The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will travel to the Granite State to compete in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301. This will be the first race at a track smaller than 1.5-mile since the beginning of May. The races at the “Magic Mile” are always fun to watch. The Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 can be seen Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
Goodyear will bring a new tire compound to New Hampshire this week. The flat track at the Magic Mile makes it difficult to get grip through the corners. Goodyear warned the teams against lowering the left-side air pressure to help the car turn. There is a high probability of tire failure if teams go below the 12 PSI recommendations. Each team will receive 3 sets of tires for the 2 practices, 1 set for qualifying and 9 sets for the race. That is a lot of tires for a 301 lap race.
NASCAR applied the PJ1 traction compound around the track and left the middle lane alone to try and promote passing. Jimmie Johnson said, “I am glad they are doing what they can to make the racing better but we need to continue to work on our car throughout the race because the traction compound will likely wear off by the end of Stage 2.”
The cars will be back to 750 HP and the aero ducts will be removed. The cars will still have the 2: splitter and the 8” spoiler so they will not be exactly the same as last year, but they will be close. Teams who ran well at the Magic Mile in the past should be up front Sunday.
* NASCAR will inspect the cars twice this week. The first inspection will be Friday before the cars make any practice runs. The second inspection will be Sunday morning before the race. Cars that fail once Sunday will have no penalty. The teams will be allowed to make changes and try again. If the cars fails a second time, the car will start in the rear of the field but will be scored from their qualifying position in Fantasy NASCAR. Cars that fail a third time will lose a crew member. Fail a fourth time and the driver must serve a pass-through penalty at the start of the race.
Chase Elliott: Elliott keeps getting better and better at New Hampshire. Last year he qualified 10th, finished 2nd in Stage 1, won Stage 2, led 23 laps and finished 5th in the race. Each season he shows improvement at the Magic Mile. If the trend continues, the No. 9 car could be in Victory Lane Sunday. Elliott made a lot of long runs. He said he needed more stability in the car. It starts off tight and builds too loose through the long run.
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has 3 wins at the Magic Mile but his last trip to Victory Lane was in 2010. He has not been bad at the track over the last decade, he just hasn’t won. Johnson finished 10th, 14th and 10th in his last 3 races at New Hampshire. He finished 10th, 12th and 14th in his last 3 short track races this season. Johnson went out and made a long run. He was 25th on the board and he was complaining the backend was not in the track. The team made some adjustments and Johnson went to P5 on the speed chart.
Alex Bowman: Bowman has run well the last 2 months but that success has come on the larger tracks. Bowman has an 18.2 average finishing position on the tracks under 1.5-miles in length this season. Bowman broke a drive-shaft in qualifying so he will start last Sunday in a backup car. Bowman crashed his backup car. Now he will use the backup car from the No. 48 team. That is a lot of hitting the wall for Bowman this week. Can he make it through a 301 mile race?
William Byron: The No. 24 car is starting to show they can run in the top 10. Byron should have a lot of confidence this week since he won a Truck Series race at New Hampshire and he had one of his best finishes in 2018 at this track. He did hit the wall in Friday’s practice and bounced off the fence again in qualifying. He kept the trend going in the morning practice when he pancaked the wall and now he will go to a backup car and start last Sunday. Byron will be scored from the 22nd position in Fantasy NASCAR.
Kyle Larson: Larson finished 2nd at New Hampshire in both races at the track in 2017. He was running up front last year when a pit road penalty put him back in the pack. Larson needs points and a win to make the playoffs. The No. 42 team will be very aggressive to score Stage points and try to win the race. Larson smacked the wall in the morning practice. He said, “I just touched the brakes and they locked up and I got into the wall.” The No. 42 team will go to a backup car, start from the rear Sunday and be scored from the 15th position in Fantasy NASCAR.Larson was reporting he was “Sliding the nose through the corners” in his backup car.
Kurt Busch: Busch will have some momentum after his win in Kentucky. He said after the race, “We have been at our best on these large ovals but the win gives an opportunity to gamble more for wins and try new setups.” Busch did not like the way his car drove in the first practice. He told the team that it would not turn in the center of the corner. They made a lot of adjustments between practices and Busch said, “That is an improvement. Just a tick free on entry but the way it rotates through the center is really good.” He was P6 at the time.
Kevin Harvick: Harvick has not been to Victory Lane yet this season but that could change Sunday. Harvick won 2 of the last 4 races at the Magic Mile. Harvick has the 3rd-best driver rating (111.8) and he posted the 2nd-most fastest laps (125) on the short flat tracks this season. The No. 4 team was working on their long-run speed. Harvick was giving Rodney Childress a lot of feedback about his car. The major complaint and being too tight in the center but overall they were happy with their car.
Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has been good at New Hampshire since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing. He finished 7th in both races at the track in 2017 and he was running 7th last year when he was caught up in a wreck. Bowyer has a 7.4 average finishing position on the short tracks in 2019 so all signs point to the No. 14 car finishing near the 7th position Sunday. Bowyer made some long runs and the team asked him how the car was. He said, “Well… It drivers good, especially in that sticky stuff. Not sure how we compare to the field but it only needs some minor adjustments.” The team told him, “Your speed is not bad. P7 right now.” He made one long run in final practice and it was 7th fastest. (If he does not finish 7th I would be surprised. A lot of 7s popping up this week on this car).
Daniel Suarez: Suarez is on the playoff bubble so his team needs to gamble for track position. He had a fast car last week and the No. 41 car needs speed again Sunday. Suarez has a 14th place average finishing position on the short tracks in 2019. Suarez has 3 races at the Magic Mile on his resume. He finished 6th, 8th and 22nd. Suarez made some long runs and reported the car was too tight in the corners. The team made some adjustments and sent Suarez back out. He said, “Good adjustments. The front is hooked up with the back now.” He moved up to P9 on the speed chart.
Aric Almirola: Almirola has been much better on the flat tracks than he has been on the steep tracks this season. He finished 4th at Phoenix and 9th at Martinsville (flat tracks). Almirola finished 37th at Bristol and 16th at Dover (Steep tracks). Almirola led 42 laps and finished 3rd at the Magic Mile last year. Almirola made a lot of long runs. The team told MRN, “We ran well here last year and the car is about as fast as that car.”
Brad Keselowski: Some crew chiefs said that setting up the car torotate in the corners at New Hampshire is similar to the setup for Martinsville. That is bad news for the field. Keselowski led 446 of the 500 laps at Martinsville this year. Keselowski will have the No. 1 pit stall and starts on the pole at a track where track position is everything. Keselowski was really happy with his car. He said, “Paul did we go with the setup we talked about?” Paul Wolfe replied, “Yes, it is No. 3 that we talked about.” Keselowski said, “Yeah, this is what we need.”
Joey Logano: This is the home race for this Middletown, Connecticut native. The Magic Mile ranks as the 2nd-worst track for Logano though. His average finishing position in his 20 races at the New Hampshire is 20th. Logano does have the 3rd-best average finishing position on the short tracks this season (8.2) so there is hope for the No. 22 team. Logano made some long runs and told his team, “When I hit my marks it is not bad but with 37 other cars out here I probably will not be able to hit my marks for 301 laps. I just need it to be a little more free so I can get through traffic better.” Logano was P6 at the time.
Ryan Blaney: Blaney has started to figure out the Magic Mile. He finished 9th in 2017 and 7th last year. He has also scored Stage points in every Stage at the track. Blaney has also been decent on the short tracks this season. He finished 3rd at Phoenix, 4th at Martinsville and 4th at Bristol. Blaney made a 7 lap run in the morning practice and Blaney reported his car was too tight. The team put the same setup as the No. 2 car and Blaney went back out for another long run. He said, “That’s it. That is what I needed. Keep going in that direction.” Blaney was P 4 at the time.
Paul Menard: Menard has been a mid-tier driver all season and that is what we should expect from the No. 21 team Sunday. Menard has a 16th place average finishing position this season, a 14th-place average finishing position on the short tracks and 18th place average finishing position in his last 3 races at the Magic Mile. He should finish between 14th – 18th Sunday.
Kyle Busch: Busch has been a monster on the short tracks this season and he has been the best driver at New Hampshire over the last 3 races at the track. Busch won at Phoenix and finished 3rd at Martinsville. His success in those 2 races should translate into speed at the Magic Mile. Busch finished 1st and 2nd in his last 2 races at the Magic Mile and he led 223 laps. Crew Chief Adam Stevens told Busch, “Your lap times are really good. Our only competition is the No. 2 and you look like you can maintain a little better than him.” Busch told his team, “I can get more out of it but it looks like overdriving the car seems to be an issue for a lot of teams this week. I do not want to cross the edge out here.”
