As the Sprint Cup Series heads off to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 19th race on the 2011 schedule, the time for making the Chase is quickly dwindling. While drama builds in the Wild Card race for the final two slots in the Chase, a victory this weekend for a winless driver could be the ticket to NASCAR’s playoffs.
Top 5 Picks
Tony Stewart – It’s the summertime and Smoke is on his usual roll. He’s got three wins at New Hampshire and 14 top 5 finishes.
Ryan Newman – He’s always run well here with three wins and six poles. It’s good timing for him as the No. 39 team is looking for sponsorship for next year.
Jimmie Johnson – He also has three wins at Loudon and is still a top contender at any track.
Jeff Burton – He hung around and finished second last week. His only chance of making the Chase is to get a win somewhere, and he’s got four of them at Loudon.
Clint Bowyer – He’s got two wins at Loudon in his career. He is sitting 10th in points with one win on the season. One more victory this year would likely guarantee him a spot in the Chase.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda – Kurt Busch has three wins at Loudon, but being on an underfunded team has hurt him all year. There’s no doubt Busch has the talent to win, though, which made him worth consideration here.
Here’s a look at how last week’s picks fared at Daytona
Tony Stewart: 1st. A big push from Kasey Kahne on the final laps got him the win.
Matt Kenseth: 3rd. Easily could have won it, but lost drafting partner Greg Biffle for a few seconds on the final lap.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr: 15th. He probably would have had a better finish but got caught up in the last lap melee. He was never really a serious threat to win, though.
Kevin Harvick: 23rd. Also was gunning for a decent finish until final lap crash-fest.
Jimmie Johnson: 36th. No C-posts issues this time at Daytona, just accident issues that allowed to run only 123 of the 160 laps.
33 top 5s
42 top 10s
Grade for the week: B I gave you two of the top five, including the winner, which isn’t bad for a restrictor plate race where anything can and usually does happen.
One Last Thing: Just how good has Jeff Burton been at Loudon? In 1999, he started 38th and won. Then in 2000, he led all 300 laps in a win at Loudon.