A six-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. The current series' points leader. The winner of this year's Daytona 500. And the favorite to win this year's Rookie of the Year. All four and more will be on-track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Tuesday and Wednesday, as track officials announced today that Hendrick Motorsports and Ganassi Racing will hold a test session at the facility in preparation for the Camping World RV Sales 301 on July 13.
Included in the field will be Hendrick drivers Jimmie Johnson, the defending six-time Sprint Cup champion that is coming off back-to-back wins at Charlotte and Dover; Jeff Gordon, a four-time champion and current points leader; Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won his second Daytona 500 in February; and Kasey Kahne, winner of Magic Mile's July race back in 2012.
Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson and 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray will also be testing under the Ganassi Racing moniker.
"The sun is out, things are greening up and Sprint Cup cars are ready to return to the Magic Mile," said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway. "I'm really looking forward to stepping out of my office and walking over to watch this test session. You've got arguably four of the biggest names in the sport today, a former Daytona 500 champion and a 21-year-old rookie that is showing a lot of savvy. You can't beat an opportunity like this."
Johnson, who is still in search of his first win in 2014, has won six of the last eight Sprint Cup championships, has won three times at New Hampshire and is the last driver in the Cup Series to win back-to-back races (2003) at the Magic Mile.
"We look at this track and know that we come back here (in September for the) Chase and we need to treat this with a little more care and attention," said Johnson. "If you leave here with a good result, it just kind of checks one of the boxes going into the Chase that you feel like you can be competitive."
Gordon, who has also won three-career races at NHMS, currently leads the series in points. Gordon's lead in the points is only magnified given the new qualifications to make this year's Chase for the championship. Only the points leader, should he be sans victory, will earn an automatic spot into the playoff - the remaining 15 spots will go to race winners.
Earnhardt Jr. is a virtual lock for the Chase thanks to his win in the season-opening Daytona 500. Currently fourth in the points standings, Earnhardt Jr. has five top-three finishes, including three runner-ups. Earnhardt Jr. has never won at New Hampshire, but ranks eighth among active drivers with 12 top-10s, including seven top-fives in 29 career starts.
The 2012 July race winner at New Hampshire, Kasey Kahne, is off to a slow start in 2014, but with 16 career Sprint Cup Series wins under his belt, the No. 5 is always a threat to win.
Larson, who is in his first full season at the Sprint Cup level, isn't unfamiliar with New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Victory Lane. Back in 2012, Larson won in his very first start at the Magic Mile when he took the checkered flag in the K&N Pro Series East G-Oil 100. The first NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate to earn a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series, Larson is off to one of the strongest rookie campaigns in recent memory with five top-10s, including a pair of top-fives.
McMurray, who is coming off a career-best season at NHMS, finishing 12th and fifth in 2014, will also be on-track. McMurray is the only driver to in NASCAR history to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season.
The grandstands will be open and free of charge to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. The two-day test session will take place exactly two months before NASCAR returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Camping World RV Sales 301.
This will be the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team tests this season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing are also planning a combined test session in the first week of July, one week before the July Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR weekend. Dates and information will be released at a later time.