ago in the race he fought so hard to get runner-up and make the Chase.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (7/1)
2) #15 Clint Bowyer (14/1)
3) #2 Brad Keselowski (12/1)
4) #14 Tony Stewart (8/1)
5) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)

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Sylvania 300 Betting Preview
By Greg Engle

It’s time for round two of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. This week’s stop at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, also known as the Magic Mile, for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 could help further shake up the top runners, or help separate the contenders from the rest of the field.

Brad Keselowski scored a decisive win over favorite Jimmie Johnson in round one last week at Chicagoland. The win vaulted BK to the top of the points for the first time in his career and put the others on notice.

This is the first track in the Chase that was visited by the series once already this season; in that July race Keselowski finished fifth. He was second in this race last season, so a win by him isn’t out of the question.

“The points lead is nice. It means we won the first race in a 10-race playoff format,” Keselowski said. “But that’s really about all. I refuse to let it sink in because there is so much work left to be done. We need to keep our eyes looking forward. I’m going to focus on the next nine races. It would be a disservice to Sunday’s win if we allow our focus to get away from tomorrow’s workload.”

Jimmie Johnson left Chicagoland a little stung. After leading the most laps he was beaten by Keselowski in the closing laps. Johnson heads to New Hampshire, where he has three career wins, looking for redemption. His last win came here in 2010. Since then he has struggled somewhat though; he finished 18 here last season and was seventh in July.

“It’s tough because the balance when you have clean air and the whole race track to yourself you need a race car to drive a certain way,” Johnson said. “When you get in traffic you need the car to turn a lot stronger to run a tighter radius and inside of someone. It’s tough to blend those two worlds. That is the thing we fight so much is we work in practice running by ourselves. You get in the race you are rarely by yourself then trying to find a way to make your car work in traffic.”

Tony Stewart is coming off a sixth place finish last week a Chicagoland. While that may be a good finish during the regular season, now that the Chase is here, Stewart will need more. While he was 12th here in July, he is the defending winner of this race and has two second place finishes to go with that third career victory in his last five starts here. He leads the series driver ratings and is always tough here; Stewart will slip into the role of favorite this week.

Denny Hamlin won here in 2007 and was second in July. After running out of fuel last week and coasting to a 16th place finish last week and an 18th the week prior, Hamlin will need to step up his game this week in order to stop his downward fall in the standings.

Kasey Kahne won this race in July but finished outside the top 10 in three of the last five races. In his second race here in Hendrick Motorsports equipment, Kahne could be the driver to beat this week. Season sweeps aren’t unheard of here, but the last time that happened was in 2004, when Kurt Busch won both events.

“It feels really good to go back to New Hampshire during the Chase,” Kahne said. “The win in July was a big turning point for the team and should give everyone some more confidence this weekend. I think we found a good setup for the car last time, so we should have a good place to start from when we unload.”

Clint Bowyer has two wins here and finished third in July. Like Kahne he’s in new equipment and could be near the front Sunday.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has never won here but was fourth in July. He may not be among the favorites to win but should be among the top 10 or even top 5 finishers Sunday.

Greg Biffle won here in 2008 was third in this race last season and ninth in July. He’s struggled in the last few weeks finishing 13 last week at Chicagoland. Since his win here in 2008, Biffle has also struggled at New Hampshire finishing outside the top ten in four of the last seven races.

Martin Truex Jr. finished a career best third here in 2007. In the last five races though, he has finished outside the top ten in four.

Kevin Harvick was eighth in July and has two top five’s in the last five races. He was 12th and 21st in the two previous races and has finished outside the top ten in the last two weeks. Like Truex, Harvick would be a surprise winner Sunday.

Matt Kenseth has never won here and has finished outside the top 15 in three of the last five races. He was sixth in this race last year and 13th in July. Don’t look in victory lane to find Kenseth Sunday afternoon.

Jeff Gordon is tied with Johnson and Stewart in the Chase field for most wins here, three. He was sixth here in July and fourth last season. Gordon looked strong last week at Chicagoland before crashing out; he could easily find redemption with a win this week and shake up the point standings. If Gordon and his team are on their game, the rest of the field better be as well.


