Loudon: Round 18 preview

*• Any Takers? NHMS Boasts 21 Different Race Winners *• Keselowski, Logano A Rivalry In The Making *• In The Loop: Bowyer May Have Statistical Edge *• Season's Halfway Mark Comes At New Hampshire Lucky 21: New Hampshire Boasts Longest ...

*• Any Takers? NHMS Boasts 21 Different Race Winners
*• Keselowski, Logano A Rivalry In The Making
*• In The Loop: Bowyer May Have Statistical Edge
*• Season's Halfway Mark Comes At New Hampshire

Lucky 21: New Hampshire Boasts Longest Single-Winner Streak

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 24, 2008) -- Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, five drivers have the chance to break the track's string of 21 races without a repeat winner.

That's the longest streak among active tracks in NASCAR's national series and each member of the quintet has some recent momentum that might spur him on to becoming the first to pull the "double."

Reigning series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Roush Fenway Ford) won at The Milwaukee Mile last weekend, his first series victory in over a year. His team was led by new crew chief Drew Blickesnderfer who was named to that post just days before.

Edwards has three career starts at New Hampshire, posting one win (2006) and two second place finishes.

Two-time series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) is the defending race winner and has five top-five and six top-10 finishes at the 1.058-mile track. His victory last year came from the pole; Harvick is the all-time leader in poles at New Hampshire with three.

Harvick won last year for Richard Childress Racing and this year is driving his own KHI equipment. Two other drivers have posted the team's three series wins, so Harvick is more than ready to register his first win in his own car.

Jason Keller (No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet) won at New Hampshire in 2001 and is currently enjoying a stretch of two consecutive top-10 finishes.

Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 Curly's Ford) was a New Hampshire winner in 2002 -- his first victory in the series. He was 15th at Milwaukee, one of his better finishes in a tough first half of the season.

Kenny Wallace (No. 28 U.S. Border Patrol Chevrolet) won at NHMS in 1991, his second series victory. Now, he's one of only three drivers in series history with 400 starts reaching that milestone last week at Milwaukee.

Halfway Home: New Hampshire Marks Season's Mid Point

The June trek to New Hampshire marks the first half of the 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series season and all indications point to a second half to mirror -- or exceed -- the excitement of the first.

Ten different drivers have won races thus far, including six different winners over the last six races, the longest such streak in two years. That stat fits perfectly with the 21 different winners in the same number of races at NHMS.

Three series-only regulars have collected wins with two -- Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) and Joey Logano -- having done so in back-to-back fashion. Keselowski (second) has led the series-only regular charge into the top 10 in the standings where five drives have resided following each of the last nine races.

A return to New Hampshire and a combination event with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series also draws the first half of the stand-alone season to a close and series-only regulars used that time to show marked improvement in their overall results.

In the five combination events leading up to the recent trio of stand-alone races, series-only regulars placed in the top 10 at a 44% clip, while 32% fashioned finishes within the top five in those combo races.

Stirring The Pot: Keselowski, Logano Producing Rivalry

It began last month in Charlotte when late on-track extracurricular activity between Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin (No. 32 Haas Avocadoes from Mexico Toyota) sparked a post-race pit road scuffle between their JR Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing teams.

Keselowski's third-place finish was his best career effort at the time and although he had been producing solid finishes before that race, recognition began to grow for the 24-year-old.

That same weekend, Joey Logano turned 18. He made his much-anticipated series debut for JGR the following week at Dover International Speedway and finished sixth. Keselowski was seventh.

See where this is going?

Over the next three races, the two drivers took the "I-can-do-better-than-you" stance and the results have pointed to a budding rivalry that not only shows on-track (refer to the incident at Milwaukee where Logano moved Keselowski out of the way and out of the lead) but statistically as well.

The chart below chronicles the four races in which both drivers have competed.

The rivalry will be on hold until next month at Gateway International Raceway when Logano is next scheduled to run.

Although Joey Logano won't race this weekend in New Hampshire -- his JGR teammate, Tony Stewart, will drive the No. 20 Old Spice Toyota in the event -- he will be part of the race weekend.

Logano, a native of Middletown, Conn., and Scott Wimmer (No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet) will speak at Nationwide Insurance's "Driving While Distracted" educational program Thursday from 5-7 p.m. at "Race Fever" in downtown Concord.

Logano held serve during his first shift in the No. 20, no small feat considering the car's results this year.

Crew chief Dave Rogers has led four different drivers to seven victories and has the No. 20 atop the Owner standings. Stewart has four wins to lead those who have driven the 20 car.

In The Loop: Harvick, Edwards, Bowyer Look Tough At NHMS

This weekend's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire could turn out to be a three-way battle royal between the 2006 series champion versus the 2007 series champion versus the possible 2008 series champion.

Kevin Harvick (2006), Carl Edwards (2007) and current standings leader Clint Bowyer (No. 2 Camping World / RV Sales Chevrolet) are all statistically neck-and-neck at New Hampshire.

