Top Five: Storylines to Watch as NASCAR’s Best Prepare for Their Annual New England Pit Stop
Fans headed to New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS) for New England’s only NASCAR weekend are in for a wicked good time at “The Magic Mile” as drivers take to the track for three full days of action-packed racing this Friday through Sunday, July 14-16. From the home track return of a few New England drivers to Kevin Harvick’s final attempt to secure a record-setting NHMS win in Sunday’s Crayon 301 NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) race, there will be no shortage of thrilling, white-knuckled excitement for fans to enjoy. Here are five must-watch storylines headed into the weekend:
Record-Setting Finale for Harvick?
Harvick might be the odds-on favorite to take the checkered flag in Sunday’s Crayon 301. His four wins at Loudon tie him with Jeff Burton for the most all-time. While the 60-time NCS winner hasn’t been to victory lane since August 2022 when he had back-to-back wins at Michigan International Speedway and Richmond Raceway, history shows he’s always a strong contender at NHMS. A win at the Crayon 301 would not only rewrite the NHMS record books, but would also help bolster a potential Playoff run for the 2014 champion, who will retire at the end of this season.
Alternatively, Kyle Busch or Denny Hamlin could join Burton and Harvick at the top of the all-time winner list if they find themselves in victory lane on Sunday.
Only seven active NCS drivers have won at NHMS – Christopher Bell, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Harvick, Busch, Hamlin and Joey Logano. Through the first 19 NCS events this season, 11 different drivers have won points races. While Keselowski, Almirola and Bell have each had recent success at “The Magic Mile,” having won in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively, Bell is the only one who’s guaranteed a playoff position coming in to NASCAR’s only New England stop based on his win at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Race. While Keselowski currently sits 14th in the playoff standings, a win for him or Almirola, who’s currently on the outside looking in, might be their only chance to race for a championship.
With seven regular season events remaining to set the 16-car Playoff field, drivers on and around the cutline are looking to secure their spot with a strong showing at NHMS this weekend. Among the drivers on the bubble, Bubba Wallace, who currently sits three points below the cutline, may be the driver with the best chance to guarantee a spot above that line by winning Sunday. He finished third at NHMS in 2022 and is still looking for a win this season to lock in a Playoff spot.
Home Track Advantage
This weekend’s Crayon 301 marks the 52nd NCS event at the famed New England track, so it’s certainly a familiar stop for veteran drivers at NASCAR’s highest level. But if homefield advantage counts for anything, Connecticut natives Joey Logano and Ryan Preece will be the ones to watch in the closing laps on Sunday. In 24 career starts, Logano has finished in the top five eight times (33.3 percent of the events), including wins in 2009 and 2014. The reigning series champ has already secured a win (Atlanta) this season, locking him in to the NASCAR Playoffs. Preece earned his best NHMS NCS finish of 16th in 2020, and although he earned a home track victory in 2021 at the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) race, he is still looking to earn his first home track NCS win. After spending a day lobstering off the New England coast a couple weeks ago, he could have an edge for searching out Loudon the Lobster come Sunday’s Crayon 301.
But Logano and Preece aren’t the only New England natives strapping into the driver’s seat this weekend. In Saturday’s Ambetter Health 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) race, C.J. McLaughlin of Framingham, Mass. will make his fourth career start, Kaz Grala of Boston, Mass. will make his third career start and Anthony Alfredo of Ridgefield, Conn. will make his second career start in NASCAR’s penultimate series.
Elliott Chasing Points
After missing six weeks for an injury sustained while snowboarding and another week serving a suspension after an incident with Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the 2020 Series Champion and five-time Most Popular Driver Chase Elliott is still searching for victory lane and a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs. Although historically NHMS has not been Elliott’s best track with an average finish of 14.7, he found himself just one spot shy of the win last year. With the added pressure of still needing a win on the season, Sunday could be the day Elliott finally hoists Loudon the Lobster high in the air.
Rub Some Dirt on It
Sunday’s Crayon 301 may be the main event of New England’s only NASCAR weekend, but race fans can kick off the festivities Friday night at The Flat Track at NHMS as Sprint Cars of New England, two classes of Granite State Mini Sprints and the Dirt Midget Association battle it out in their respective series at Friday Night Dirt Duels presented by New England Racing Fuel. NCS regular Chase Briscoe will strap into a sprint car and put his dirt racing skills on display for New England race fans as he competes for a win on the 0.25-mile dirt oval.
New England’s only NASCAR weekend is July 14-16 at NHMS. On-track action kicks off Friday with practice and qualifying sessions for the NXS and NWMT plus Friday Night Dirt Duels presented by New England Racing Fuel at The Flat Track. The action continues with NCS qualifying, the Ambetter Health 200 NXS race and Mohegan Sun 100 NWMT race on Doubleheader Saturday and culminates with the NCS taking on “The Magic Mile” Sunday for the Crayon 301. Don’t miss all of the exciting off-track action including Trackside Live, The Groove fan hangout, concerts from Dirty Deeds and Shot of Poison, family movie night featuring “Top Gun: Maverick,” driver appearances, a variety of live performances, fireworks and much more.
For a NASCAR weekend schedule, visit NHMS.com/Events/NASCAR-Cup-Series/Schedule/.
Log on to NHMS.com for tickets and more information on the weekend’s lineup of action-packed racing. Tickets for Friday Night Dirt Duels presented by New England Racing Fuel start at just $25 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. Doubleheader Saturday tickets start at just $45 for adults while kids 12 and under are free. Sunday’s Crayon 301 tickets start at just $59 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under.
Keep track of all of New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s events by following on Facebook (@NHMotorSpeedway), Twitter (@NHMS) and Instagram (@NHMS). Keep up with all the latest information on the speedway website (NHMS.com) and mobile app.