Erik Jones: New Hampshire ranks as the 4th worst track for Jones. He has 3 races in the MENCS at the Magic Mile and his average finishing position is 20.33. Jones has not been good on the short tracks this season either. His average finishing position in the four races under 1.5-miles in length is 20.6. He qualified upfront so maybe their luck is turning around. Jones was happy with his car (Usually this team has the same or similar setup as the No. 18 car). Jones said, “Need a little help turning into 1 and 3 but I can really get to the throttle early off of 2 and 4.” The team told him that his laptimes were some of the best in the field.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has 3 wins and 4 finishes in 2nd place at the Magic Mile but he will have his work cut out for him Sunday. Hamlin crashed his primary car in practice Friday so he will start in the back in a backup car. He will be scored from the 23rd position in Fantasy NASCAR. Hamlin had a lot of speed in his backup car. His car was a bit free but not bad. Steve Latarte said in final practice that Hamlin looked slow at the start of the run but fast at the end of the run. Gaining positions on restarts is important so that could be a problem for Hamlin. His car is still fast though.
Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has a series-best 4th place average finishing position, led a series-high 332 laps and has the second-best Driver Rating (125.9) in the last 3 races at the Magic Mile. Truex won the last two short track races (Richmond and Dover) so he will have a good chance to score his first win at one of his many “home tracks”.
Matt DiBenedetto: The No. 95 car has had some top 20 finishes on the short tracks (Martinsville, Bristol and Dover) and all signs are pointing to DiBenedetto having one of his better races Sunday. DiBenedetto qualified 7th and track position is very important this week. DiBenedetto made some long runs and said, “The front-end will not turn as well as it did yesterday.” He was P14 at the time. DiBenedettto had a flat tire in final practice and caused damage to the rear-end of the car. It looked like the car was going to fix it. They fixed the car and sent DiBendetto back out and he ran 3 laps and the tire went flat again. Not a good sign for the No. 95 car.
Daniel Hemric: Hemric has not been very good on the short tracks this season. His average starting position is 21st and his average finishing position is 24th. He will be making his first start in a MENCS at the Magic Mile this week. He was unable to finish his 2 races in the Xfinity Series at New Hampshire in the top 10 so he will likely have a hard time finishing up front in a Cup car Sunday.
Austin Dillon: Dillon has been praising his team for how much speed his cars have had this season. Speed is important but finishing the race up front is more important. That is something Dillon has had a problem doing. Dillon has a 15.44 average finishing position in his 9 races at the Magic Mile. He also has a 14.2 average finishing position on the short tracks this season. The No. 3 team needs to find speed to crack the top 15. Dillon went out in the morning practice and said, “Dude, not sure what you did overnight but this car is really, really, really good. Nice job.” Dillon was P3 at the time.
Ty Dillon: Dillon has been horrible at the large tracks and good at the short tracks. Dillon finished 15th at Phoenix, 13th at Martinsville, 15th at Bristol and 21st at Richmond. Not bad for a driver who runs outside the top 25 at the other tracks. Dillon finished 16th at New Hampshire in 2017 and 23rd last year. Dillon reported his car was, “A little on the free side.” The team told him that is OK because it will build tighter throughout the run.
Ryan Preece: Preece said he has been waiting all season for this race. The Berlin, Connecticut native has 24 starts in the NASCAR Wheelen Modified Series, 1 start in the K&N Pro East Series and 5 starts in the Xfinity Series at the Magic Mile. That is a lot of experience at New Hampshire. If Preece cannot figure out this track, he probably should not be in a Cup Series car next year. Preece made some long runs and he said, “I can drive the crap out of it but I need it to turn a little easier in the center. It is going to wear me out the way it is now.”
Chris Buescher: Buescher has been a lot better on the larger tracks this season than he has been on the shorter tracks. Buescher has a 15.7 average finishing position on the large tracks and a 20.8 average finishing position on the short tracks. He has 5 starts in the MENCS at the Magic Mile and his average finishing position is 25th. Buescher liked the adjustments the No. 37 team made overnight. He said, “It rotates a not better and I can get to the throttle earlier on the exit. I wish I had this is qualifying.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse Jr. has been a good sleeper pick the last 2 months but that has a lot to do with the draft coming into play at the larger tracks. Stenhouse has not been very good on the short tracks in 2019. His average starting position is 18.6 and his average finishing position is 24th. He only has one finish in the top 10 in his 11 races at New Hampshire. Stenhouse made some long runs and he said, “We are just a bit free but it is a good free. I can handle it the way it is. I would not tighten it up too much.” After his last run Stenhouse said, “You ruined it. It is way too tight now.”
Ryan Newman: Newman is on a hot streak right now. He has finished 4 of his last 5 races in the top 10. If Newman wants to keep his steak going, he will have to do it from the back Sunday. Newman crashed his primary car in practice Friday so he will start in the rear in a backup car. He will be scored from the 26th starting position in Fantasy NASCAR.
Favorites to win Sunday: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin
Good Sleeper Picks: Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson
MENCS Final Practice Speeds
Final Practice 10-Lap Average Speed
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