Harvick, though, leads the impressive list. Over the past three NHMS races, he owns series-highs in Driver Rating (135.0), Average Running Position (2.9) and has run all 601 Laps in the Top 15. He also ranks second in Fastest Laps Run with 98, and scored a near-perfect Driver Rating of 149.8 (the maximum is 150.0) in last season's New Hampshire win.

Edwards is close behind. He has a Driver Rating of 120.0, an Average Running Position of 5.6, 71 Fastest Laps Run and has run 95.5% of the Laps in the Top 15.

As far as speed goes, Bowyer has been the fastest at New Hampshire over the last three years. He has a series-high 102 Fastest Laps Run to go along with a Driver Rating of 111.9, an Average Running Position of 6.8 and 90.7% laps run in the top 15.

The New Hampshire odds give the nod to Bowyer. There has never been a repeat winner there in the series, and of the three, only Bowyer is without an NHMS win.

But this has been the year of the series-only regular, with wins this season by Scott Wimmer, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Look for a possible win by Wimmer this weekend. He has a Driver Rating of 89.1, an Average Running Position of 13.4 and has run 70.8% of the laps in the top 15

The Director's Take: Make-or-Brake At New Hampshire

Perhaps New Hampshire has produced 21 different winners in the same number of races because those winners paid particular attention to brake use.

"New Hampshire has very fast straightaways," said Joe Balash, NASCAR Nationwide Series director. "It's a pretty flat track like the one we just came from at Milwaukee, but it's a little longer so the speed will build up more on the straights, making the brakes a bigger part of the race picture.

"Drivers will be hard on their brakes entering the turns and will get back on the gas as soon as they can to keep momentum up and build speed, especially as they hit the back straight. If they use up all their brakes in the early stages of the race, they're going to put themselves in jeopardy of not having enough left when they need it at the end.

"Track position is also very important at New Hampshire," he said. "The corners are really tight so it's hard to pass on the outside."

NNS Etc.

Series-only regular Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 STP Ford) will attempt his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup start at New Hampshire.

His first opportunity as a double-duty driver was last Saturday / Sunday for the Wood Brothers at Infineon Raceway and The Milwaukee Mile.

Needing to qualify on time, he started seventh in his premier series debut at Sonoma but finished 42nd after a transmission failure. He placed 16th at Milwaukee.

Ambrose has used the NASCAR ladder to make his climb through the ranks and is slated for a full-time slot in NASCAR Sprint Cup in the near future. He competed full-time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2006 and finished 21st in the standings before moving to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2007 where he impressed with final ranking of eighth.

The Northeast region of the country is well-represented in the NASCAR Nationwide Series garage. Some of those returning home this weekend include Massachusetts natives Tom Clavette (Methuen) - No. 12 car chief; Mark Durgin (Lynn) - No. 32 car chief; Katie Muir (Rutland) - No. 88 shock specialist; John Kowalski (Framingham) - No. 11 catch can man and Ryan Berry (Northridge) - No. 38 front-tire changer.

Also, Erik Pringle, the No. 29 front-tire changer, is a Vermont native (Sharon).

Among drivers entered, Donnie Neuenberger (No. 55 Ford), a native of Brandywine, Md., hopes to make his third start of the season this weekend, but his first ever in NASCAR national series competition at New Hampshire.

Derrike Cope's (No. 4 JVC Chevrolet) history in the NASCAR Nationwide Series has been productive at New Hampshire. The 1990 Daytona 500 winner made his first series start at the track in July that season and in 1994, won his only series race at the track.

With a start Saturday, Cope will have competed in 15 races this year, marking the second-most starts of his series career. He ran in 30 races in 2004.

It took 12 races, but Ford was finally able to register its second win of the season last Saturday at Milwaukee. Ford's last win was in March at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

As the series heads to New Hampshire watch for the Chevrolets to be strong. The manufacturer leads the series with eight wins at the track, but Ford is right behind with seven victories -- five out of the last seven races.

Up Next: Winn Dixie 250 Powered By Coca-Cola

The hottest driver in NASCAR, Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Lines Design Toyota), looks to defend his win last season at Daytona International Speedway.

Following that victory, Busch won three more series races.

The summer race at Daytona has been contested since 2002. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the only driver to win twice and there have been five different pole winners for the event.

Jason Leffler (No. 38 Great Clips Toyota) is the defending pole winner.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Camping World RV Sales 200 presented by RVs.com
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, June 28
The Time: 3 p.m. ET

The Distance: 200 laps/211.6 miles
Track Size: 1.058-miles

TV: ABC, 2:30 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Kevin Harvick
2007 Pole: Kevin Harvick

Schedule:
Friday--Practice, 10:30-11:50 a.m.; Final Practice, 1:45-3 p.m.

Saturday--Qualifying, 10:05 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Derrike Cope , Tony Stewart , Jason Keller , Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Marcos Ambrose , Scott Wimmer , Carl Edwards , Donnie Neuenberger , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , JR Motorsports