NASCAR National Series News & Notes – New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Next Race: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, August 2
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 318.46 miles (301 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 185), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 301)
2019 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Cup Series

Hamlin & Harvick: The class of the field in 2020; heads to New Hampshire

Despite having 10 different NASCAR Cup Series winners in 19 races this season, the dominance of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (five victories) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (four wins) combining to win nine of the 19 events – a winning percentage of 47.3% – can’t be understated.

What is even more interesting is these two winning juggernauts, Hamlin and Harvick, went head-to-head in a stellar battle to the finish in last season’s NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was Harvick’s first win of the 2019 season and his fourth career win at the famous short track (2006, 2016, 2018, 2019).  This season, Harvick heads to New Hampshire with a bit more early-season success. The Californian currently leads the series standings and has posted four wins (Darlington, Atlanta, Pocono, Indianapolis), 12 top fives, 16 top 10s and a notable average finish of 6.5 this season.

Even though Hamlin finished runner-up last season to Harvick at New Hampshire, he is currently riding a wave of momentum coming off his series-leading fifth victory of 2020 (Daytona 500, Darlington, Homestead-Miami, Pocono, Kansas). The Virginian is currently fourth in the driver standings but leads the series in Playoff points with 28. Hamlin also has accumulated 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 10.3 through 19 races this season.

Looking at the stats for this weekend’s Foxwoods Resorts Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, August 2, at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, expect to see the dynamic duo of Harvick and Hamlin battling it out upfront again.

Harvick leads all active drivers in wins at New Hampshire with four, Hamlin is right behind him with three. Hamlin leads the series in runner-up finishes at New Hampshire with five second-place results; including last year. Harvick is tied with Matt Kenseth for series-most top fives among active drivers with 12 each; Hamlin is right behind them with 10.

And while Hamlin leads the series in average finish at New Hampshire with a 9.8; Harvick is not far behind with a 12.8. Harvick has led the second-most laps among active drivers at New Hampshire with 759; Hamlin has led the fourth-most at 662.

Even the pre-race loop data points to Hamlin and Harvick as the favorites this weekend. Hamlin leads the series in average running position (10.6) and driver rating (103.6) and Harvick is right there with him in second in average running position (10.8) and fourth in driver rating (98.5).

Bowyer, DiBenedetto, Byron on Playoff bubble at New Hampshire

As the NASCAR Cup Series prepares for the 20th event of the 2020 season, time is running out for drivers to solidify their positions in the Playoffs. With 10 drivers already locked in on wins – Denny Hamlin (five wins), Kevin Harvick (four wins), Brad Keselowski (two), Joey Logano (two), Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, and Cole Custer (each have one win) – there are still six spots up for grabs as the series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

As we head to the Magic Mile on Sunday, Aric Almirola (+134 points up), defending series champion Kyle Busch (+120) and his brother Kurt Busch (+119) all have comfortable point leads over 17th place Tyler Reddick – in the first spot outside the Playoff cutoff. But the drivers right below them in the standings – Clint Bowyer (+42) in 14th, Matt DiBenedetto (+35) in 15th, and William Byron (+10) in the 16th and final transfer spot are all feeling the pressure of clinging to their postseason contention chances by such small point margins.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer, who jumped up one position after last week at Kansas and is now sitting in 14th in the Playoff outlook is 42 points up on the postseason cutline. This season, Bowyer has amassed two top fives and five top 10s. He finished 14th at Kansas Speedway last weekend and finished 20th last season at New Hampshire. In 26 series starts at New Hampshire, he has posted two wins (including his NCS career-first victory), four top fives and nine top 10s.

Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto is next in the driver standings and is having a career year, currently 15th in the Playoff outlook with just a 35-point cushion up on 17th place Reddick – the first spot outside the Playoff cutoff. This season DiBenedetto has collected two top fives and five top 10s in 19 starts. DiBenedetto has recorded one top five and one top 10 in eight starts at New Hampshire. Last season, he finished fifth for Leavine Family Racing, one of his best career finishes to date.

