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With only 7 races to go before the playoffs, Monster Energy Cup drivers are running out of time to get that automatic qualification by winning a race. Big names such as Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth are looking for that elusive win. Of course, NASCAR royalty and pending retiree Dale Earnhardt Jr desperately needs a win too, as his struggling performance this year won’t help him earn enough points for the Top 16(the Top 16 drivers on points qualify for the playoffs unless there are 16 unique race winners).
The Monster Energy Cup series travels to Loudon, New Hampshire to race in the Overton’s 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway also known as the “Magic Mile”. This speedway is an 1.058 mile oval and considered a short flat track, similar to the Richmond and Phoenix Raceways. At New Hampshire, I will look at past performance as well as how well a driver ran at practice to make my picks for this week.
My Top 5 Drivers for the Overton’s 301
Martin Truex Jr($10,300): Martin Truex Jr has had a dominant car this week in practice with the top speed in the 2nd practice and qualifying for the Pole Position for this race. Truex Jr. could easily dominate this race and get a significant chunk of his points with leading laps out in front. He dominated last week’s race Quaker State 400, his first win at Kentucky Speedway.
Kyle Larson($9,700): Kyle Larson battled with Truex this week during practice trying to get the top speed. He succeeded in both practice and qualifying with the top speed. However, he failed a post-qualifying inspection, getting penalized to start in the back of the field. Have no fear with Kyle Larson, as last week he also started 39th due to a failed inspection, but was still fast enough to weave through the field to finish 2nd to Truex Jr. By starting 39th, Larson has huge Place Differential upside. Try to fit Truex and Larson in the same cash game lineup.
Kyle Busch($10,500): Even though Kyle Busch has not won this year, he is still 3rd in the championship points standings. He starts 7th, but did have the fastest car in the final practice. Kyle Busch has two wins, nine Top 5’s, and thirteen Top 10’s at the Magic Mile.
Jimmie Johnson($9,600): The reigning champion qualified upfront in the 2nd position for this race. The #48 team has achieved Top 10 speeds this week in practice. Johnson has three Magic Mile wins, ten Top 5’s, and twenty Top 10’s. Johnson has finished in the Top 10 in seven out of the last ten races.
Matt Kenseth($9,300): Like his teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, Kenseth is looking for this first win of the season and the automatic berth into the playoffs. His best shot may be here at the Magic Mile where he has won two out of the last three races at New Hampshire. In the other race, he took 2nd place. This week, Joe Gibbs Racing has given Kenseth a Top 10 practicing car and he starts in the 3rd position.
Erik Jones($7,900): Erik Jones had an excellent week in practice finishing with Top 10 speeds in all practices and qualifying. He is a great value at $7,900 and could easily end up in the Top 5 by the end of the race.
Kasey Kahne($7,600): Kahne has had his struggles this year. Last week, he got caught up in a crash with Trevor Bayne. He has had a decent week in practice, and starts in the 6th position. Kahne will not return to Hendricks Motorsports next year, so he is auditioning for his next ride. Kahne has won at New Hampshire back in July of 2012, leading 66 out of the 301 laps. He is decent start at $7,600.
Denny Hamlin($9,800): Hamlin will start in the 8th position for this race. His team worked to get the #11 Toyota Camry to be a Top 10 practice car after having to go to a backup car after the first practice. I think that by having to go to the backup car, DFS players will overlook Hamlin and he will be lowly owned. Hamlin has an excellent record at New Hampshire, winning the race twice, and has eight Top 5’s and thirteen Top 10 finishes.