For the second time in four races, the Sprint Cup Series visits a track that’s stingy when it comes to who gets into victory lane.
The first was Sonoma Raceway, where Kyle Busch ended a 10-year stretch of different drivers winning on the 12-turn road course. Now the host track is New Hampshire Motor Speedway, or “The Magic Mile,” which has had only one repeat winner in the last six years and 14 races.
A 1.058-mile track in Loudon, N.H., NHMS was once the playground of drivers named Jeff. From 1997 to 2000, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton combined to win six of eight races at the track. Burton holds the track record for wins at four.
The 2000s brought a few repeat winners as Tony Stewart won twice, Jimmie Johnson swept in 2003 and Kurt Busch did the same in 2004, following it up with his third win in 2008.
But NHMS has become very sparing on whom it allows to celebrate with its trademark lobster trophy.
Starting with Busch’s win in July 2008, 14 races have occurred at Loudon with only one repeat winner, Joey Logano. Logano’s win last September in the second race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup was five years and 11 races after his first NHMS win in July 2009, which was also the first Cup win.
Outside of those two races, 12 other drivers have been first: Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski.
A driver that’s been close to earning multiple wins at NHMS is Kyle Busch, who won in 2006 but hasn’t been back. In three of the last four races, Busch has finished second while leading a total of 115 laps.
Busch said Loudon is similar to a larger version of 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway.
“At Loudon, you’re looking at how good your fuel mileage is and you have to look at when you have to make your last pit stop since that’s what everyone looks at,” Busch said in a team release. “You end up running it almost like a road-course race because you do want to be the first guy on the last round of pit stops to pit. You want to get in there, get your tires and fuel, and then stay out the rest of the race and keep your track position since it’s so important there. It’s just a challenging race because it is so hard to pass there.”
Passing is a struggle at Loudon, said Stewart, who has three wins there (2000, 05′ and 11′).
“You can be a couple of 10ths faster than a guy, but it still takes you 20 laps to get by him,” Stewart said in a release. “There are other tracks on the circuit where it’s hard to pass, but we still go out and put on good shows there, too.”
In his last four races at Loudon, Stewart’s seventh last July was his only top-10 finish.
“If you miss on something, it can be a miserable day. It seems like you don’t see but three or four guys during the day that really hit it. That’s what makes a day there miserable when you miss,” Stewart said. “It seems like you can have bad track position, but if you have a car that drives well, you can drive your way to the front.”