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Tricky 'Magic Mile' to test NASCAR field

By Pete Pistone  () 

A quick trip to New England is on tap this weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series. Idle since racing July 23 at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR’s top division is set to tackle the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301.

 

The track known as the “Magic Mile” is unlike any on the NASCAR schedule. The track’s long straightaways and sharp corners provide a challenge for teams to set up cars that can navigate through the tight turns.

 

The combination makes passing a difficult proposition. Last year’s two races with the rules package that significantly impacts the cars’ aerodynamic characteristics will make track position that much more important. It means pit road will be under the spotlight. Spots gained or lost during pit stops could be the difference between coming out of the weekend with a good finish or lagging behind. Starting near the front will also be important, as 25 of the 49 races run at New Hampshire have been won from the first 10 starting positions.

 

Throw in the last wrinkle of not one lap of practice or qualifying, and New Hampshire’s degree of difficulty gets ramped up even higher. Here are the favorites for Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301:

 

KYLE BUSCH

He finally scored a stage win at Kansas to earn a playoff point. That’s a far cry from a year ago, when Busch had accumulated a giant cushion to help him get through the postseason. But he is still searching for his first win of 2020. Despite the extended drought, it’s hard not to envision Busch being a player at New Hampshire, where he has excelled in recent years. He has three straight top-10 finishes at the track, including a win and a second. Busch has an average finish of 8.2 over the last 10 New Hampshire races, second best among drivers in Sunday’s field. Busch has led 730 laps at New Hampshire over that stretch, tops in the series.

 

MARTIN TRUEX JR.

There was a time when Truex struggled at New Hampshire. But that has not been the case in recent years. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has five consecutive top-10 finishes on his resume, with two of those top-5 runs. Truex has paced the field for 596 laps over the last 10 races run at New Hampshire, trailing only Busch in that category.

 

KEVIN HARVICK

He’ll be shooting for a third straight New Hampshire win after sweeping the two races there in 2019. Harvick has won three of the last five races at the track, with a top-five finish also in that mix.

 

DENNY HAMLIN

He remains red hot, with a series-leading five wins after his Kansas victory. Hamlin has finishes of first and second over the last four New Hampshire races and has 15 top-10 performances in 26 career starts at the track.

 

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