Hendrick Motorsport’s driver William Byron is sitting in 16th – the final Playoff transfer spot – just 10 points up on Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick in 17th. Byron will be making his third Cup Series start at New Hampshire on Sunday. Last season he posted his career-best New Hampshire finish (12th) in this event.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts from Cutoff
11 Aric Almirola 576 0 2 2 134
12 Kyle Busch 562 0 1 1 120
13 Kurt Busch 561 0 1 1 119
14 Clint Bowyer 484 0 2 2 42
15 Matt DiBenedetto 477 0 0 0 35
16 William Byron 452 0 2 2 10
17 Tyler Reddick # 442 0 1 1 -10
18 Erik Jones 440 0 0 0 -12
19 Jimmie Johnson 434 0 1 1 -18
20 Bubba Wallace 352 0 0 0 -100
21 Chris Buescher 345 0 0 0 -107
22 Michael McDowell 341 0 0 0 -111
23 Christopher Bell # 339 0 0 0 -113
24 John Hunter Nemechek # 325 0 0 0 -127
25 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 322 0 1 1 -130
26 Ryan Newman 309 0 0 0 -143
27 Ty Dillon 277 0 0 0 -175
28 Matt Kenseth 273 0 0 0 -179
29 Corey LaJoie 259 0 0 0 -193
30 Daniel Suarez 203 0 0 0 -249

Of the five drivers outside the Playoffs but within 100 points of the cutoff, Johnson has the best average finish (11.8) at New Hampshire ,followed by Erik Jones (16.0).

Keeping tabs on the Sunoco Rookie Class

With the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series regular season in full swing, let’s take a look at the current Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Rookies Points Awards
Tyler Reddick 442 8
Cole Custer 352 5
Christopher Bell 339 3
John H. Nemechek 325 3
Brennan Poole 136 0
Quin Houff 101 0

Tyler Reddick is leading the rookies currently with 442 points and eight Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards to his name. Reddick’s best finish of the season came at Texas, where he crossed the line runner-up to his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon. He is also ranked 17th in the series Playoff outlook and is only 10 points behind William Byron in the final Playoff transfer spot. In 19 starts this season Reddick has posted two top fives and six top 10s.

Cole Custer is in second in the rookie standings with 352 points and five Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards. Custer became the first rookie to win in the NASCAR Cup Series (Kentucky Speedway) since Chris Buescher accomplished the feat in 2016 at Pocono. Custer is locked into the Playoffs with his win – the only rookie locked in so far. In addition to his win, Custer has also put up two top fives and four top 10s this season.

Christopher Bell is in third in the rookie standings with 339 points and three Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards. In 19 starts this season he is 23rd in the driver standings after posting one top five and five top 10s.

John Hunter Nemechek is in fourth in the rookie standings with 325 points and three Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards. In 19 starts this season, he has posted two top 10s.

Brennan Poole is sitting in fifth in the rookie standings with 136 points. In 19 starts this season, Pool has put up an average finish of 30.1; with a best finish of 16th at Daytona.

Quin Houff is in sixth in the rookie standings with 101 points. In 19 starts this season he posted an average finish of 32.1; with a best finish of 23rd at Indianapolis.

Five of the six rookies in the 2020 class will be making their series track debut this weekend at New Hampshire. Houff is the lone rookie that has a previous start at the northeastern short track – he made his series debut in 2019, starting 34th and finishing 31st.

NASCAR is producing top notch competition

Despite the changes to schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plus the lack of practice and qualifying, the NASCAR Cup Series competition is putting up some solid passing stats this season.

Since 2007 through 19 races of a season – the 2020 season ranks first in total green flag passes and second in green flag passes to the lead.

In a year-over-year comparison (2019 vs. 2020) we are up 32.7% in green flag passes and up 24.1% in green flag passes for the lead through 19 races

Race Season Total Passes Total Passes for Lead
2007 10,720 69
2008 9,994 101
2009 8,951 44
2010 13,299 205
2011 10,788 151
2012 9,444 70
2013 8,109 55
2014 13,373 186
2015 15,780 111
2016 15,676 112
2017 10,662 144
2018 8,583 116
2019 10,790 145
2020 16,028 191

Average number of leader through 19 races in 2020 is 10.41 – the most since 2014 (11.05). The average number of leaders through 19 races in 2019 was 9.58.

Average number of lead changes (19.63) per race through the first 19 events of the 2020 season are the most since 2014 (24.1) during that same time frame.

Average margin of victory over the first 19 races of the 2020 season is 1.809 seconds, with 10 of the 19 races (52.6%) this season finishing with a margin of victory of less than a second.