New Hampshire’s Magic Mile sets the stage for the NASCAR Cup Series

July 18, 2021: #10: Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield

When it comes to a wildcard events on the NASCAR Cup Series 2022 season schedule, look no further than this weekend’s Ambetter 301 on July 17 at 3 p.m. ET on USA Network, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Not only is the unique short track a one of a kind on the schedule, but it has also produced a large number of longshot winners starting outside the top-20.

A NASCAR Cup Series driver has started outside the top-20 and went on to win the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway 10 different times (20% of the total races). New Hampshire is tied with Charlotte Motor Speedway for the third-most winners starting outside the top-20 in the NASCAR Cup Series (with 10 each); behind only Daytona International Speedway with 12 and Richmond Raceway also with 12. Last season’s winner, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola started from the 22nd position, and with 13 different winners this season New Hampshire Motor Speedway could very well stir up some magic and produce a 14th.

Eight winners from last season are still looking for their first victory this year – Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, and AJ Allmendinger. Of the eight, Brad Keselowski, a two-time winner at New Hampshire (2014, 2020), and Aric Almirola (2021) are the only former Magic Mile winners. But keep in mind, Christopher Bell has won the last three consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series races at New Hampshire (2018, 2019, 2021) and Martin Truex Jr. (2005) and Brad Keselowski (2012, 2014) have also visited Victory Lane in the Xfinity Series at the 1.058-mile track.

Whole lotta Magic in the Mile at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

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 and 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 50 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 50 NASCAR Cup Series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway have produced 22 different pole winners and 25 different race winners. Ryan Newman leads the series in poles at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with seven (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2011 sweep, 2013). Four of the 22 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at New Hampshire Motor Speedway are active this weekend, led by RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski with four poles (2010, 2013, 2014, 2019). 

Active Pole WinnersPolesSeasons
Brad Keselowski42019, 2014, 2013, 2010
Kyle Busch32017, 2014, 2012
Kurt Busch12018
Martin Truex Jr12017
Kevin Harvick12006

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. 

Seven of the 25 NASCAR Cup Series New Hampshire Motor Speedway winners are active this weekend. 

Active WinnersWinsSeasons
Kevin Harvick42019, 2018, 2016, 2006
Denny Hamlin32017, 2012, 2007
Kurt Busch32008, 2004 sweep
Kyle Busch32017, 2015, 2006
Brad Keselowski22020, 2014
Joey Logano22014, 2009
Aric Almirola12021

All the on-track activity begins on Saturday, July 16 with practice from 11:35 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. ET, directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying at 12:20 p.m. ET. Catch the entire broadcast of practice and qualifying at 11 a.m. ET on the NBC Sports App or just qualifying on the USA Network at noon ET.

Standings leader Chase Elliott looks poised for a second career title

Hendrick Motorsports’ driver and 2020 series champion Chase Elliott just grabbed his series leading third win of the 2022 season at his home track – Atlanta Motor Speedway, and in the process has widened his NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead to a stout 47 points over second place Ryan Blaney with just seven races to go in the regular season. Elliott looks poised this season to grab his second series championship and join Kyle Busch as only the second active driver with multiple titles. 

This season Elliott has collected three wins (Dover, Nashville, Atlanta-2), five stage wins, six top fives and 13 top 10s. Plus, he leads the series in Playoff points with 20 this season. 

Looking to New Hampshire this weekend, Elliott has made eight series starts at 1.058-mile track posting one top five and two top 10s. He finished 18th in this race last season.  

Seven Races To Go: Playoffs loom as regular season reaches its final stretch

When drivers and teams start doing the math, a Playoff appearance isn’t adding up for many unless they win over these last seven races. A total of 13 different drivers have secured their spot in the Playoffs with a win this season, leaving just three spots open on points as the series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend.

Seven former NASCAR Cup Series New Hampshire winners are entered this weekend and three of them are outside the Playoff cutoff and looking for a win this season – Kevin Harvick (17th in the Playoff points outlook, -19 back from the cutline), Aric Almirola (18th in the Playoff points outlook, -42 back from cutline) and Brad Keselowski (30th in the Playoff points outlook, -257 back from the cutline).

