Key Moment – The Penske cars were both strong at New Hampshire, with Brad Keselowski being the strongest. Joey Logano was looking better as the race progressed and seemed to be poised to make Keselowski earn his win when the the two teammates caught Morgan Shepherd to put him yet another lap down. Shepherd slid up in the corner as Logano went past and wrecked the second place runner out of the event. From then on it was a foregone conclusion that Keselowski would win barring mechanical issues.
In a Nutshell – For the second time in three weeks, Brad Keselowski was in a league of his own. While the rest of the field was focused on strategy and fuel mileage to garner track position for the best finish, Keselowski put on four tires whenever pitting and drove back to the front to dominate the race. Keselowski led seven times for 138 of the 305 laps of the race. Kyle Busch was strong early and used a fuel gamble to come home second but was never a threat after the 100 laps mark to take the win.
Dramatic Moment – While Keselowski was headed to the win, there was quite the strategy play taking place behind him as several drivers were running on fumes when the laps were winding down. Justin Allgaier was wrecked in turn three and the caution flag came out. As a result the race went extra laps and it killed two of those efforts. Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick were running second and third when the caution waved. Gordon ran out of gas as the caution was still out while Harvick ran out when the green waved for the restart. Gordon finished the race in 26th while Harvick wound up 30th.
What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler
RTA, RTA, RTA All we heard about all week is the Race Team Alliance. What does it mean? Nobody knows. The people involved aren’t even sure yet. One thing is for sure though, NASCAR is taking notice. That fact, in and of itself, should speak volumes. If NASCAR was running the sport in a way that was beneficial to these team owners they wouldn’t be forming this alliance. NASCAR also wouldn’t have anything to worry about if what they were doing was best for all parties. Can someone do it better than NASCAR? Nobody has yet. Does that mean we aren’t in line for some changes? Willing to bet there will be quite a few changes happening over the coming years.
32 years is a long time for people to do anything. For the past 32 years, Turner Broadcasting has been involved with bringing NASCAR to living rooms across the country. Sunday’s race was the last event to be broadcast on a Turner Broadcasting network. The company came from the time when individual tracks negotiated TV rights rather than the series. They moved into the corporate age and eventually into the digital age. They pioneered several aspects of the current methodology used to bring races to the masses. From in-car cameras to online companion streaming, Turner has helped push NASCAR into the 21st century. Hopefully they’ll remain in racing at the local racing level but, for now, we say thank you Turner Broadcasting. We appreciate what you did for our sport.
Retirement was on people’s minds at New Hampshire for two different reasons. There is a real possibility that this weekend was the last race in Jeff Burton’s career. After leaving Richard Childress Racing, Burton signed to run a partial schedule and be a test driver for Michael Waltrip Racing. Burton’s race this weekend was his second under the MWR banner and the rumor is it was his last of his 693 race career. If that is the end, his career ends with 21 victories, 134 top 5s and 254 top 10s. He scored six poles and had a career best finish in points of third in 2000.
On the other end of the spectrum was Morgan Shepherd. Shepherd extended his record as the oldest driver to start a Cup race, taking the green flag at 72 years old. Shepherd was involved in the incident that ended Joey Logano’s day and brought into question whether he should have been on the race track. Robin Pemberton, VP of Competition and Racing Development addressed the questions stating Morgan Shepherd has been approved to race at the Cup level for decades and he was maintaining minimum speed. He gave Logano a lane and then slipped up as can happen at any time. It was a racing incident and nothing more.
During the race weekend at New Hampshire the Whelen Modifieds held an All-Star Shootout that was designed to highlight the best drivers in the two divisions of NASCAR Modifieds. Unfortunately for the event, the vast majority of eligible Southern Division drivers were unable to make the trip due to commitments to race at Bowman-Gray Stadium. The rules of the event did allow for winners on the tour over the last few years to be eligible which put Ryan Newman in the race. When the checkered flag flew as the time limit expired on the event, it was Newman in front. Surprisingly the hue and cry that is normally associated with the Cup drivers beating up on the lower series seemed to be absent, most likely because Kyle Busch was not the driver who did the bullying.
This weekend the Cup teams celebrated the 10th anniversary of Victory Junction Gang Camp by sporting decals on their cars. There are many things about NASCAR that people disagree about, but the good work that the sport does through many different foundations is a large positive. Drivers and teams all donate time and money to make VJGC possible and have helped it become the enormous success that it is. It is a shame it took the passing of Adam Petty to spur the camp to life, but it is a great place that does so much good for so many.
The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune
Whether it was self induced or not, Jimmie Johnson started off the race from the front row and quickly had a tire go down. After replacing it he ran a handful of laps and had another tire explode and take him out for the day. Johnson was either the victim of some unfortunate luck or they were trying to push the limits with air pressure. It would seem like the former since other teams were just as aggressive, if not more aggressive, on air pressures. Fortunately for Johnson, he has three race wins so it doesn’t matter in terms of contending for the championship.
