This week, the NASCAR Cup Series trades in Georgia peaches for New England lobster and heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire on Sunday (July 16).
After racing door-to-door on the smallest superspeedway in the series, the drivers and teams must prepare for something entirely the opposite. New Hampshire is a flat one-mile oval that has only two racing grooves – the very bottom next to the apron and one lane up from that will be the high line.
Qualifying will be of great importance when it takes place on Saturday (July 15) at 12:50 p.m. ET on USA Network, but starting up at the front isn’t a guaranteed win for the polesitter.
Out of the last five races, none of the winners started on pole. Only two started in the top five and Aric Almirola’s season-changing 2021 victory was in spite of starting outside the top 20. Kevin Harvick started 14th each time when he went back-to-back in 2018 and 2019.
From a historical aspect, this place favors the Fords. Fords have won four of the last five races with three different drivers. Harvick started the trend in 2018 and will be one to watch on Sunday. Harvick has an average finish of 12.2 over the course of 39 starts.
However, Ford has endured a pretty tough season in 2023. Only Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano have found victory lane this season, and Stewart-Haas Racing appears to be nowhere close as of yet to winning races, outside of the No. 4 team.
There’s also a huge question mark heading into the weekend. Goodyear has been working on changing the tire compound for short track racing, and this will be the first time we see it. How teams adjust the car to mesh with the new compound will be vital in determining the winner. With that being said, let’s get into my picks for the Crayon 301 at NHMS.
Here’s a quick look at the rules for DraftKings:
The winner on the racetrack tallies 45 points, while second place gets 42, third 41 and so on. Tenth scores 34, while 11th gets 32 and decreases by one from there through 20th. This pattern repeats from 21st through 30th and again from 31st through 40th.
Additionally, drivers can earn or lose a point depending on where they started the race. For example, if Chase Elliott started seventh and won, he would gain six points in addition to his finishing position points, totaling 51 fantasy points.
Drivers also can earn 0.45 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap they lead.
Here’s who you should be looking at this weekend at New Hampshire. All of these stats reflect the drivers’ records at New Hampshire over the course of their careers.
DraftKings Picks: Top Tier
Christopher Bell ($11,200)
Career at New Hampshire: 3 starts, 1 win, 2 top fives and 2 top 10s
Average finish: 10.3
It really could be nobody else. Christopher Bell has proven that he is absolutely incredible at “The Magic Mile” over the years. He’s undefeated in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career there and he’s only finished outside the top 10 once on the Cup side back in his rookie season. At a salary of $11,200, Bell’s the most expensive pick available but his history of being just plain good here will justify the cost.
Kevin Harvick ($9,600)
Career at New Hampshire: 4 wins, 11 top fives, 18 top 10s
Average finish: 12.2
As previously mentioned, Harvick is the only repeat winner in the last five seasons, but he also leads the entire field with four total wins at New Hampshire. The place certainly suits Harvick, but his team, SHR, has struggled all season with overall performance. But if anybody can turn their season around it’s the driver of the No. 4. At $9,600 “The Closer” is an absolute steal that you can’t pass up.
Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,000)
Career at New Hampshire: 0 wins, 8 top fives, 14 top 10s
Average finish: 11.7
It’s honestly baffling how Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t won here yet. His average finish is fourth among active drivers, but he’s never finished in the top two. His best finish of third has happened three times, most recently in 2020.
Last season though, Truex led 172 laps until he was burned by pit strategy that set him back. He rallied to finish fourth though, and he’s also the defending pole sitter. His salary of $11,000 is a bit high for someone who hasn’t won here, but he is a solid option nonetheless. He has also been on a resurgence this season but has been inconsistent as of late.
Denny Hamlin ($10,900)
Career at New Hampshire: 29 starts, 3 wins, 11 top fives, 18 top 10s
Average finish: 9.5
Denny Hamlin enters this weekend with the best average finish of any driver in the series at New Hampshire at a staggering 9.5. His most recent win here may have come back in 2017, but the driver of the No. 11 always manages to be in the mix at New Hampshire. In fact, he hasn’t finished outside the top 15 here since 2014. In picking Hamlin, you can expect him to net you a good amount of points this weekend, and his solid record at this track will certainly help if you don’t feel right about taking Bell or Truex.
Brad Keselowski ($8,600)
Career at New Hampshire: 22 starts, 2 wins, 9 top fives, 15 top 10s
Average finish: 10.0
It is simply unwise to count out Brad Keselowski when racing at New Hampshire. The 2012 Cup Series champion has only finished outside the top 25 three times at this track, and last season he turned in one of the highlights of his rollercoaster first season at RFK Racing by finishing seventh. Based on his track record here and the fact that he is so consistent at New Hampshire, he’s a huge steal at $8,600. His average finish is second behind Denny Hamlin, but only by 0.5.
Bubba Wallace ($8,000)
Career at New Hampshire: 5 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five and 1 top 10
Average finish: 19.6
Some may be surprised to find Bubba Wallace here, but you shouldn’t be. A lot of folks seem to have forgotten that Wallace finished in third here last season and that he has an affinity for running well on flat short tracks. This season, he finished 14th at Phoenix Raceway, ninth at Martinsville Speedway and second in the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He has a really good shot at grabbing a good finish again this weekend and grabbing a good amount of points for your lineup. Wallace could be poised for a big day on Sunday.
Ross Chastain ($8,800)
Career at New Hampshire: 4 starts, 0 top fives and 2 top 10s
Average finish: 16.5
I can’t believe I’m saying this but Ross Chastain is a sleeper on Sunday. He only has four starts here, but two starts were in less than premium equipment and the other two were for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 and Trackhouse Racing last season. He finished eighth in both of those starts, which is impressive and shows a trend of consistency. He is, however, inconsistent on short tracks this season. But Trackhouse has momentum on its side with Chastain’s Nashville Superspeedway win, Shane van Gisbergen’s win in Chicago and Daniel Suarez’s runner-up finish last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Buy with caution and low expectations, but high hopes when it comes to Chastain.
Ryan Preece ($7,100)
Career at New Hampshire: 4 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish: 22.8
Some may think Ryan Preece has no chance of being competitive this weekend, but I’m not sure how they can think that. Sure, he has struggled this season, but New Hampshire could be the ideal place where he bounces back and turns in a great performance. He’s a decorated driver on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and he’s raced at New Hampshire a ton in that series, scoring a win in 2021. Plus, he’s not been too shabby over his career at New Hampshire despite never finishing in the top 10. He’s only finished outside the top 25 once in four starts. He also had good runs at Phoenix and Martinsville this season, and he won a pole at Martinsville as well. A good starting position for Preece could score you some crucial points this week, but keep in mind if he qualifies on the pole and finishes deep in the field, it could be a net loss for you.
Erik Jones ($6,400)
Career at New Hampshire: 7 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 2 top 10s
Average finish: 18.0
Erik Jones has been on a hot streak as of late, finishing in the top 15 in two of the last three races. Plus, he has a decent record at New Hampshire. He finished third here back in 2019 with Joe Gibbs Racing and finished 19th in the last two with LEGACY Motor Club. As long as he can keep the No. 43 car out of trouble and Legacy puts a decent car underneath him he should be able to grab you some valuable points at a really good value at $6,400.
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