Monday, July 9, 2012

2012 New Hampshire LENOX Tools 301 Storylines

Stewart-Haas swept the 2012 season at New Hampshire in 2011 (Getty)
It’s summer and it’s Stewart Time. The winner of last weekend’s Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola has the next eight races leading to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ squarely in his sights. Beginning with Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Stewart has won a combined 20 races at tracks comprising the remaining regular season schedule.

Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman – who’s fighting for a Chase "wild card" berth – won both New Hampshire races a year ago. Newman and Stewart finished one-two in the summer; Stewart picked up his second of five Chase victories in September.

Oh and Daytona’s win No. 3 gives Stewart the No. 1 seed if the Chase were to begin today.

Clint Bowyer, on top of the world just days ago as the winner in Sonoma, finds himself the "bubble boy" – 10th in the standings – headed for New England. Good news: Bowyer is the only two-time winner in Loudon over the past nine races.

The "wild card" race remains anything but tame. A three-way deadlock for the 12th Chase spot was broken in Daytona but Joey Logano can’t take an easy breath. He is, however, a former New Hampshire winner.

Jeff Burton is New Hampshire’s leading winner with four victories but none since 2000. Perhaps last weekend’s second-place finish at Daytona will put him back in Victory Lane for the first time since Charlotte in the fall of 2008.

Saturday’s New Hampshire stop signals the first round of the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ Dash 4 Cash and a $100,000 payoff for four of the series’ elite performers. Points leader Elliott Sadler, Sunoco Rookie of the Year headliner Austin Dillon, defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and rising star Michael Annett face off with the highest finisher claiming the 100K.

Can Kyle Busch extend his three-race Loudon victory streak but this time as an owner-driver? Busch has yet to take his No. 54 Toyota to Victory Lane and this week offers his best opportunity yet at a track where he’s the only multiple series winner.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors return to action in Saturday’s American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway. Three Iowa races have produced three different winners with resurgent Matt Crafton, coming off a fourth-place finish and Keystone Light Pole at Kentucky Speedway, hoping to duplicate last year’s victory.

Points leader Timothy Peters hasn’t had much success at Iowa Speedway and with a four-point lead over Justin Lofton and Ty Dillon, the Providence, N.C. native will be challenged to retain his spot at the top of the standings. Dillon won last year’s Iowa ARCA race and helped 2012 champion and older brother Austin Dillon celebrate his first NCWTS victory in 2010 at Iowa Speedway.


Daytona Success Leads Into Stewart-Haas New Hampshire Stronghold
Sunday’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301 couldn’t come at a better time for Stewart-Haas Racing and drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Stewart won his fourth Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola last weekend with Newman finishing fifth – the latter’s first top five since his April 1 victory at Martinsville Speedway. The duo finished one-two (Newman first, Stewart second) in last year’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway summer race. Stewart won at Loudon in the fall, the second of five Chase victories that led to his third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Newman was the Coors Light Pole winner both times – including his most recent pole, his 49th, in the September race at New Hampshire.

Stewart’s Third Victory Adds To Historic Summer Success
Tony Stewart’s third win of the 2012 campaign matches Brad Keselowski for the most victories by a driver in the top 10. Were the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ field to be set today, Stewart would be the No. 1 seed with Keselowski second holding matching 2009-points totals. Stewart’s pair of second-place finishes would break the tie if the season were to end today.

History suggests Stewart will get another win before the Chase field is set following Richmond International Raceway’s Sept. 8 Wonderful Pistachios 400. Summer is the season in which Indiana native thrives: 24 of Stewart’s 47 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories have come between June 1 and Richmond’s early September event. Stewart has won on all eight tracks remaining before the post season begins and 20 times overall.

Keselowski, however, has also been a summer sensation with four of seven wins – including three in 2011 when he qualified for the Chase as a "wild card" – during the June-August portion of the calendar.

Bowyer Looks To Regain Chase Momentum
Things happen fast in the world of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Two weeks ago, Clint Bowyer was on top of the world having won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup road race in Sonoma, Calif., an event that moved him up to seventh in the points standings. Two finishes outside the top 15 later Bowyer is the "bubble boy" – 10th and staring back at an oncoming Carl Edwards. Edwards, who finished sixth at Daytona, is ranked 11th 31 points out of the top 10.

For Bowyer, the news has a positive side as well. He’s only a point behind ninth-place Brad Keselowski and could qualify for the Chase as a "wild card." Bowyer is returning to one of his best tracks on Sunday – New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Bowyer has won twice at NHMS, most recently in 2010 with a Driver Rating of 149.4. He is the only repeat winner at the track in the past nine races, winning the September 2007 event with a perfect Driver Rating after leading 222 laps.

Second ‘Wild Card’ To Former NHMS Winner Logano
Now it’s Joey Logano’s turn to grip the second of two Chase "wild card" qualifying slots. Logano escaped the late-race carnage that claimed Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to finish fourth in the Coke Zero 400.

Logano’s hold on the "wild card" is tenuous. He’s a point ahead of defending race winner Ryan Newman; three ahead of Coca-Cola 600 winner Kasey Kahne.

Busch continues to hold the first "wild card" spot. He’s 12th in the overall standings, two positions and 13 points ahead of Logano.

The Connecticut driver is one of eight consecutive different winners at NHMS collecting his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in the 2009 LENOX Industrial Tools 301.

Revived Burton Eyes Fifth New Hampshire Victory
That was a sigh of relief you heard from Jeff Burton following his second-place finish in the Coke Zero 400. Burton’s last top five came in February in the Daytona 500. The drought over, the Virginian heads to one of his favorite tracks. He’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s most prolific winner with four trips to Victory Lane, the most recent in 2000.

Kevin Harvick is the only current member of Richard Childress Racing to drive one of the organization’s cars to victory in New Hampshire. RCR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing rank third in wins at the track with four apiece. Hendrick Motorsports (eight) and Roush Fenway Racing (seven) rank one-two.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Etc.
Matt Kenseth’s 25-point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the largest of the 2012 season. RFR teammate Greg Biffle, third in the standings, had a 19-point advantage after April’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. … Interestingly, neither Dale Earnhardt nor Dale Earnhardt Jr. appears on the list of New Hampshire Motor Speedway winners. … Tony Stewart is nominated for two ESPYS, for "Best Championship Performance" and "Best Driver." ESPN’s broadcast is Wednesday, July 11 at 7 p.m. EDT. … The eventual NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has won a race in New Hampshire in four different seasons since the Chase began including the past two years. … Thirteen former New Hampshire winners have entered Sunday’s race. Five – Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart - can join top winner Jeff Burton with a fourth victory. … Kevin and DeLana Harvick welcomed the couple’s first child, a son Keelan Paul Harvick on July 8.

- NASCAR Media Services

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