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Qualifying the Chasers: New Hampshire

September 22, 2012, Nick Margiasso, NASCAR.com

Down but not out, Gordon wins pole for Loudon; Kes, JJ restart rivalry mid-pack

Brad Keselowski (Qualified 15th): After building him up in last week's Qualifying the Chasers, Bad Brad went out and got him a slice of that Chicagoland style. How about some love at Loudon, then? His situation there is even better than at Chicago. Loudon was the site of his second-best finish during the two years he split time on the Cup circuit and, after three finishes 18th or worse there, he posted a second place in the last race at Loudon in 2011 and a fifth there already this season. Blue Deuce rides high again?

Jimmie Johnson (Qualified 20th): We just may be up for another edition of the BK & JJ show in Loudon. If Brad Keselowski's promise is built within projecting very nice starts at certain tracks, Ol' Five-Time's is built in crushing the competition at those same spots. Johnson has won three times at Loudon, has 14 top-10s in 21 starts there and an average finish of 9.9. One of the tracks which sees two Cup visits a season, Johnson hasn't failed to finish in the top 10 at least once within a two-visit season since 2004 (and he's already got a seventh-place there this year). So, yeah, he'll be there -- or really close -- at the end this weekend again.

Tony Stewart (Qualified 3rd): Smokin' Tony has also churned out three wins in Loudon (although one of those came way back at the turn of the millennium), but hasn't been as dominant as, say Jimmie Johnson. Stewart alternates great goes at Loudon with seemingly as many half-decent or just plain poor results there. If he throws in a top-five then maybe he'll deal a top-15 the next time through ... or even a 39th -- which he has a pair of at New Hampshire. That said, he already threw in his 12th there earlier in 2012, so can the big win come right here and now?

Chase Standings

As of Chicago
Pos.DriverPointsBehind
2.J. Johnson2053-3
3.T. Stewart2048-8
4.D. Hamlin2041-15
5.K. Kahne2041-15

Denny Hamlin (Qualified 32nd): According to Denny Hamlin, we should all just pack it up and head for Dover ... he's got Loudon on lock. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said on Twitter that, "We will win next week" at Loudon. He's not exactly shooting off, either, as Hamlin has one win, should have won there earlier in 2012 and in total has finished six times in the top five in just 13 races in Loudon. Since that single victory, Hamlin has come in second three times. Maybe he's just downright tired of not winning this thing and is ready to do something about it.

Kasey Kahne (Qualified 6th): Kahne's Loudon win, his first there, earlier this season seemingly came out of nowhere. Outside that and a sixth-place last season, he has as many finishes in the 30s as he does in the top 10 at Loudon. But The Mighty Kasey has been hot of late, and is ready to try again. Then again, that hot streak brought him his second win of the season, and he might have spent up all his good fortune at Loudon already in 2012.

Clint Bowyer (Qualified 12th): Here's your real Mystery Man in Loudon. Bowyer, of all people, somehow has managed two, count 'em two, wins here for his career. Besides that, his third-place finish at Loudon already this season is one of just two top-12 finishes in 13 starts here. Ok, Denny, check that -- here's the guy who has really spent all his Loudon Luck in 2012.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Qualified 14th): After more of the steady-and-slow-does-not-win-the-race activity we have seen all season from Dale Jr., he'll arrive at yet another track where he has moderately performed. Although he finished fourth there earlier in the season, Loudon is a place where Mr. Diet Mountain Dew spills out a few finishes in the teens and twenties for every decent one he chugs down. Ok, Ok -- Denny, Clint, move over. Here's your "already blew your chance" man for Loudon on this weekend.

Greg Biffle (Qualified 13th): Biffle has been slowly fading since his second win of the season, finishing outside the top 10 in three of the last four races. Loudon might be another notch down in the pecking order for Greg, who finished 13th at Chicago in the open of the Chase. Loudon won't be of much help to him as, although he's posted a ninth this season and a third in the last race in new Hampshire of 2011, he's finished inside the top 16 just once in the five races previous. He does have a win, though, which means he's no stranger to coming out of nowhere here.

Martin Truex Jr. (Qualified 9th): Talk about not being able to get behind a guy -- Martin Truex Jr. has just not been able to find that win. Still looking for his follow-up win to his lone career victory in 2007, Truex has actually performed well down the stretch into the Chase. He's hung around the top 10 since an 11th place in Loudon earlier in the year, including the heart-wrenching fourth-place in Atlanta. But Loudon has no luck for him as, outside of an interesting run of top-10s in 2007-08, Truex has finished within the top 10 just once since 2009.

Kevin Harvick (Qualified 16th): A shaky none-win Chase driver down the stretch, Harvick just keeps pushing out finishes in the teens and getting the Chase gods, apparently, to mysteriously add points to his total. He middled to the tune of a 12th-place at Chicago, but heads to a New Hampshire track where he has done decently as of late. The track, which Happy won at in 2006, has shown him top-fives in two of the last five races here. He won't win, but could finish well enough to jump up a few precious slots.

Matt Kenseth (Qualified 25th): It looked like, for a minute, like Matt might be on his way to turning recent fortunes around. But then he opened the Chase looking for his third-straight top-10, but ended up 18th. Now, he looks to Loudon and won't like what he sees. Including the 13th there already in 2012, Kenseth has finished outside of the top 10 in eight of his last nine races here. That includes four finishes in the 20s and one at 40th. Ouch.

Jeff Gordon (Qualified 1st): Did you see Chicago? Yup. Done. No wonder Stache rhymes with crash.