The Magic Mile to host 50th running of NASCAR Cup Series race

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The NASCAR Cup Series 2021 regular season schedule is winding down with just races to go and this weekend the best side-by-side racing in sports heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 50th running of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on July 18 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).

Groundbreaking for New Hampshire International Speedway, as New Hampshire Motor Speedway was originally named, was August 13, 1989. The 1.058-mile paved oval is located on approximately 1,200 acres; the multi-use complex is the largest sports facility in New England. Speedway Motorsports, Inc. agreed to purchase New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob and Gary Bahre on January 11, 2008, and then renamed the track New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was on July 11, 1993 and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace driving a Team Penske Pontiac (105.947 mph, 02:59:45).

There have been 49 NASCAR Cup Series races held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; one per year from 1993 through 1996 and two per year from 1997-2017. In 2018, the track reverted back to just one event per season. The 49 NASCAR Cup Series races at New Hampshire have produced 22 different pole winners and 24 different race winners.

Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman leads the series in poles at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with seven (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2011 sweep, 2013). This weekend’s starting lineups were determined by Metric Qualifying and as a result Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch will start on the pole. Busch will be joined by JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. on the front row.

Among the 24 NASCAR Cup Series winners at New Hampshire, seven are active this weekend.

Active Race Winners (7)Wins
Kevin Harvick4
Denny Hamlin3
Kurt Busch3
Kyle Busch3
Ryan Newman3
Joey Logano2
Brad Keselowski2

NBC Sports TV Analyst and former driver Jeff Burton (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick (2006, 2016, 2018, 2019) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with four victories each. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski is the most recent Cup winner at New Hampshire taking home the trophy last season after putting on a dominant performance of leading 184 of the scheduled 301 laps.     

Clinch Scenarios in the Granite State

With just five races remaining in the regular season in the NASCAR Cup Series time is running thin for drivers to ensure their spot in the Playoffs. Gazing ahead to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, five drivers have already clinched their spots on wins and points with several others having the opportunity to do the same this weekend. 

Already Clinched

The following five drivers have clinched a spot in the 16-driver postseason field: Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.

Can Clinch Via Previous Wins

The following drivers could clinch if they build up enough points to ensure they will not be left out of the Playoffs due to not all winning drivers having a slot available:

William Byron: Would clinch with 15 points

Joey Logano: Would clinch with 48 points

Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help

Brad Keselowski: Could only clinch with help

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: William Byron, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, Denny Hamlin. 

Playoff Bubble: Five races remain in regular season

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch not only grabbed his first win of the season last weekend, but also secured himself a spot in the Playoffs with the victory leap frogging several winless drivers in the postseason outlook standings. With chances to win starting to run out, tensions are rising for those outside the Playoff cutline without a win.

NASCAR Cup Series Winless Drivers Vying For A Playoff Spot

RankDriverPointsRace WinsStage WinsPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff
13Denny Hamlin836055369
14Kevin Harvick626000159
15Austin Dillon571000104
16Tyler Reddick56301196
17Chris Buescher467011-96
18Matt DiBenedetto425011-138
19Ross Chastain418000-145
20Bubba Wallace415011-148
21Ricky Stenhouse Jr.402000-161
22Daniel Suarez384000-179
23Chase Briscoe #367000-196
24* Ryan Preece342000-221
25Erik Jones342000-221
26Ryan Newman341000-222
27Aric Almirola331000-232
28Cole Custer314000-249
29Corey LaJoie255000-308
30Anthony Alfredo #217000-346

Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon (15th) and Tyler Reddick (16th) in the last two spots inside the Playoff cutline can rest assured it will be difficult to catch them on points with five races to go. But what should worry them, is if the series sees another new winner or two that is below them in the driver standings, they could be bounced out of Playoffs. Currently, Reddick is in the last postseason transfer spot in the standings – 96 points above Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher. 

Of the drivers below the Playoff cutline, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman has achieved the most success at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Newman is tied with Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch for the second-most wins at the 1.058-mile track with three each. In total, Newman has made 35 series starts at New Hampshire posting a series leading seven poles, three wins (2002, 2005, 2011), seven top fives and 20 top 10s (second-only to Harvick).  

Plus, don’t forget New Hampshire has been home to first-time winners in the series. Five NASCAR Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

First-Time Winners at NHMSDate
Joey LoganoSunday, June 28, 2009
Clint BowyerSunday, September 16, 2007
Ryan NewmanSunday, September 15, 2002
Robby GordonFriday, November 23, 2001
Joe NemechekSunday, September 19, 1999

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski is looking for back-to-back wins at New Hampshire

Four drivers have posted consecutive wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Jimmie Johnson (2003 sweep), Kurt Busch (2004 sweep), Matt Kenseth (2015 fall, 2016 spring) and Kevin Harvick (2018, 2019). This weekend, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski will look to become the fifth different driver to win consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

If he accomplishes the feat this weekend at New Hampshire, it would be just the second-time in Brad Keselowski’s career he has won back-to-back races at the same track joining Bristol Motor Speedway (8/27/11 and 3/18/12). Last season, Keselowski took home the trophy at New Hampshire after putting on a dominant performance leading 184 of the scheduled 301 laps. 

“Loudon is a track that takes a lot of finesse to get around,” Keselowski said. “You have to be really smooth with your inputs, take care of your car in some ways, but also know when to push it. We’ve got a lot of top-fives – only two wins – but I feel like we could have won there a half dozen times.”  

This season, Brad Keselowski is currently 10th in points and has secured a spot in the Playoffs on wins. In 21 starts this year, he has posted one win (Talladega), six top fives and eight top 10s. The Michigan native has also made 20 series starts at New Hampshire posting two wins (2014, 2020), eight top fives and 13 top 10s.