If a non-Chaser wins this week, that winner could very well be Ryan Newman. Newman holds the qualifying record here and won the pole for this race last year. In July he finished 10th and was the only driver among the top 10 who did not qualify for the Chase. He has three wins here the last coming in the first race here in 2011. With the way he runs here, Newman could spoil the Chase party on Sunday.

Bottom line:

Hendrick Motorsports has won nine races here, more than any other organization. The deepest in the field that a New Hampshire race winner started was 38th, by 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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NASCAR: Practice made perfect
By: Micah Roberts

Denny Hamlin completed the rare triple sweep during practices this weekend at New Hampshire by being the fastest in all three sessions. Hamlin's fast lap at 132.053 mph in the last half of the final 60-minute session was good enough to pass teammate Joey Logano for the top slot.

There is no cash reward or trophy for being fastest during the sessions, just the peace of mind knowing that none of the 42 cars are as fast. For Hamlin, dominating the practices couldn't have come at a better time because of the pressure he placed upon himself following a disappointing Chicago race by tweeting, "This is 1 week of 10. We will win next week." So far, so good.

Hamlin will have to start Sunday's Sylvania 300 from the 32nd position because of an error in the qualifying setup Friday, but should have no problem making up the ground. We've seen him do well on the similar flat tracks this season at Richmond and Phoenix, and in the July New Hampshire race, he led 150 laps and finished runner-up.

Not surprisingly, the top speeds during Saturday's practices came from the Toyotas when every driver from the teams of Michael Waltrip and Joe Gibbs Racing finished in the top seven. In the four races this year at Richmond, Phoenix and New Hampshire, three were won from a driver within those stables.

Here's a look at the top contenders this week following their practice sessions, mixed in with a little influence from past performances at New Hampshire and similar tracks.

1. Denny Hamlin (5/1)

There was no driver coming into this race that was statistically stronger than Hamlin with a track-best 8.5 average finish at New Hampshire that includes a 2007 win. He won at Phoenix earlier in the year, which was a sign he'd be good all season on the mid-range flat tracks, and he has been.

Now he comes out firing with predictions and backing it up in practice with the top speeds in every session. Not only did he have the fastest single-lap speeds in the final session, but also the fastest average -- one of only two drivers to average 130 mph. He's the easy favorite to win Sunday.

The only issue with Hamlin is that he'll have to pass traffic with his poor starting position and won't have all the clean air he had in July. Where there is traffic, there is bound to be a few angry drivers with road rage who can get an unsuspecting driver caught up in the mess.

2. Clint Bowyer (12/1)

Bowyer gets the nod over a few other drivers who had better single-lap times because of his most recent win at Richmond's flat track two weeks ago. In addition to having two New Hampshire wins in his career, he also finished third in the July race. He's also using the same chassis this week that he ran at Richmond and New Hampshire. It was a strong overall practice weekend that included having the second-best 10-consecutive-lap average during the second session.

3. Jeff Gordon (12/1)

Gordon finished ninth and 15th in the two Saturday practice sessions, but the thing that elevates him higher than his single-lap times is having the best 10-consecutive-lap average in the early session. Those solid average speeds, coupled with memories of his hard-charging speeds on long runs during his runner-up finish at Richmond two weeks ago, make him one of the top contenders this week. He's won three times at New Hampshire, but none since 1998. Needless to say, Gordon is due.

4. Kyle Busch (10/1)

Busch's inconsistency this season is a problem, but when he's good, there isn't a better driver in the series. And he looks good this week. He finished in the top five during both Saturday practices. He also has a 2012 win under his belt on the similarly banked track of Richmond in April.

5. Tony Stewart (7/1)

Last season the Stewart-Haas drivers swept New Hampshire. In July, the best the duo of Stewart and Ryan Newman could do was ninth place. Apparently, the new tire compound Goodyear used at New Hampshire this season didn't mesh well with their 2011 winning notes. To get a better read on the tires, Stewart tested the new car he's using this week at Milwaukee's flat track in early September and it looks like they have things figured out. Stewart was within the top-10 speeds during both Saturday sessions. He's a three-time winner at New Hampshire and finished third and fourth, respectively, at Richmond this season.

6. Kevin Harvick (15/1)

It's hard to believe that none of the Richard Childress drivers have wins this season, but in the past month they have shown signs of breaking through. Harvick has always been strong on these types of tracks, including a fantastic 2006 season when he dominated Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire. His best finish on them this season was runner-up at Phoenix in March.

