Foxwoods Resorts Casino 301
July 17, 2019
By Micah Roberts
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Joe Gibbs Racing has won 10 of the 19 races this season, including five of the six races using this week's race package that feature engines with 750 horsepower and no aero ducts. They've also won five of the last seven races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway's flat 1.058-mile layout.
So it should come as no surprise that the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted Kyle Busch as a massive 5/2 favorite to win Sunday's Foxwoods Resorts Casino 301 followed by Martin Truex Jr. as the 4/1 second choice.
Busch has been amazing at New Hampshire in all fazes of his career in all series. He's won three times in the Cup Series, six times in the Xfinity Series and three times in the Truck Series. Obviously, he has a good understanding of what it takes to be successful on the layout.
“Loudon is a Martinsville-like short track, but it’s just over a mile," Busch said. "It’s a little more spread out, but there's some rooting and gouging going on because it’s a one-lane track and everybody fights for that particular groove. To be fast at Loudon, you have to have good brakes and you have to roll the center really well and get that good forward bite off the corners and make sure it sticks."
The Martinsville comparison angle is interesting because both are paperclip shapes and flat, but I've always done much better by using results from Phoenix and Richmond's flat layout as a comparison due to the distances and set-ups being similar and also because the same drivers that do well on one always seem to do well on the other. In some years drivers will win on all three in the same season.
But added to the mix this season to use as a comparison when handicapping is the new race package which hasn't seen as much passing as the other package seen on the larger tracks with engines producing 550 horsepower. Look at the Martinsville race in March with Brad Keselowski leading 446 of the 500 laps. He's the only non-JGR driver to win with this package but doesn't have a top-five finish in the other five races using it.
“I’d say the most important thing at Loudon is track position, just because it’s hard to pass," said three-time New Hampshire winner Kevin Harvick. "You want to be upfront and on the right strategy no matter what you do. If the caution flag falls in the wrong spot and you lose track position, it usually becomes a longer day than it could have been.”
Harvick is the driver to halt JGR from winning seven straight at New Hampshire, winning last season and also in 2016. He's also one of the examples of being good on one track and having it translate to the other two during a season. In 2006, he won at Phoenix twice, won at Richmond and won at New Hampshire. He hasn't won a race yet this season but is listed at 6-to-1 odds this week just because these type of tracks are his deal, forever.
Kyle Busch won at Phoenix in March in the debut of this race package and led a race-high 177 laps. Truex was second and Ryan Blaney was third. Blaney is a driver you may want to take a shot with at 20-to-1 odds. He led 94 laps at Phoenix and was the leader with 17 laps to go. He's desperate for his first 2019 as well, situations I like betting on with quality teams because the driver will fight for every spot and not settle. Blaney has four top-fives driving this package.
Truex would come back and win at Richmond leading a race-high 186 laps for his first short track win in his Cup career. He's never won at New Hampshire, but the fact that he's won the last three races using this race package has my attention.
Another unique aspect with Truex is that he has multiple New Hampshire wins between the K&N Pro Series and Xfinity Series. His father won at New Hampshire in the K&N Series and so did his brother Ryan, twice. How he hasn't won there in the Cup Series yet is a mystery. He's finished in the top-five of his last three starts there and he's led a third of the laps there over his past five starts.
The other Gibbs driver to look out for is Denny Hamlin, who has won three times at New Hampshire and been runner-up four times. His 10.2 average finish in 25 Cup starts is the best among active drivers.
“I’ve been fortunate to have had some good races at New Hampshire, but every year is different, and it’s a tough group of drivers who are battling every week for the win," Hamlin said. "I am confident in our team’s ability, but we will need to be at the top of our game to get the win this weekend at Loudon.”
Hamlin has won twice this season, but possibly blew a chance for two other wins due to penalties which seem to plague the team weekly. He's got top-fives in six of the races using this week's package. Not even his teammates Busch or Truex can say that -- they have four top-fives each.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #19 Martin Truex Jr. (4/1)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (5/2)
3) #11 Denny Hamlin (10/1)
4) #12 Ryan Blaney (20/1)
5) #4 Kevin Harvick (6/1)