No, sorry fans, this isn't an announcement that NHMS will be investing in lights for a race.
I hear the requests of fans. I understand the appeal to a night race. And, I realize that with a company that specializes in light bulbs, like SYLVANIA, sponsoring our race that the marketing is already there.
But, it's not that easy.
We can't just toss up some lights and start hosting night races. This is 21st century America, people, and there are certain laws and regulations put in place.
Heck! You need to apply for building permits to renovate your house and there are even some places (usually near the lakes) where you need to get special permission just to cut down a tree on your own property.
It's the same with the New Hampshire Motor Speedway except on a larger scale, since it's a major business that significantly impacts the area. There are various zoning boards and legal organizations that must give consent before we start shining lights in their neighborhood.
And, it's not just the lights. Keep in mind that if the race went until 11 p.m., that's a lot of late night noise for the little town. Then, you have the traffic that would be leaving after and you can quickly understand some of the reservations.
Another thing that most fans don't realize is that, while most associate NHMS with Loudon, the track is actually divided along the town line of Loudon and Canterbury. You know what that means?
You guessed it! It would require two towns to sign off on the plan, not just one.
This doesn't mean that it's unfair for fans to request or inquire about lights. It's just important to understand that it's not as simple as NHMS buying a few light towers and several dozen bulbs (SYLVANIA, of course) and going boys have at it on the night racing.
I digress. Back to the introduction, this isn't a column talking about a night race, it's a column talking about the SYLVANIA 300 which will shine its afternoon light on NHMS this coming Sunday. Here's what to expect in the fantasy world as we prepare for the race weekend at "The Magic Mile."
*In case you're new to this segment, check out my first fantasy post on how the system works.
Strategy: NHMS has a reputation as being one of the toughest tracks at which to pass. Track position is vital and the race will be largely determined by qualifying and pit strategy. In July, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart started first and second; they also finished first and second.
#14 Tony Stewart - Stewart races very well here (and I can actually use "here" this week without meaning somewhere else). He ran out of gas leading the race in last year's SYLVANIA 300, he finished second in July and he has the best driver rating in the field. He snapped his winless streak this past weekend, so he's hot right now.
#24 Jeff Gordon - Gordon had a bummer of a finish at Chicagoland (ironically, 24th) after carrying so much momentum into the Chase. While Gordon's never won a championship under the Chase format, he's won four titles in his career so he should know how to bounce back from a bad day. He's won here three times and has the second best driver rating, so that bodes well for the No. 24.
#48 Jimmie Johnson - "Five-Time" has an average finish of 9.6, which leads every Chase driver except Denny Hamlin (who wasn't recommended because he's been struggling). That includes three wins and 13 top-10s in 19 starts. Despite running out of gas, he finished 10th at Chicagoland after Matt Kenseth was penalized for being pushed. Johnson now has finished in the top-10 in 19 of the last 21 Chase races during the past three seasons. (No wonder he wins every year!)
#99 Carl Edwards - He has just two top-10s in 14 starts here at "The Magic Mile." Edwards is one of those guys that can turn it on at any point on any track but admitted when he visited the area last week that he hasn't figured this track out yet.
#33 Clint Bowyer - Two of Bowyer's four career wins have come at NHMS. As I mentioned last week, with his future in question, he'll be looking to finish the season strong despite being out of the Chase. He validated that last week with a seventh-place finish.
#39 Ryan Newman - Newman knows his way around "The Magic Mile," as he's won three races and claimed five poles in Loudon. He accomplished both those feats in July and has 13 top-10s in 19 starts at NHMS. This is the kind of track for which I've encouraged you to save his allocations.
#56 Martin Truex Jr. - Truex is the value pick of the week for those of you that have taxed allocations on all the top B-List drivers. He has five top-10s in 11 starts, including an eighth-place finish in July.
#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - This is one of Junior's better tracks. I remember hearing him say back in July that he really liked it here and a 97.1 driver rating, which is best on the B-List and fifth overall, supports that. After finishing third last week and breaking a streak of five straight finishes outside the top-10, he's due for a hot streak.
#31 Jeff Burton - Most people wouldn't consider starting Jeff Burton based on this season. His track-record four wins and a solid 95.0 driver rating might make you stop to think, but don't bother. He's had a horrible year and hasn't finished in the top-10 at NHMS since 2008 anyway.
#43 AJ Allmendinger - This isn't Dinger's track. He has just one top-10 in eight starts and it was an even 10th in last year's LENOX Industrial Tools 301.
#47 Bobby Labonte - I'm in a position where I mathematically can start the C-List's top-three drivers the rest of the way and not worry about Labonte. However, if you've used up any of those guys, this could be a good week to roll the dice on the No. 47. Labonte finished seventh at NHMS in July and historically does better here (16.5) than his average (18.8).
#78 Regan Smith - Smith gets the green light this week as Ragan and Menard both struggle noticeably. The No. 78 isn't a lock for a top finish, just the lowest risk option.
#6 David Ragan - Ragan has struggled at NHMS and his 14th in July was the best finish of his career. The Fords of Roush Fenway Racing don't do well in general, so he's not a good choice.
#27 Paul Menard - Menard is far worse than Ragan. He's never so much as posted a top-20. A 21st-place finish in the 2008 SYLVANIA 300 is the only time he's finished in the better half of the field. That's a razor-thin silver lining I just found!
My Preliminary Roster
A - STEWART (8), Gordon (7)
B - KESELOWSKI (7), NEWMAN (3), Bowyer (2), Truex Jr. (8)
C - SMITH (3), Ragan (2)
*Number in parenthesis are allocations remaining.