The best indication that Harvick might be a driver to contend for the win this week is that he was one of only two drivers to average better than 130 mph in the final session. The other driver was Hamlin. This suggests he'll be good on the long runs and is capable of capturing his second New Hampshire win.

7. Jimmie Johnson (5/1)

Johnson finished with the third-fastest lap during Saturday's early practice session using the same chassis he finished seventh with in the July race. He's a three-time winner at New Hampshire, but his best finish on the three similarly banked tracks this season was fourth at Phoenix in March. He's capable of winning on any track, which is evidenced by the respect given to him by his low Las Vegas odds, but doesn't seem to have the edge on everyone else like he once did.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10/1)

Junior wasn't spectacular in any of the Saturday sessions, but he showed good average speeds. He's using the same chassis that finished fourth at New Hampshire in July. He also has a runner-up finish at Richmond in April. He's never won at New Hampshire.

9. Kasey Kahne (8/1)

Kahne didn't do anything Saturday to suggest he might win, but he has to be given consideration simply because he's using the same car that won at New Hampshire in July. When looking at all the practices and results from Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire this season, Kahne ranks up there with Hamlin and Bowyer as one of the best.

10. Brad Keselowski (7/1)

Keselowski, who is using a new car this week, didn't find any of the speeds he needed to keep up with the Toyotas in practice. But because he's coming off a victory and has finished fifth or better in his past two New Hampshire starts, he has to be considered a candidate to win.

Cut off: Logano and Brian Vickers didn't make the top-10 list only because other drivers have better histories. If going solely on the merits of Saturday's practices, both would be ranked in the top five. They have outstanding cars and will make some noise Sunday.

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Re: Sylvania 300 Betting News and Notes

NASCAR Practice Notes & Driver Ratings     
By Micah Roberts

This Week's Race Sylvania 300

Rating     Driver     Odds     Practice 1     Qualified     Practice 2     Practice 3
1     Denny Hamlin     5/1     1st     32nd     1st     1st
2007 winner; track best 8.5 average finish; best average lap speed in final practice.

2     Clint Bowyer     12/1     9th     12th     7th     7th
Two-time winner, using winning Richmond chassis from two weeks ago.

3     Jeff Gordon     10/1     2nd     1st     9th     15th
Three-time winner, the last in 1998; best 10-consecutive lap average in Practice2.

4     Kyle Busch     10/1     18th     2nd     5th     4th
2006 winner; great practices and good candidate to win based on April Richmond win.

5     Tony Stewart     7/1     4th     3rd     10th     8th
Three-time winner, including last fall; using new chassis that tested at Milwaukee.

6     Kevin Harvick     15/1     5th     16th     8th     9th
2006 winner; one of two drivers to average 130 mph in final practice; new chassis.

7     Jimmie Johnson     5/1     8th     20th     3rd     10th
Three-time winner, the last in 2010; using seventh-place chassis from July race.

8     Dale Earnhardt Jr.     10/1     25th     14th     17th     11th
Best finish of third in 2004; using same chassis that finished fourth in July race.

9     Kasey Kahne     8/1     6th     6th     13th     19th
2012 winner; not a standout in practices, but is using winning chassis from July.

10     Brad Keselowski     7/1     20th     15th     14th     17th
Has finished runner-up and fifth in past two starts on track; new car this week.

*Note: New Hampshire's 1.058-mile flat banked track runs similar to Richmond and Phoenix. Drivers that do well on one usually fare well on the others.

Betting Notes: And the Denny Hamlin show continues to roll through town after town. He's been so good in practices, it's hard to believe that he hasn't won more races. The only problem Hamlin will have to deal with Sunday is traffic as a result of his qualifying gaffe, which starts him 32nd. Barring any run-ins with the other 31 drivers he'll be trying to pass, he should find himself within the top-5 by half-time.

It's no fun betting on the favorite, so taking a shot with Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon seems like a pretty game plan. I also think Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Brian Vickers present some value as well, not only in odds to win wagers, but also in matchups.

Another driver that may be worth taking a shot with in matchups is Jeff Burton. The RCR cars have all been much better over the past month and at one point, no one was better at New Hampshire than Burton.

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