Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:03 PM
Best Bets - New Hampshire
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS heads up to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 in Loudon, N.H. After years having two Cup races on the schedule, 2018 will be the first season since 1997 that the venue has just one race on the schedule.
Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kurt Busch (33/1) secured his third pole of the season by posting a best speed of 133.591 mph at NHMS on Friday. It's his first-career pole at 'The Magic Mile', as he looks for his fourth-career victory at the track. Sunday will mark his 35th-career start at the track. He has posted the three wins, eight Top 5 finishes, 14 Top 10s and 541 laps led while posting a 16.24 Average-Finish Position (AFP). He has been up and down lately, checking in 10th over the past five races at NHMS, posting an 87.3 Driver Rating, according to NASCAR's Loop Data. He finished 37th in last season's fall event, but that followed up an eighth-place showing in the spring and 5th-place finish in the fall of 2016.
Roush-Fenway Racing part-time driver Matt Kenseth (200/1) is back behind the wheel at a track he has dominated over the years. Loop Data shows him No. 1 in Driver Rating (123.9) across the past five starts at the track, running 98.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He has led 174 laps while turning in an impressive 2.2 AFP during the five-race stretch. Kenseth posted back-to-back wins at New Hampshire as recently as the fall race in 2015 and the spring race in 2016. Nine of his past 10 starts at New Hampshire have resulted in a Top 10 showing, including seven Top 5 outings. He's in the No. 6 Ford this weekend, and is a sleeper play. He'll go off from the 31st position and has a chance to rack up plenty of position differential points in DFS.
SHR's Kevin Harvick (13/4) finished right ahead of his teammate Busch in last season's fall race, ending up in 36th position. It was a rare poor showing in New Hampshire for Happy, as he has posted a 104.7 Driver Rating while leading 224 laps during the past five starts at the track. He is third among all drivers in the category, running 88.7 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. This will be his 35th-career start at the flat track in Loudon, posting two wins, 10 Top 5s, 18 Top 10s and 25 Top 20s while leading 706 laps with only one DNF. He'll go off from the 14th spot on Sunday afternoon. His teammate, Clint Bowyer (8/1) , will also be in search of his third-career win at The Magic Mile. He has four Top 5s and nine Top 10s in 24 career starts with a 15.9 AFP at NHMS. He starts 15th on Sunday.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch (5/2) is the favorite at most shops, and he showed well in qualifying like his older brother. He posted a best speed of 133.431 mph to start third on Sunday, one row behind his big brother. Rowdy won the ISM Connect 300 in September at this track in a race with just six lead changes, lowest amount at NHMS since the Siemens 300 in July 2004. He bombed out of the fall 2015 race, finishing 37th, but has since recovered with an AFP of 6.0 over his past four runs in Loudon. Busch has led the pack in 418 laps during the past five races, running 88.9 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. His Driving Rating over the past five runs, including that ugly 37th-place showing in fall 2015, is third-best among all active drivers at 117.9.
Busch's teammate, Denny Hamlin (15/2) , is right on his heels with a 108.2 Driver Rating over the past five starts at the track. While he has led just 80 laps during the five-race span, he has rolled 15th or higher in 88.8 percent of his laps while posting an impressive 7.8 AFP, tied for second-best among all active drivers. This will be his 25th-career start, and he checks in third among all drivers with a 10.1 AFP. Hamlin has steered his No. 11 Toyota to three career wins at the track, nine Top 5s and 14 Top 10s with no DNFs. He won this race in July 2017 at the New Hampshire 301, and JGR has sent a car to Victory Lane in five of the past six races at this track. JGR's Daniel Suarez (66/1) is a long shot to win, but is worth fantasy attention given his solid showings in two Cup races last season. He debuted at the track with a sixth-place showing last July, and returned with an eighth-place run in September. While Suarez has been a tick off this season, given JGR's success in the recent past, he is a deep sleeper candidate for those risking money on DFS cash games.
New England native Joey Logano (16/1) captured his first-career Cup victory in June 2009 in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 in a JGR Toyota, and he returned to Victory Lane for the Sylvania 300 in Penske Racing Ford in Sept. 2014. His teammate Brad Keselowski (10/1) posted a victory in July 2014 at the track, giving the team a sweep, but they haven't been back to Victory Lane at Loudon since. While Kes has just the one win at New Hampshire, he is second among all drivers with a sparkling 9.8 AFP in 17 career starts. He has managed seven Top 5s and 11 Top 10s in his 17 runs at the track, posting 349 laps led. Logano will from the 19th position, while Keselowski starts from the 6th spot.
As usual, Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (7/2) is among the favorites for this weekend's race. He will start on the outside of Row 1 next to Kurt Busch, turning a 133.502 best speed in qualifying. MTJ has posted a 5.0 AFP over the past three starts, although he is still searching for his first-career win on the flat track at Loudon. He still has a sharp 12.9 AFP in 24 career starts, posting five Top 5s, 10 Top 10s and all but three of his finishes inside the Top 20. Truex has posted 661 laps led while managing just one DNF.
Hendrick Motorsports driver and seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson (66/1) is running out of time if he wants to punch his ticket to the Chase and make a run at his eighth championship. He has picked up checkered flags three times in 32 career starts at New Hampshire, finishing 10 times inside the Top 5 while posting an outstanding 21 Top 10 finishes. He has been respectable over his past five showings at the track, too, posting a 10.0 AFP. That's good for a Driver Rating of 98.6, but as good as those numbers are, J.J. and the No. 48 team have just been a bit off this season. Still, he has run 90.2 percent of his New Hampshire laps inside the Top 15 over the past five starts, and it's hard to believe he is considered a sleeper, but he is.
Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson (8/1) is also worth keeping an eye on, as he has four Top 5s, five Top 10s and just one finish outside of the Top 20 in eight career tries at NHMS. While he has yet to taste victory and hoist the enormous lobster after the race, he has a strong 10.5 AFP. Teammate Jamie McMurray (100/1) hasn't been as fortunate, posting no wins, just four Top 5s and only seven Top 10s in 30 career starts at the track.
Besides Jamie Mac, other drivers you'll want to avoid for fantasy purposes include
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (300/1)
and his poor 19.9 AFP (10 starts),
Aric Almirola (40/1)
and his AFP of 21.3 (15 starts) and
David Ragan (1000/1)
, who has posted just one Top 10 in 22 career starts with a 27.0 AFP.
Some people might consider Hendrick's Alex Bowman (150/1) , since he starts in the eighth position despite long odds. However, he has made six previous Cup starts at the track, posting a dismal 30.5 AFP.