New Hampshire Story Lines
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on July 13, 2014 | 6:33 A.M. EST
Kyle Larson looks to snap a stretch of three consecutive finishes outside the top 25 today at New Hampshire. (Photo: Getty Images)
LOUDON, N.H. - Things seemed good for rookie Kyle Larson last month, but three bad results have him outside a Chase spot heading into today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Larson was eighth in points after last month’s Michigan race but slid to 17th after finishing 28th at Sonoma (lost power steering), 40th at Kentucky (blown tire and crash) and 36th last week at Daytona (crash).
“It was looking great,’’ said Larson, who starts today’s race 13th. “It makes you stress out a little bit just because each week it gets closer and closer to the Chase. Now we have fallen to where we have to fight really hard again. I have to have a couple of good runs and hopefully get back up there.’’
Larson’s best results, though, have come at tracks 1.5-miles or larger. His best finish at a track 1 mile or less is 10th at Bristol. New Hampshire is a 1-mile track.
Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray, though, tested at this track last month.
“We were here with the Hendrick (Motorsports) cars and I thought they were a little bit better than us, but at the midway point of the test I thought we were pretty good,’’ Larson said. “We just kept testing different things and slowed down a little bit.’’
Whether Larson can snap his drought is among the story lines today.
Yes, Brad Keselowski was the fastest in both of Saturday’s practice sessions but Busch starts on the pole and placed second in both races at New Hampshire last year.
The challenge in moving up a spot Sunday? A better handling car on a long run.
“I think the biggest thing is I always like to be able to take off and go and when I can take off and go - it usually means I’m too tight halfway through the run - and that’s when those guys seem to be able to beat us,’’ Busch said. “The second race (at New Hampshire) last year we ran a lot better on the long run, but the race was a little too short and ran out of time to our teammate (Matt Kenseth).’’
The question is if Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers have solved the issue this time.
Watch what crew chiefs do to set themselves for the final pit stop, which could come between 80 and 100 laps left.
Last September, Matt Kenseth had a dominant car and used a two-tire strategy on his last stop to maintain his lead.
Last July, Brian Vickers won. He last pitted 90 laps from the end and moved to the front when others stopped afterward.
In July 2012, Denny Hamlin led the most laps but took four tires on his final stop and restarted 14th. Kasey Kahne took two tires on his last stop, restarted as the leader and won the race. Hamlin finished second.
Crew chiefs study race histories and they are aware what has worked and what hasn’t in recent races. Keep these pit calls in mind as the race moves toward the finish.
13 A Magic Number?
There have been 12 different winners in the last 12 races at New Hampshire, dating back to 2008. The streak started with Kurt Busch. The other winners since are Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth.
Will there be a 13th different winner today?
Tires and Track
A few teams had trouble this weekend with left rear tires. The problem often was that teams had the tire below Goodyear’s recommended minimum air pressure. If teams don’t follow the guidelines during the race, they could have problems.
Another key issue could be the track. Brad Keselowski mentioned there could be some issues after he won Saturday’s Nationwide race.
“There’s a sealer that is put in between the cracks and holds the track together,’’ Keselowski said. “It looked to me like (Saturday) that all got ripped out of the track, which exposes the cracks and leaves them very vulnerable to peeling up chunks of asphalt. With the Cup cars running the speeds they do, with the downforce levels they have and the grip they have in general, with those being exposed there’s a high potential of pulling a chunk out of the track like we’ve seen at Dover and Daytona and other places. Hopefully, that will get addressed beefore (Sunday). It could be a story line.’’
A NASCAR spokesperson said that officials inspect the track each night and each day. The spokesperson said Sunday morning that NASCAR officials saw no issues with the track after inspecting it.