Last season’s wins leaders Harvick, Hamlin head to New Hampshire still winless in 2021

Last season’s NASCAR Cup Series winningest drivers, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, head into this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway riding long winless streaks they are hoping to snap.  

Harvick is coming off a career-year in wins in the NASCAR Cup Series putting up nine victories in 2020, but this season he hasn’t been able to capture a checkered flag. Harvick’s winless streak has now reached 28 races, dating back to Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 19, 2020.

Despite the slow start to the season, Harvick should carry some optimism with him into this weekend as he leads all active Cup drivers almost every traditional statistical category at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In 37 starts at the 1.058-mile track he has posted four wins (2006, 2016, 2018, 2019), 13 top fives and 21 top 10s. He finished fifth in this event last season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin currently holds the points standings lead over Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson by a mere 10 markers after Atlanta. As Hamlin looks to hold on to the coveted points lead, he also is searching for his first win of the 2021 season, and much like Harvick, his streak dates back to last year at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 4, 2020 – 26 races ago.

Hamlin should feel positive about his chances this weekend at New Hampshire though. In 27 starts he has put up three wins (2007, 2012, 2017), 11 top fives and 16 top 10s. Plus, he has finished runner-up in the last two races at the 1.058-mile facility.

Another feather in Hamlin’s cap this weekend is Joe Gibbs Racing leads the series in wins at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Cup Series with 11 victories – Tony Stewart (2000, 2005), Denny Hamlin (2007, 2012, 2017), Joey Logano (2009), Matt Kenseth (2013, 2015, 2016), Kyle Busch (2015, 2017). 

NASCAR’s history in New England

Among the six states that make up New England in the United States (Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire), the NASCAR Cup Series has competed at tracks in four of them. 

The first NASCAR Cup Series race held in the New England states was at Thompson Speedway, now known as Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, a half-mile paved oval located in Thompson, Connecticut on Oct. 12, 1951. The first race was won by Neil Cole driving a 1950 Oldsmobile. It was Cole’s lone career win in the series.

A total of 102 NASCAR national series races have been held in the state of New Hampshire, all at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway – the most of any of the tracks in New England. 

Tracks in New Hampshire
Track NameCityCupXfinityTruckCombinedFirst Year
New Hampshire Motor SpeedwayLoudon4933201021990
Tracks in Connecticut
Track NameCityCupXfinityTruckCombinedFirst Year
Thompson SpeedwayThompson30031951
Tracks in Maine
Track NameCityCupXfinityTruckCombinedFirst Year
Oxford Plains SpeedwayOxford35081966
Tracks in Massachusetts
Track NameCityCupXfinityTruckCombinedFirst Year
Norwood ArenaNorwood10011961

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

New England Patriots Wide Receiver Gunner Olszewski to driver Pace Car – On Sunday, July 18, Gunner Olszewski, all-pro punt returner and wide receiver for the New England Patriots, will trade the pigskin for the keys to the official Toyota Camry TRD pace car as he leads 40 of NASCAR’s best to the green flag for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 – the 50th NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS). Born in Alvin, Texas, six-foot Olszewski will enter his third season with the New England Patriots this year. 

“This is a dream come true,” said 24-year-old Olszewski. “My brother and I grew up watching NASCAR with our dad, and I’m still a huge fan today. I can’t believe I get to lead the field to the green flag at ‘The Magic Mile!’”

Patriots’ safety Patrick Chung (July 2018), offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (July 2017), offensive tackle Matt Light (September 2016), linebacker Rob Ninkovich (July 2015) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (July 2014) have all served as pace car drivers, making Olszewski the sixth member of the New England Patriots to get behind the wheel of the official Toyota Camry pace car at NHMS.

Other notable pace car drivers include Boston Bruins forward Chris Wagner (July 2019), Richard Rawlings of Discovery Channel’s “Fast N’ Loud” (September 2017), Dave Matthews Band bassist Stefan Lessard (July 2016), Olympic triathlete Sarah True (September 2015) and Boston Bruins legend Brad Park (September 2014).

Cruisin’ for a Cause – Fans in search of the ultimate thrill have the opportunity to experience “The Magic Mile” from the driver’s perspective as part of Speedway Children’s Charities’ (SCC) Laps for Charity event. For just a $40 donation to the New Hampshire Chapter of SCC, fans can drive three laps in their personal vehicle or ride in the NHMS pace car on Thursday, before NASCAR’s best try to tame the track at Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301. For more information visit NHMS.com.

Larson extends contract with Hendrick Motorsports to 2023 – Hendrick Automotive Group, via its HendrickCars.com brand, will become the 35-race majority sponsor of Kyle Larson and the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team in both the 2022 and 2023 NASCAR Cup Series seasons. In addition, Hendrick Motorsports has extended the driver’s contract for one year through 2023.

As part of the agreement, HendrickCars.com will also sponsor Larson in all non-NASCAR events in which he competes, including branding on the driver’s helmets, gloves and firesuits. The 28-year-old native of Elk Grove, California, is a prolific dirt racer who has won 56 times since January 2020 in a variety of cars and series outside of NASCAR. In addition to Larson, HendrickCars.com is the primary sponsor of four-time NHRA champion Greg Anderson.

“The chance to extend my contract with Hendrick Motorsports and have such an awesome sponsor in HendrickCars.com are things I don’t take for granted,” Larson said. “I feel like I’m driving for the best team and the best sponsors in the sport. To know that our on-track performance is having positive business influence off the track is very important because I want to return the incredible support they’ve given me. Everyone at Hendrick Automotive Group has made me feel like part of their team, and it’s exciting to be able to represent a company that loves racing like I do. I feel like we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible.”

Kyle Larson is currently leading the NASCAR Cup Series in wins this season with four victories.