Sunday’s New Hampshire 301 is a crucial race with only eight events remaining until the Chase field is set. In recent years, Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing have dominated the Granite State, sweeping each of the past two seasons.
In a news-filled week, this race has the potential to being a “wild card” in terms of making the Chase.
Bowman has never had an opportunity like he does on Sunday with Hendrick Motorsports. In the past, he has raced at the Cup Series level with underfunded teams, BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing. Though this team is brand new to him, a solid effort could be the turnaround that his career needs.
The 23-year-old has competed in five XFINITY Series events for JR Motorsports in 2016, finishing in the top 10 each time. He has experience working for Earnhardt, but now he’s replacing him, something many drivers wish they could have done.
With his future in question and four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon already named as the driver of the No. 88 for Indianapolis if Earnhardt is unavailable, Bowman is racing with what they “house money.” He has nothing to lose and everything to gain, which makes for a dangerous driver.
Brad Keselowski: Going for Three Straight wins:
Over the past two weeks, Keselowski has been running the sport. Dominating at Daytona leading 115 laps en route to his second win of a superspeedway this season, he followed suit last week at Kentucky, stretching the fuel to the bitter end, edging out Carl Edwards.
Keselowski has never been victorious in three straight races at the Cup Series level. He’s only won back-to-back races once in his career, when he won at Richmond and Chicago in 2014.
The No. 2 team is leading the series with four wins and New Hampshire is won of Keselowski’s best race tracks. He has led at least one lap in the last nine events at New Hampshire, including a race-high 101 in this race last year.
Kyle Busch: Looking to Sweep the Weekend:
Another XFINITY Series race, another win for Busch. The No. 18 car scored a perfect driver rating, leading 190 of 200 laps on Saturday afternoon. He had to beat his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates for the victory, but for the majority of the weekend, was two-tenths of a second quicker than anybody else.
If Busch wins it will mark his third weekend sweep of the year, including Martinsville when he won the Truck Series race. Next week the schedule changes to Indianapolis where Busch swept both races in 2015.
Joe Gibbs Racing: Fast all Weekend Long:
Other than final practice on Saturday, a Toyota driver has been a top of every practice session this weekend. Martin Truex, Jr. paced the way on Friday, who is an affiliate to JGR.
Saturday morning it was a trio of JGR drivers who topped practice led by Carl Edwards with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin just behind. Busch wasn’t far back in seventh.
A Toyota driver hasn’t won since the Coca-Cola 600, when Truex led all but eight miles. JGR hasn’t been victorious since Dover, when Kenseth picked up his solo victory of 2016.
Rookie Chase Elliott topped final practice and is looking for his first career win. It’s possible that he could spoil the JGR party.
Rain in the forecast:
Will a NASCAR weekend ever go one day without rain? After no rain appearing on the radar heading into this weekend, an overnight shower will cause a competition caution on Lap 35.
There is a 50 percent chance of rain throughout the day on Sunday, with the forecast looking a lot better in the afternoon hours. It could be a long day.