The Lenox Industrial Tools is the nineteenth race on the 36-race NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule. The Nextel Cup Series races at the 1.058-mile New Hampshire International Speedway twice a year; the series returns for the first race of the Chase for the Nextel Cup in September. The Loudon, NH track is a more recent fixture the circuit, awarded its first race in 1993; the event was won by Rusty Wallace. New Hampshire is a flat, true oval with 12 degrees of banking in the turns and just two degrees on the straightaways; it's often compared to an oversized Martinsville. The field will include 2005 polesitter Brian Vickers and defending race winner Tony Stewart.
48 teams will compete for 43 starting spots for Sunday, with the Top 35 in car owner points guaranteed a starting position. Qualifying runs consist of two laps, with the fastest lap setting a team's time. The Nextel Cup Series qualifying record at NHIS is 133.357 mph, set by Ryan Newman in 2003.
The Nextel Cup Series points race almost changed hands last week at Chicagoland. Matt Kenseth was poised to take over the top spot, but a late race spin followed by a dry fuel tank and another crash dropped Kenseth to 51 points out of first behind point leader Jimmie Johnson. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Burton, and Kasey Kahne round out the Top 5. Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon's win Sunday vaulted him back into the Top 10 in the standings, replacing Greg Biffle.
What To Expect
Expect better racing than you think at the Magic Mile. NHIS has made several improvements to the track in an attempt to increase passing, and although the tight, flat turns are still tricky, there is much more side-by-side racing than there used to be. Unfortunately for TV viewers, there is a lot of racing in the middle of the pack that never gets shown. However, last Fall's race featured a duel for the lead between Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart that took most of the late laps to decide in Newman's favor.
You'll also see your share of cautions at New Hampshire; one race had a whopping 17 caution periods in 1994. That's a little above normal – one round of green-flag pit stops is a usual occurrence here. Still, little Loudon races like a short track, so beating and banging – and some crashing – are a part of the game here.
Also expect qualifying to be of high importance to the teams. Although this race has been won from as deep as 38th starting spot, most winners have started inside the Top 10. With two practice sessions after qualifying, teams will have plenty of time to dial in their race setups later.
Who to Watch
Jeff Burton has more NHIS wins than any other driver with four – and his Richard Childress Racing team is just coming into their own. That could spell trouble for the other 42 teams out there. Jeff Gordon has a trio of wins and nine Top 5 finishes, the most of any driver. Tony Stewart has a win and a runner-up finish in his last two NHIS races, and Ryan Newman will be looking to turn around a miserable season at a track where he has Top 10 finishes in seven of the last eight races.
Another driver struggling this year, Dale Jarrett, leads all drivers with 14 Top 10 finishes at the Magic Mile. Jimmie Johnson has two wins and has never finished outside the Top 15 here, and his points rival, Matt Kenseth, has Top 10 runs in the last seven Loudon races. Kurt Busch is also a safe bet, with a sweep of both races in 2004.
Did You Know:
- Three drivers have claimed their first Nextel Cup victory at NHIS? Joe Nemechek, Roby Gordon, and Newman can all claim a NHIS win as their first.
- Although Sylvania is a major track sponsor, NHIS has no lights? A Loudon noise ordinance prohibits night racing.
- Jeff Burton took the lead on lap one and led all 300 laps to win at Loudon in September of 2000? That race was also notable because it marked the only time carburetor restrictor plates were used at the track.
- In addition to the record for leading the most laps en route to victory, Burton holds the record for the fewest? He led just two laps to take the checkers in July of 1999.
- The inaugural race here was also Davey Allison’s last Cup race he ever ran? Allison finished 3rd in the famed Texaco Havoline No. 28 Ford before dying in a tragic helicopter crash at Talladega just two days later in July of 1993.
You Don't Sayâ€¦
“New Hampshire is a cool little ol' track. I feel like we should probably already have a win there, because we've been all around it quite a few times. We've had good finishes. Last year, we got us a Top 5 with (crew chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. back on the pit box, and that was really cool. We seem to do OK on the one-milers, and we're really excited because we're bringing the car we won Richmond with. We'll see how it all shakes out.” driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on NHIS
“Everybody has an opinion. You can look at different plays in different sports in 16 different ways. If you have multiple looks at it, they are going to have a different opinion of how they perceived how it came down. You are going to have it from Jeff's (Gordon) side and you are going to have it from Matt's side and from other people that view it. Bottom line is that Jeff had a good car; he was probably going to beat him anyway. Granted, he has used that tactic before. I've seen him bump and run on Rusty (Wallace) at Bristol and a few other places. Whether he gets out and says what he says, I guess it can be just the way he feels that particular day.” driver Bill Elliott on the controversial incident between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon at Chicago
“Thompson (Conn.) was the last place I’ve run a Modified (in 2003). And I ran a line that people said they’ve never seen anyone run before. But I’ve never, ever run a Modified Tour event. So, I guess that means I’ll have to go to the rookie meetingâ€¦ It’s one of the Tour’s biggest races of the year. Mark Chase, who works for us at Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s his father’s car that I’m running, and it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do with Mark. I’ve raced with a lot of the Modified Tour guys at Thompson or down in New Smyrna (Fla.) at those races, but it’ll be neat to say that I officially ran a Modified Tour race with them.” driver Tony Stewart, who will run the Whelen Modified Tour race on Saturday at NHIS
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