News & Media

Qualifying the Chasers: New Hampshire

September 23, 2011, Bill Kimm,

Roush Fenway has work cut out with Edwards 23rd, Kenseth 27th

Ryan Newman (Qualified first) -- Newman is one of four Chase drivers with three victories at New Hampshire and he is the most recent winner at 1-mile track. In the past four races at New Hampshire, Newman has the best average finish at 5.5. In 19 starts, Newman has finished in the top 10 in 13 of them (68 percent), and most of that has been out front. Newman has led 658 laps at New Hampshire, third-most amongst the Chase drivers. Newman also qualifies well at the Magic Mile. His five poles leads all drivers at the track and his average start of 8.53 is tops at New Hampshire.

Kurt Busch (Qualified fifth) -- Busch is one of four Chase drivers with three victories at New Hampshire. In the past five New Hampshire races, no driver has collected more points than Busch (654). Along with his three wins, Busch has seven top-fives and 11 top-10s in 21 starts. But it's his recent results that have the No. 22 team excited. In his past seven races, Busch has a victory, a pair of thirds, a pair of sixths and a worst finish of 13th. His average finish in that stretch -- 6.0. Busch's 432 laps led in Loudon is fourth-best among Chase drivers.

Kevin Harvick (Qualified sixth) -- There's not much to write home about when it comes to Harvick at New Hampshire. In 21 starts, Harvick has a win, but just five top-fives and 11 top-10s. In a word, Harvick is pretty much average at the Magic Mile. His average finish of 14.2 puts him seventh among Chase drivers and in the past eight races, he has just two top-fives and three top-10s. Harvick finished 21st in the spring race, but had back-to-back fifth-place runs before that, so the question is: Which Harvick will show up?

Jeff Gordon (Qualified seventh) -- Gordon is the only Chase driver to compete in all 33 Cup races at New Hampshire and is one of four Chasers with three wins at the track -- although all three came between 1995 and 1998. But don't let that fool you, Gordon has been fantastic at New Hampshire recently. In the past 12 races, Gordon hasn't finished worse than 15th and in that stretch he has three runner-up finishes. In Chase races at New Hampshire, Gordon is always a contender. He has an average finish of 8.7 in Chase races at NHMS and he's led laps in all but one of those events.

Kyle Busch (Qualified eighth) -- New Hampshire is a deceptive track for Busch. His 16.3 average finish in 13 starts is third worst among Chasers. But a look at the whole resume shows he's better than that. Busch has a victory, four top-fives and six top-10s at New Hampshire ... in 13 starts, that ain't bad. It's just when bad luck hits Busch, it hits hard -- he has five finishes of 25th or worse. Busch has led five times at Loudon for 225 laps but is coming off a horrible spring race that saw the No. 18 into the wall and in the garage.

Jimmie Johnson (Qualified 10th) -- Johnson is one of four Chase drivers with three victories at New Hampshire, and is flat-out one of the best at the Magic Mile. Along with those three victories, Johnson has seven top-fives and 13 top-10s in 19 starts. Johnson is one of two drivers (Hamlin) to have an average finish inside the top 10 (9.6) and in the past six races at New Hampshire, no driver has scored more points than Johnson. In fact, Johnson has finished in the top 10 in eight of his past nine Loudon starts. The five-time champ has just three finishes of 15th or worse at New Hampshire and always seems to find the lead. He's held the point in nine of the 19 races and has led a total of 316 laps.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Qualified 12th) -- Coming off a third at Chicago, Junior heads to a track where he's had mediocre results. Earnhardt has yet to visit Victory Lane in 24 starts at New Hampshire and has just six top-fives and 10 top-10s. Earnhardt's average finish at the Magic Mile is 16.7, 11th of the 12 Chase drivers and a glaring stat are his four DNFs. There is some good news for Earnhardt, though. In his past three starts, he's finished eighth, fourth and 15th. In fact, in the past six races, Junior is eighth in total points scored with just one finish outside the top 15 due to a crash in 2009. In Chase events, he leads all drivers with four top-fives.

Brad Keselowski (Qualified 16th) -- As the rookie of the Chase, Keselowski doesn't have great stats at New Hampshire, but they aren't horrible either. Kes finished sixth in his Cup debut at the track in 2009, and in last year's Chase race, Keselowski led two laps and finished 18th. Oh, in that race ... he started from the pole. His average finish of 21.2 took a hit in the spring race this season when he cut a tire, slammed the wall and finished 35th. Take that out, and Keselowski has a respectable average finish of 16.6.

Tony Stewart (Qualified 20th) -- Last week's winner at Chicagoland is among the best at New Hampshire. In 23 starts, he has two victories and 13 top-fives ... that's more than 50 percent, folks. Smoke has led in the past eight races at New Hampshire, the longest current streak and in that time, Stewart has scored the fourth-most points at the track thanks to an average finish of 8.8 and four top-fives. On top of Stewart's two wins, he has five second-place finishes, including the spring race the past two seasons.

Carl Edwards (Qualified 23rd) -- Another track where Edwards has yet to visit Victory Lane. The Magic Mile has not been kind to Edwards, who has just two top-10s in 14 starts. The good news, those top-10s were a second-and third-place finish. The bad news, they came in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Edwards has only led 70 laps at New Hampshire, but despite his struggles, his average finish is a respectable 14.4. In fact, Edwards hasn't finished worse than 25th at New Hampshire and has 11 finishes between 11th and 20th.

Matt Kenseth (Qualified 27th) -- Kenseth was pretty solid at New Hampshire before the new car. Since then, the 2003 Cup champion just hasn't found the magic. In 23 starts, Kenseth is winless with five top-fives and 11 top-10s, but all of them have come before 2008. In his past seven starts at New Hampshire, Kenseth's best finish is 17th. One plus -- the No. 17 finishes races with just one DNF and only two finishes 30th or worse.

Denny Hamlin (Qualified 28th) -- After a horrible race at Chicagoland, New Hampshire comes at a great time for Hamlin. In 11 starts, Hamlin has the best average finish among all drivers at 7.1 and he has yet to finish off the lead lap at the Magic Mile. In those 11 starts, Hamlin has a win, five top-fives and eight top-10s. His three finishes outside the top 10 -- 14th, 15th and 15th. If there is one weak spot for Hamlin at New Hampshire, it would be him getting the lead. He's held the lead just five times, and for more than five laps in just two races. In the past two Chase races at New Hampshire, Hamlin has finished second and he finished third in the spring race earlier this season.