2022 Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 19 – Winless Drivers
RankDriverPointsWinsStagesPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff
14Ryan Blaney637055133
15Martin Truex Jr.56605562
16Christopher Bell52300019
17Kevin Harvick504000-19
18Aric Almirola481000-42
19Erik Jones447000-76
20Austin Dillon407000-116
21Michael McDowell406000-117
22Justin Haley374000-149
23Chris Buescher360000-163
24Bubba Wallace345011-178
25Ricky Stenhouse Jr.333000-190
26Cole Custer323000-200
27Ty Dillon310000-213
28Harrison Burton #308000-215
29Todd Gilliland #284000-239
30Brad Keselowski26600-10-257

But also keep in mind, first-time winners happen at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series. Five drivers have won their first NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway including Joey Logano (2009), Clint Bowyer (2007), Ryan Newman (2002), Robby Gordon (2001) and Joe Nemechek (1999). 

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick heads to New Hampshire riding a 62-race winless streak that dates back to Bristol in 2020. The 46-year-old veteran is looking to return to his winning ways and lock himself into this season’s Playoffs. 

“The flat-track stuff definitely has been good for us, and we’re going there (New Hampshire) knowing we’re going to have some options to move around the racetrack and be able to kind of hunt for a line that works for our Ford Mustang,” said Harvick.

Harvick is currently just outside the Playoff cutline, 19 points back from Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell in the 16th and final postseason transfer position on points. In jeopardy is Harvick’s consecutive Playoff appearance streak of 12 straight seasons, currently the longest among active drivers. But New Hampshire has been one of Harvick’s better tracks. In 38 series starts, he managed to wrestle away four wins (2006, 2016, 2018, 2019), 13 top fives and 22 top 10s. He finished sixth in this event last season.

But one of the most interesting developments to watch over the next seven races is if RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski can pull out a win this regular season and put the Playoff bubble and drivers around it in a precarious position. Keselowski has won at least one race a season the last 11 seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series and though he has switched to a new team this year, one would expect the 2012 series champ to work his hardest to keep the streak alive. With that said, if Keselowski wins from the 30th position in points, where he currently resides in the postseason outlook, he would then bounce Christopher Bell out of the Playoff transfer position and move Truex down to that spot drastically increasing points difference at the cutline. Keselowski finished third in this event last season and in total has made 21 series starts at New Hampshire posting two wins (2014, 2020), nine top fives and 14 top 10s.

Aric Almirola, in his final season, returns to New Hampshire to go back-to-back

Prior to the start of the 2022 season, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola announced this year would be his last in fulltime competition in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“I truly enjoy driving race cars and I’m excited to race my heart out in 2022 for Smithfield and Stewart-Haas Racing,” Almirola said in a statement released by Stewart-Haas Racing. “But to be the best in this business, you’ve got to be selfish, and for the last 37 years my life has always revolved around me and what I needed to do. I want to be present. I want to be the best husband and father, and that to me means more than being a racecar driver. So, it’s one more year where I’m all in on racing, where we’ll do whatever it takes to compete at the highest level. But when the season is over, I’ll be ready to wave goodbye.”

Now, the veteran from Tampa, Florida returns to the site of his last win, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, needing a win, like last season, to get into the Playoffs. Following Atlanta last weekend, Almirola resides in 18th in the postseason outlook, 42 points behind Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell in the 16th and final transfer spot on points. If Almirola wins this weekend, he will become the fifth different driver to win consecutive races at the Magic Mile; joining Jimmie Johnson (2003 sweep), Kurt Busch (2004 sweep), Matt Kenseth (2015 fall, 2016 spring) and Kevin Harvick (2018, 2019). 

Last season, Almirola started from the 22nd-position and raced his way up to the front leading the final 20 laps en route to the victory. It was the third win of his 15-year career and the first not on a superspeedway. In total, Almirola has made 19 starts at New Hampshire posting one win, three top fives and five top 10s.

NASCAR’s history in New England

Among the six states that make up New England (Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire), the NASCAR Cup Series has competed in four of them for a total of 116 races. 

Tracks in New Hampshire
Track NameCityCupXfinityTruckCombinedFirst Year
New Hampshire Motor SpeedwayLoudon5034201041990
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
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