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June 24, 2024

Three Up, Three Down: Drivers in focus leaving New Hampshire


There were curveballs aplenty in the NASCAR Cup Series over the weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. From no qualifying to little practice time, Sunday’s USA Today 301 at the “Magic Mile” looked to be anyone’s race to win. Factoring in more than two hours of a rain delay Sunday — and a strategy switch to wet-weather tires — only heightened the opportunity for drivers to show their ability to adapt on the fly at the New England facility.

Once the dust (and rain) settled, it was Christopher Bell who capitalized in overtime to claim his third win of the 2024 Cup Series campaign.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos

Before the Cup Series treks to Nashville Superspeedway next Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App), see which drivers are trending up and skidding down following New Hampshire.

THREE UP ⬆️

1. Chase Briscoe, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

Chase Briscoe, in the No. 14 Ford, races ahead of Ryan Blaney in the No. 12 Ford at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images

Started: 23rd

Finished: 2nd

What happened: Stages 1 and 2 didn’t net much momentum for the 29-year-old Briscoe, who completed both segments in 27th and 22nd, respectively. The No. 14’s late-race spark came during the contest’s final stage, where Briscoe chipped all the way up to the top row and might’ve contended more with Bell if surplus laps permitted. Even still, the Ford will take the runner-up in stride, given the speed it showed and the resilience its pilot endured from start to finish.

What’s next: Briscoe hasn’t seen much success at Nashville, given all three of his Cup appearances at the track have yielded finishes outside the top 30. However, as New Hampshire showed, momentum can come in many forms, and if there’s any belief in said momentum carrying over, Briscoe could be on the verge of even better results. Stay tuned.

2. Chris Buescher, No. 17 RFK Racing Ford

Chris Buescher, in the No. 17 Ford, races ahead of Michael McDowell in the No. 34 Ford at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Started: 15th

Finished: 5th

What happened: Similarly to Briscoe, it was a slow brew for Buescher, who completed Stage 1 in 18th and Stage 2 in 11th. Strategy switches, including two-tire stops and the wet-weather transitions, eventually helped Buescher’s short and long-run speed prevail, which was just the recipe needed to fight and thrive at the front of the pack.

“Loudon has not been our best track, definitely not mine specifically,” Buescher said after the race. “There was no quit in this Fastenal group today. It was awesome to come home with a top five. We were really good in the rain when it was wet. We really fought for it when it was dry, but we were on wet tires. There, at the end, there was just really one good groove, and that made restarts a battle. We were able to persevere through all that and bring this thing home with a handful of more tire marks on the door than when we went in under red initially, but a really good night for us.”

What’s next: On paper, Nashville hasn’t been Buescher’s best track; in three Cup Series races there, the No. 17 has two finishes of 30th or worse and has yet to lead a lap. However, Buescher’s Nashville trend has been an upward one, as seen with his finishes of 36th (2021), 30th (2022) and 18th (2023) in the last three seasons. Perhaps it continues.

3. John Hunter Nemechek, No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Toyota

John Hunter Nemechek, in the No. 42 Toyota, dodges through a wreck at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Started: 28th

Finished: 8th

What happened: Sometimes, continuing to battle pays off in full. Such was the case for Nemechek Sunday evening at the “Magic Mile” after 30th and 32nd-place results in Stages 1 and 2, respectively. Despite the scuffles, Nemechek continued to push forward and capitalized late during overtime after the field crunched together.

“We were stuck two laps down until we got all of the cautions,” Nemechek said after the race. “I was sitting on the top of the box with Ben (Beshore, crew chief) praying that we were going to be able to go back racing. We were awful the first run of the race and just worked on it all day. These guys gave it all they had. A lot of adjustments throughout the day … I’ll take eighth after the day we had. I think we were stuck in 31st or 32nd pretty much all day, so solid finish for us and something that we needed. Hopefully, we can build some momentum off of this.”

What’s next: It will be a clean slate for the 27-year-old Nemechek, who will make his Nashville debut in the Cup Series next Sunday. Nemechek finished sixth in the 2023 Xfinity Series running at the track and additionally has two top 10s in two Truck Series starts there (10th in 2021, ninth in 2022).

THREE DOWN ⬇️

1. Alex Bowman, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Alex Bowman races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Started: 5th

Finished: 36th

What happened: The No. 48 Chevy’s strong track position to begin Sunday’s contest quickly devolved into mechanical issues, as engine issues forced the Hendrick machine to the garage on Lap 144. Unfortunately for the race team, the No. 48 did not return to the track following the incident and was relegated to a last-place result.

What’s next: Although the Arizona native has yet to finish inside the top 10 at Nashville in three Cup tries, Bowman does have one thing going for him in Tennessee: He has started each of those three Cup contests inside the top 15 (eighth in 2021, 12th in 2022 and 15th in 2023). Although there is more to racing than starting at the front of the pack (as New Hampshire once showed), clean air can be a driver’s best friend. It’s possible that trend corrects itself this time around.

2. Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford

A general view of Joey Logano's No. 22 Ford after damaged suffered at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Started: 6th

Finished: 32nd

What happened: The New England native in Logano started Sunday on steady footing, completing the first two stages in second and third, respectively. If anything, it looked as if Logano could perhaps contend for his first 2024 regular-season victory.

Unfortunately for the No. 22 pilot, that possibility faded after the Team Penske Ford collided with Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet during the race’s final stage. In other words, back to the drawing board.

What’s next: If there is one track where Logano could rebound … and fast … it very well could be Nashville. The 34-year-old has started all three of his Cup Series races there inside the top five and has finished all three inside the top 20, which includes two top 10s.

3. Brad Keselowski, No. 6 RFK Racing Ford

Brad Keselowski, in the No. 6 Ford, races next to Erik Jones in the No. 43 Toyota at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Started: 9th

Finished: 28th

What happened: Keselowski was an antithesis of sorts when compared to his RFK teammate in Buescher. Despite strategy shifts and late-race cautions, the No. 6 Ford couldn’t make a gradual build through the field the way the No. 17 could. In the end, not enough speed, in conjunction with being mired in dirty air in the middle of the race pack, led to a strikeout performance for Keselowski in the Boston Red Sox-themed paint scheme.

What’s next: The bad news: In three career Cup Series appearances in Music City, Keselowski maintains an average finish of 21.0. The good news: Keselowski’s most recent performance at Nashville in 2023 netted his best finish of the three attempts (11th). This will be just the sort of result to build on down south as the No. 6 looks for a rebound from his New Hampshire performance up north.

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