NASCAR Cup Series
OBSERVATIONS: Foxwoods Casino Resort 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
NASCAR has continued striving for a better racing package to put on more entertaining shows for their fans. The feedback has been simple – ditch the intermediate tracks for the tighter ovals on the schedule.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway was a perfect example on Sunday afternoon.
Although the field was spread out at times throughout the afternoon, there was always at least one battle for position within the top-10 to keep an eye on. By laying down the PJ1 traction compound in the separate lanes, it allowed drivers to get their cars working high or low to challenge each other.
There was also varying strategy played with earning stage points versus trying to set yourself up for a good finish and tire wear, which kept things interesting with a variety of drivers finding their way to the front at times.
Lap cars can be thanked for bringing the pair closer together, but that’s all part of the long-run racing in how you handle the traffic. Harvick, using some of his short track skills, kept the advantage by slowing down a touch sooner than expected and taking the preferred line that Hamlin would have wanted.
On the same coin, Hamlin does earn respect in how he handled the situation. He gave Harvick a bump in turn one, but just enough to get scoot him out of the groove a little and not wreck him. Notice the difference in crowd reaction compared to how he handled Martinsville Speedway a couple years ago with Chase Elliott.
Now if Hamlin does take the bottom lane in turn three, how much harder does the bump go? Would it have made a difference at the end of day?
As Hamlin continues to ponder that through the next couple of days, the fans can relive the finish over and know that they got a show. Realistically, New Hampshire delivered all weekend if you were watching the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series with a three-wide finish to their all-star event on Friday.
Though moving forward, a lot of eyes now fall on Harvick. The biggest surprise was the fact that he had yet to win this season – until now. How does a threat for the championship the past couple years not score a single win?
With the door opened on Sunday afternoon and the stretch of tracks ahead on the schedule, it’d be no surprise to see the Stewart-Haas Racing go on a terror moving forward. After all, the speed has been there all year, pacing over 80 laps in three races this season with 12 top-10’s.
The flip side has to be Hendrick Motorsports. The organization saw three cars get wrecked in practice and qualifying leading up to the event, followed by both Elliott and Jimmie Johnson having water pump belt issues during the event. Alex Bowman, who admitted that he hates New Hampshire due to past struggles there, ran in the top-10 late in the event en route to a 14th-place finish – the highest of their four drivers.
Now with the amount of races in the regular season counting down, Johnson sits outside of the playoffs following back-to-back 30th-place finishes. Meanwhile, Elliott who is locked in via his win at Talladega Superspeedway, has failed to score a top-10 in the last six events.
While it appeared their struggles were behind them a couple months ago with all four drivers running well, they are certainly losing momentum at the most crucial time.
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