Foxwood’s Resort Casino 301

Sunday's Foxwood's Resorts Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway's flat 1-mile paper-clip layout will be the 20th race of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series schedule.campaign. It's the first time since 1996 the New England track will have only one race on the season after owner Speedway Motorsports Inc. moved one of its regular two dates to Las Vegas.

I love having two races in Las Vegas and the Sept. 16 race in town to kick off the Playoffs is going to be incredible, but I love the type of racing New Hampshire produces, mostly just because it's different. Another reason is that I've done very well betting New Hampshire races over the years and the method to securing a winner is simply by analyzing what happened in previous races on the season at Phoenix and Richmond, which are both flat tracks at almost the same distance. The cars that do well on either of those tracks always do well at New Hampshire.

So let's refresh ourselves quickly on what happened March 11 at Phoenix and April 21 at Richmond, with more relevance placed on the later date just because it's fresher. Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix like he always does followed by Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and last week's winner Martin Truex, Jr. Busch would win at Richmond with Elliott finishing second, Hamlin third followed by Joey Logano and Harvick. Truex would lead the most laps (132) but finished 14th.

Does anything stand out there in that equation? Yes, of course, the big three of Harvick, Busch, and Truex are very prevalent. They've combined to win 14 of the 19 races on the season. It's a nice three-way battle going with Truex winning three of the past six races on the schedule while Harvick has gone dry in the past seven races.

Truex has been dominant at New Hampshire in the last four races there between the last two seasons leading at least 112 laps in all four. But no Cup wins there in 24 starts.

“We had our chances the past couple of years, leading a lot of laps but couldn’t complete the job,” said Truex. “Last year (July race) we had the best car for a lot of that race but we didn’t at the end. Our focus this weekend is to figure out how to be better the last 75 or 100 laps in our No. 78 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry.”

The track is special to New Jersey native Truex who has won there in two other series.

“It was the first big track I ever won on (K&N Pro East Series), and the first time I ever went to a race and watched Cup cars run," he said. "So there’s just a lot of history there, and it would really be a big one to win.”

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has Kyle Busch as the 5/2 favorite based on his three New Hampshire wins, which includes winning the last race there in the fall, and also is the active leader with 974 laps led. He has eight top-10 finishes in the last 10 races there. His current form is just as good with six top-five finishes in the last seven races this season with the volatile Daytona race being the lone exception. The SuperBook has Truex and Harvick both at 7-to-2 odds.

But what stands out most for me between Phoenix and Richmond when scanning for any little nibble of possibility that someone else other than the Big-3 can win is what Hamlin and Elliott did. They should be able to hang here with the elite. Their set-up notes will be good again for this race.

Hamlin is looking for his first win of the season and has three wins at New Hampshire in his career, the last coming in July last season. He was also in a similar situation heading into New Hampshire last season with no wins.

“We’ve obviously had a strong showing at New Hampshire these past few seasons, and our FedEx Racing team is returning with the goal to repeat last year’s success," said Hamlin who is listed at the SuperBook with 8-to-1 odds. "We were able to come from the back and take home the win last July, and we’ll do whatever it takes to do that again so we can lock in our spot to the 2018 Playoffs.”

There are only seven races remaining to get locked into the Playoffs and only seven drivers have been locked in automatically by winning a race this season.

Elliott finished 11th in both New Hampshire races last season, but his set-up on these tracks this year is much better. He's garbage on the 1.5s so far in his new Camaro, but a contender on the flat tracks. Odds at 40-to-1 have baited me in. Elliott has never won a Cup race in his career, but the price is somehow right this week for me to jump in on the No. 9.

Clint Bowyer is a two-time winner at New Hampshire and has been at his best on flat tracks throughout his career. He's a two-time winner this season and been the only driver to consistently give the big-3 some competition.

Since Harvick, Busch, and Truex have combined to win 14 of the 19 races this season, there's obviously a strong possibility of one of them winning here. Of the three, I'd have to side more with Truex more just because his team appears to be getting better and faster each week. His recent past history here is also pretty amazing.

Also, one last thing regarding the Sept. 16 race at Las Vegas called the South Point 400. The South Point sports book posted odds to win it over the weekend with the March Vegas winner Harvick as the 5-to-2 favorite followed by Busch and Truex at 7-to-2.

Top-5 New Hampshire Finish Prediction:

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (8/1)
2) #9 Chase Elliott (40/1)
3) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (7/2)
4) #4 Kevin Harvick (7/2)
5) #18 Kyle Busch (5/2)