Jeff Gordon was firmly planted in the Fine Fortune category before Justin Allgaier’s caution flag flew with two laps to go. He had overcome being a lap down thanks to a wave around and a quick caution. His team had made his car better and he raced his way into the top 5 and was poised for a strong finish. Unfortunately the team made a fuel strategy call to get him to the front and when the caution flew it ran his tank dry, relegating him to a 26th-place finish.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has been less than impressive over the last few races of the 2014 season. He had not scored a top 10 since Talladega, nine races ago. Sunday he started in the 22nd spot and methodically worked his was forward, getting to the Top 10 just before the 200 laps mark. He stayed out of trouble and brought the car home to a ninth-place finish. It was the best finish by a Roush Fenway driver on Sunday.
The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune
Strategy is one thing but a fast race car is your best ally. Kyle Larson had a good race car but was mired back in the pack on Sunday. 113 laps into the race his crew chief Chris Heroy made the call to stay out on tires that had approximately 35 laps on them when everyone else came to pit road for tires and fuel. While he only led for 13 laps on that stint, it was enough to put him in the front of the pack and he stayed there for the rest of the day. He drifted back into the back half of the top 10, but he wasn’t in the mid to late teens where he had been for the first 100 laps of the race. In the end, that pit call set the table for Larson’s podium finish.
Another Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Austin Dillon, was a beneficiary of a different kind on Sunday. Starting in 23rd spot, Dillon was mired in the 20s for the first two-thirds of the race, going a lap down and battling to get the lucky dog. He received it on the fourth caution of the day and took advantage over the rest of the day. It took until around lap 210 but then the No. 3 began marching forward. The steady progression to the front culminated in a 14th place finish.
Greg Biffle started the day with smoking rolling off of the rear of his car thanks to contact with another competitor and looked like he was going to have to make an early pit stop. Fortunately for him he persevered and stayed on the track with an ill handling race car. Through pit strategy and hard work by his team he was able to soldier to the end of the race and took a late race gamble to put on fresh tires during the final caution, jumping up to a 15th place finish.
Brad Keselowski’s win was his 13th in 180 Cup Series Starts.
Keselowski’s winning percentage is 7.22, which is 32nd on the all-time list. He is behind current drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Keselowski’s win was his first ever at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It is his third win of 2014.
Kyle Busch’s second-place finish was his third consecutive runner-up at New Hampshire. It is his fourth career top-2 run at the Magic Mile and his third top 2 this season.
Kyle Larson came home in third position on Sunday. It was his first top 3 at New Hampshire and his second top 3 of 2014. Additionally, he was also the Rookie of the Race.
Keselowski became the first driver to sweep a NASCAR national touring series weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway thanks to his wins in the Nationwide and Cup races.
The last 13 races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway have produced 13 different winners. That ties the longest streak for different winners at a race track with Texas Motor Speedway.
Ford has won the last four Cup series races.
Alex Bowman earned $91,723 for his 31st place run at Loudon. Kurt Busch made $86,940 for 17th.
What’s the Points
Points don’t matter as much as wins. The 11 race winners are listed below along with the five drivers who would make the Chase on points at this juncture of the season.
Daytona and Pocono – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Phoenix and Darlington – Kevin Harvick
Las Vegas, Kentucky and New Hampshire – Brad Keselowski
Bristol and Sonoma – Carl Edwards
California – Kyle Busch
Martinsville – Kurt Busch
Texas and Richmond – Joey Logano
Talladega – Denny Hamlin
Kansas – Jeff Gordon
Charlotte, Dover and Michigan – Jimmie Johnson
Daytona (2) – Aric Almirola
Drivers making the Chase on points who do not have wins:
4) Matt Kenseth
7) Ryan Newman
10) Clint Bowyer
11) Paul Menard
14) Kyle Larson
Jeff Gordon was locked into the Chase last week. This week Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brad Keselowski joined him. They are 329 points ahead of 31st place David Gilliland, so they cannot fall out of the top 30 before Richmond even if they finish last in each race.
Overall Rating(On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) –
We spoke about it two weeks ago. Sometimes you get a car that dominates a race and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sunday it was the same car that dominated two weeks ago at Kentucky. The difference this time was there was at least some racing back in the pack. Outside of the No. 2, which simply ran away with the race, the rest of the pack was on a multitude of pit and fuel strategies that resulted in comers and goers all day long. The fuel drama at the end saw two cars in the top 5 drop deep in the field when their gas didn’t hold out while the runner-up stretched it the perfect distance, running out as he went under the checkered flag. The different aspects of the competition behind Brad Keselowski helped this race out enough to land it in the middle of the pack with three frosty Smutty Nose Robust Porters.
The series takes next weekend off before heading to Indianapolis for the Brickyard. In two, weeks the folks at ESPN pick up the television broadcasting duties to take the circuit through championship weekend in Homestead. The Brickyard will be shown at 1:00 Eastern. It can also be heard on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network and Sirius XM Radio.