New Hampshire Story Lines
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on September 22, 2013 | 7:51 A.M. EST
Some drivers say that the new restart rules take away some of the advantages the leader had. (Photo: Getty Images)
LOUDON, N.H. - NASCAR’s new restart rule takes some of the leader’s advantage away, drivers say.
Today’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway marks the second with the new rule. With passing difficult at this tight 1-mile track, any positions gained on a restart could prove critical.
The new rule states that the race resumes once the leader accelerates coming to the start/finish line. The revision no longer requires the leader to be the first to cross the start/finish line.
The change is important for the driver starting beside the leader. They no longer have to let off the gas to make sure the leader crosses the start/finish line first. That also helps those behind. Once they see the car in front accelerate, they can do so as well.
“You can have guys that are lined up side-by-side and one row push somebody harder than the other row and that row taking advantage getting into Turn 1,’’ Kyle Busch said. “It can be important to who's behind you and what all is going on in your rearview mirror rather than exactly what lane choice you need or want.’’
Busch discovered that last weekend. Kevin Harvick pushed Matt Kenseth past Busch and into the lead on the final restart at Chicagoland Speedway. Kenseth went on to win.
“Last weekend it worked out to where the second-place guy (Kenseth) had an advantage because I timed it pretty good on the restart and was able to get to Matt’s bumper,’’ Harvick said.
Harvick admits it will be challenging to push the No. 2 starter into the lead at New Hampshire because the leader will take the bottom lane each time. The bottom lane, drivers say, is far better than the top lane. Should the leader spin the tires, though, that could help the No. 2 starter take the lead.
Jimmie Johnson said he would like NASCAR to regulate the restarts more.
“I still think we need to focus on how guys lay back,’’ he said. “When you have a huge apron down below like we did last weekend (at Chicagoland Speedway), it’s easy to lay back three-quarters of a car length to a car length, and roll up on the driver in front of you and be inside.’’
Joey Logano says he will be interested to see if NASCAR adjusts the restart rule in the coming races.
“I’m trying to find out where that line is because we’re going to push it to the edge like we did before with the other rule, ’’ Logano said in what is and isn’t allowable on restarts. “
The restarts will be worth watching today. That won’t be all. Here’s other key story lines for today’s race.
Today’s race will be about track position, track position, track position. Crew chiefs will call for two-tire stops to remain or get to the front. Fuel mileage often is important here and it’s not been uncommon for the leader to run out of fuel before the finish or just after taking the checkered flag.
Watch for what teams do when they pit during cautions. One bad call could leave a driver stuck in the middle of the pack and end their chances of winning.
Pit strategy is so important because of how hard it can be to pass at this 1-mile oval.
Harvick calls New Hampshire “one of the more frustrating races to race because it’s hard to pass. If you make one mistake, it really shows up here.’’
The challenge is that the bottom lane often is significantly better than any other lane. Handling is vital to keep the car on the low lane.
Joey Logano/Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Engine failures sidelined both Chase drivers last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, leaving Earnhardt last and Logano 12th in the Chase standings. Both are more than a full race behind series leader Matt Kenseth.
Earnhardt seemed frustrated after qualifying on Friday - he’ll start 17th - but his car was much better in Saturday’s final practice.
Logano had been strong heading toward the Chase but Chicago knocked him down.
“We’ve been digging out of a hole all year,’’ Logano said. “I feel like we can still win this.’’
He won the July race, overcoming a pit-road penalty. He’ll start at the back of the field today because Kenny Wallace qualified the car while Vickers was at Kentucky Speedway on Friday with his Nationwide team. Vickers practiced his car Saturday before going to Kentucky to race. He was 16th fastest in the final practice session. It won’t be easy to repeat,but Michael Waltrip Racing often is strong on similar type of tracks.
A couple of streaks will be worth watching today. There has been a different winner in each of the last 11 races at New Hampshire.
Another streak to watch is that Chase drivers have won the last 12 Chase drivers. Kasey Kahne was the last driver not competing for the title to win a Chase race at Phoenix in Nov. 2011.