NASCAR’s annual stop in New England presents opportunities for Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick and more
Considered within the grand scheme of the auto racing industry, New England seems and feels like a world away from stock car racing’s epicenter in the southeast — complete with harsher winters, more fishing boats, and an entirely different dialect than that spoken in places like Southern Virginia and the Carolinas.
But make no mistake, this is a region that loves its racing and loves its racers. And for racers and race fans alike in this part of the country, the ultimate shrine to their passion is the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New England’s premier racing facility and a popular summer stop on the NASCAR schedule.
The NASCAR Cup Series makes it annual trip to New Hampshire this weekend for the Ambetter 301, a race which goes one extra mile around a track that has long been dubbed the “Magic Mile”. Though this 1.058-mile track barely features any banking and is virtually flat all the way around, it offers multiple racing grooves and has put on entertaining races for fans in New England throughout the past three decades.
How to Watch the NASCAR Cup Series at New Hampshire
- Date: Sunday, July 17
- Location: New Hampshire Motor Speedway — Loudon, N.H.
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV: USA Network
- Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
What to Watch
- In a season of week-to-week parity, last week at Atlanta marked a clearly dominant driver for the 2022 season finally emerging. Chase Elliott became the first driver to win three races this season, breaking out among five drivers with a pair of wins to their name and affirming himself as perhaps the championship favorite. Elliott’s Atlanta win allowed him to extend his lead in the regular season championship standings, as he now enjoys a 47 point advantage over Ryan Blaney in second.
Elliott’s win has put the burden on four other drivers — Ross Chastain, Joey Logano, William Byron, and Denny Hamlin — to build on their two wins by the time the summer ends. Of that group, Chastain is the only driver that has a realistic chance of catching Elliott for the regular season championship (He’s third in points, 50 markers back), which carries with it a significant bonus in playoff points. The rest, however, can just as easily climb up the playoff rankings and be on even or even greater footing with Elliott by winning more races and earning more chunks of playoff points.
- Speaking of Chastain, his second-place finish at Atlanta continued a season that has seen him both break out as a Cup Series star and make plenty of enemies of other drivers along the way. Chastain’s aggressive streak contributed to crashes involving multiple cars — including Denny Hamlin, who he had previously run into at Gateway — leading to natural grumbling about Chastain’s driving style and how it might come back to bite him.
Sure enough, the target that has been on Chastain’s back has grown even bigger, and New Hampshire is a place where drivers can settle scores and exact revenge on-track (Ask Robby Gordon exactly how this works). If anyone will actually try to take a shot at Chastain’s bumper, though, remains to be seen — Chastain is on yet another hot streak, with three top fives in the last three races and five top 10s in a row dating back to Gateway in June.
- Last year, New Hampshire was the site of a surprise winner after Aric Almirola stormed to the front late in the race to take the checkered flag and launch himself onto the playoff grid. Examining just who’s won at New Hampshire beyond last year is where things get really interesting.
The past four New Hampshire races have been won by drivers who are currently on the outside of the playoff grid looking in. Kevin Harvick in 2018 and 2019, Brad Keselowski in 2020, and Almirola last year. And every now and then, this track is known to produce outright surprises in the winner’s circle, such as when Brian Vickers burst out of the pack to score his third and final Cup Series win here in 2013.
While the list of winners at New Hampshire includes plenty of drivers that could have been expected — Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano among them — almost anything feels possible after Corey LaJoie came within a block away from potentially winning Atlanta last week. (By the way, LaJoie won at this racetrack in the K&N Pro East Series back in 2016. Just something to think about.)
- On the subject of Kevin Harvick, there’s a lot riding on a potential New Hampshire win this weekend. He would go from 19 points below the cutoff line to firmly in the playoffs, and he would also snap a winless streak that has now lasted nearly two full seasons. And he would also become the single most successful driver in the history of New Hampshire.
With a win this weekend, Harvick would become the winningest driver in New Hampshire history with five Cup victories, breaking a tie he currently holds with Jeff Burton. Of Harvick’s four New Hampshire wins, three of them have come since joining Stewart-Haas Racing and with crew chief Rodney Childers atop the pit box.
Pick to Win
(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)
Christopher Bell (+1500): New Hampshire is the sort of track that rewards a driver who can figure the place out, and Christopher Bell has this place figured out. He won here in the Camping World Truck Series in 2017, has won the last three Xfinity Series races at this track, and may very well have won the Cup race last year too — He was running down Aric Almirola in the final laps, but ran out of time to catch him and finished second after impending darkness forced NASCAR to shorten the race by eight laps.
It’s safe to say that this might be Bell’s best racetrack in stock cars, and he’s felt due for awhile to have the sort of breakout performance that his season feels like it’s been building towards. With a clear feel for this track and a need to affirm his spot on the playoff grid, don’t be surprised at all if Christopher Bell gets to the front and stays there.