The Frontstretch: Fantasy Normalcy In New Hampshire by Jeff Wolfe -- Thursday July 11, 2013

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Fantasy Normalcy In New Hampshire

Jeff Wolfe · Thursday July 11, 2013

 

Now that you’ve survived (or perhaps not survived), the unpredictability of a restrictor plate race at Daytona, it’s time to move on to a more “normal” track as the Sprint Cup series visits New Hampshire International Speedway this Sunday afternoon.

This weekend officially begins the second half of the season, with New Hampshire the 19th of 36 races on the schedule. What has become the new normal this season, is seeing either Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth in Victory Lane, as they each have four victories.So, will we see a new normal this week, with a different driver in Victory Lane?

That’s something to keep in mind when looking at this week’s picks for New Hampshire.

LOOKING FOR SOME ACES

This may be the most difficult category to choose from this week. It seems all of the big names have had some sort of success here. You’ve got Jimmie Johnson (yes him again), Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon each with three wins. If you’re on a budget or pick limits, it might be difficult to have both Johnson and Stewart, but with Gordon looking for his first win this season and fighting for a place in the Chase, he might not be a bad pick here.

Gordon has led 1,316 laps in his 36 races at New Hampshire, the most of any active driver, ahead of Stewart’s 1,218.

Someone else to consider and who could just use a victory to make himself feel better is Denny Hamlin. Sure, his shot to make the Chase is essentially gone as he sits 26th in points, 122 out of the 20th spot he needs to have a chance to make the Chase. And lately, Hamlin, who injured his back in California earlier this season and missed four races, hasn’t had a clean race as somebody is always seems to be running into him or he is running into the wall. That can’t be helping the healing process.

But New Hampshire just may be the place where he can get well. In 14 races at New Hampshire, he has two wins and eight other top 10 finishes. He also has led 417 laps in those races and has an average finish of 7.93, the best among all active drivers.

Clint Bowyer has two wins at New Hampshire, and it’s not a huge horsepower track which bodes well for Toyota’s troubled engines of late.

A driver who has been consistent this season but is still looking for his first win of the year is Clint Bowyer. He has two wins at New Hampshire and has led 475 laps in his 14 races at the one-mile oval.

So basically from the this top group, with so many choices, it might time to think about your budget or how many times you’ve used a driver before making your selection.

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD

He probably should have won at least one race this season by now, and maybe could have won a one or two others. But in all of that, Kurt Busch has kept plugging away, despite his own admitted mistakes, and has a one-car team in the Chase picture, sitting ninth in the standings going into this week.

The good news for Busch and his team is that he has a history of performing well at New Hampshire. In his 24 races at New Hampshire, he has three wins and eight other top 10 finishes. He’s been too good lately to not be considered a contender to win every week, so yet again, I’m making Busch my pick to win this week.

Kurt Busch has had a habit lately of being up front lately, finishing seventh or better in five of the last seven races.

Another driver knocking on the Chase door who has three wins at New Hampshire is Ryan Newman. He is 16th in the points standings, but just 17 points behind boss and teammate Tony Stewart, who sits in 10th. Also, if Newman would happen to pull off a win, he’s only eight points behind the current final wild-card qualifier Kasey Kahne. Don’t be surprised to see Newman gamble for a win or top-five finish at New Hampshire with late tire or fuel strategy.

Another driver who understands strategy at New Hampshire is Joey Logano. He has one win there, even though it was rain-shortened, but he does have three other top 10 finishes in nine races. And like Newman, Logano also is in the Chase picture, one point ahead of Newman and just as desperate for that first win of the season.

Might this be the weekend that Joey Logano phones it in and wins his first Cup race for The Captain?

And lastly in this category, if you think Jeff Burton has something to offer then you have to consider him at New Hampshire. He has four wins at the track and nine other top 10 finishes in his 36 races there. He also has led 793 laps at New Hampshire. However, in his last 10 races there Burton has just one top 10 finish, so keep that in mind, too.

DARK HORSES

This also turns out to be a difficult pick if you need a cheaper budget option or maybe a driver you haven’t picked that much this season.

As always, the two top choices here are Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick. If you can fit him in, Stenhouse is likely the first choice here. However, if you’re like me, it’s difficult not using up all of his races too soon, so I’m trying to save him for some later races.

Patrick has proven she can compete on the restrictor-plate tracks, and save for another good finish or two, is a pretty big gamble elsewhere.

The one bit of good news on this week’s entry list is A.J. Allmendinger, who will be in the No. 51. And with rumors of team owner James Finch being ready to either sell the team or shut down, this is probably a good time to pick Allmendinger because just how many races he will be running the rest of this year is pretty much an unknown at this point. So pick him while you can.

Another driver to not forget about here is Casey Mears. He does have two top 10 finishes at New Hampshire in 20 races there and has shown some life at times this season. However, remember that Mears has only one top 10 finish this season, that coming at Daytona last week.

REARVIEW MIRROR

This week’s top point scorer in the two Frontstretch Fantasy leagues on Yahoo! was the djarum racing team with 344 points. It had the winning combination of Tony Stewart in second, Michael Waltrip in fifth, Jamie McMurray in seventh and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in ninth at Daytona. That is pretty good picking for any track, let alone for a restrictor plate race.

In the overall standings for the season, Bomb Squad continues to lead with 4,554 points. Next is RWO Motoring with 4,492, SiLo Sounds Racing with 4,450, cdakost with 4,441, KwaK Racing with 4,438 and Underbird with 4,436.

In the summer segment standings, Bomb Squad also leads with 1,260 points, followed by Mark Martin Motorsports at 1,240, djarum Racing at 1,181 and Anthony’s Team at 1,176.

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