NASCAR Picks for New Hampshire
Length: 1.058 miles
Location: Loudon, New Hampshire
With a rainy, wild weekend at Daytona in the books, the Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this season for the first of two races at the flat, 1.0-mile oval. Given the lack of banking (but somewhat sizable straightaways), it is no surprise that passing is difficult at New Hampshire. Getting alongside a car is one thing, but completing a pass is an entirely different task. On top of that, drivers have to be sure not to abuse their brakes as they work their way through the field. Needless to say, track position is crucial and crew chiefs will no doubt be toying with tire and pit strategy throughout the race in order to get their drivers into position to win when it matters most.
Unlike last weekend's race at Daytona where just about any driver had a shot at picking up a decent finish, New Hampshire has largely been dominated by a small group of drivers. Yes, some other drivers have broken through and reached victory lane, but there is a clear gap between the top few drivers (especially Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon) and everyone else as far as consistency goes. With that in mind, I highly recommend starting with a strong core when assembling fantasy lineups for New Hampshire and filling in the rest of the spots with middle-tier options and sleepers. You could also try the opposite strategy and try to gain ground on the rest of your league by going with a more unconventional lineup, but that strategy is much more likely to backfire than it is to pay off this weekend.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, and his 9.2 average finish at the track is the second best among active drivers. In 24 starts at NHMS, Johnson has 17 Top 10s, including 12 in his last 14 starts at the track. Meanwhile, he has finished seventh or better in his last four starts at the track, compiling a series-leading 4.8 average finish during the stretch.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His consistency at New Hampshire has stood the test of time; in 38 starts at the track, Gordon has three wins and has compiled a 10.6 average finish. In fact, Gordon leads all drivers with an 8.6 average finish at the track since 2004. He has also finished in the Top 15 in his last 17 starts at the track, picking up nine finishes of sixth or better during the stretch. He is one of the safest picks this weekend.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Hamlin leads all active drivers with a 9.0 average finish at New Hampshire, and in 16 starts at the track, he only has two finishes outside the Top 15. Hamlin also has two wins at NHMS, and he has finished second on three other occasions. He has 10 Top 10s at the track overall.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
In the last five races at New Hampshire, Keselowski has been as reliable as any driver out there. He has finished 11th or better in five straight starts at the track, compiling a 5.6 average finish in the process. More importantly, he has four finishes of sixth or better during the stretch.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Kenseth has been solid at New Hampshire throughout his career; but after moving to Joe Gibbs Racing last season, he took his performance to another level. He picked up a Top 10 in his first start at NHMS with JGR; in his second start, he went to victory lane. Kenseth should continue to enjoy a boost in his performance at New Hampshire as long as he is driving for JGR.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He is a former winner at New Hampshire and has finished in the Top 10 in half of his 26 starts at the track. Meanwhile, Harvick has finished 12th or better in six of his last eight starts at NHMS, notching four finishes of eighth or better during the stretch. He has consistently been one of the strongest drivers throughout 2014. That shouldn't change at a track where he has been dependable in the past.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
While he has run hot and cold at New Hampshire at times, Busch is a former winner at the track -- he has finished 11th or better in 11 of his 18 starts. More importantly, Busch is coming off a year when he finished second in both races at NHMS. He offers plenty of upside this weekend and offers legit race-winning potential.
Tony Stewart, #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Stewart has been one of the best at delivering strong finishes at New Hampshire; in 29 starts at the track, he has 13 Top 5 finishes. Included in that total are three trips to victory lane and four additional second-place finishes. In fact, Stewart has one win and two runner-up finishes at New Hampshire since 2010.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he is still looking for a win at New Hampshire, Junior has been a dependable option at the track lately. He has seven Top 15s in his last eight starts at NHMS, including four straight. During the stretch, Junior has finished eighth or better four times and hasn't finished worse than 17th.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Bowyer had a down year at New Hampshire by his standards last year, but he still managed finishes of 13th and 17th. He finished third and fourth in two starts at the track in 2012, and he is a two-time winner at NHMS overall. Bowyer isn't a Top 5 option after his performance last season, but don't be surprised if he bounces back with a solid Top 10.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
While his move to Hendrick Motorsports may not be having the overall impact many expected, Kahne's numbers have seen a big boost at New Hampshire. He won in his first start at NHMS with HMS; in four starts, he has three finishes of 11th or better (including a pair of Top fives).
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
He is a former winner at New Hampshire. While that victory came via fuel mileage in his rookie year, Logano has remained consistent at the track. In fact, he has cracked the Top 15 in six of his last eight starts at NHMS, picking up three Top 10s along the way. As well as Logano has performed throughout 2014, he offers plenty of upside this weekend.