Five things to watch at New Hampshire

1 Comment

LOUDON, N.H. – Drivers treaded carefully with the question. What would it mean if Kevin Harvick failed to advance to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup?

“You want to knock out the fastest cars you can,’’ Joey Logano said. “Obviously, (Harvick’s car) is one of the fastest cars every week. They led the points for most of the season, so you know they’ve got speed everywhere they go. I wouldn’t consider them out at this point by no means. They’re still a very strong team, and they’ll be up there racing hard and trying to get to the next round.’’

Said Matt Kenseth: “We just really think about ourselves and try to show up and run the best we can each and every week. So there’s 16 guys in this to make the top 12 and once that’s over, hopefully, we’re in the top 12, and we can look at what’s going on there. But, really, it’s so competitive you just keep running, try to stay in your own game and worry about your own car and your own team and try to finish the best you can.’’

Harvick is likely in a must-win situation today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway or next weekend at Dover International Speedway. If he doesn’t win either, the reigning champion could see his hopes for a second title end.

Harvick faces this situation after a 42nd-place finish last weekend in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway. He crashed three laps after contact with Jimmie Johnson – the contact caused a rub that led to the left rear tire’s failure, sending Harvick into the wall.

Harvick said he’s focused on what he must accomplish.

“I think you still have to go out with the mentality of trying to win a race,’’ he said. “I think everybody around us knows that.’’

A win by Harvick wouldn’t be shocking. He finished third in each of the past two races at this 1.058-mile speedway. He was fast in both of Saturday’s practices, not only for one lap but over 10 laps and 15 laps.

Harvick could complete quite a week by going from 42nd to first.

He’s just among the key storylines for today’s race.

LINE DANCING: The key to who wins could come down to what lane they’re in if there’s a late-race restart. The top line is the preferred line. In the July race, the leader started in the outside line all seven times and kept the lead six times. In four of those restarts, the car starting second (lead car on the inside line) lost a position on the restart.

With NASCAR watching restarts more closely, will the car on the outside still have the advantage?

Ryan Newman says there can be an advantage to starting on the inside, though.

“You’re better off being on the inside and having something to lean on than being on the outside and being the guy who gets leaned on,’’ he said.

PASS THE STOMACH MEDICINE ALONG PIT ROAD: In a way, it seems as if Tony Gibson was destined to be a crew chief. The 50-year-old Gibson, who had emergency appendectomy surgery Tuesday, said on Friday that he originally thought the pain in his stomach was an ulcer because he’s had them since his teenage days.

No doubt crew chiefs will be anxious throughout today’s race. Pit strategy likely will play a key role in the outcome. Track position is critical, so crew chiefs will try different strategies to put their car in position to win late.

FOUR IN A ROW: Joe Gibbs Racing has won the past three Cup races with three different drivers. Denny Hamlin won last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Matt Kenseth won at Richmond. Carl Edwards won at Darlington. That leaves Kyle Busch, who won at this track in July. Will he complete the Gibbs cycle?

IRONMAN: Jeff Gordon makes his record-breaking 789th career Sprint Cup start to topple Ricky Rudd’s mark. The bigger number for Gordon is zero – the number of victories he has this season. He has nine chances left to change that in his final Cup season. Will he?



Portland Xfinity race results, driver points

Portland Xfinity results
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Cole Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when the top three cars made contact and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway. Custer is the 10th different winner in 13 races this season.

MORE: Portland Xfinity race results

MORE: Driver points after Portland Xfinity race

JR Motorsports took the next three spots: Justin Allgaier placed second, Sam Mayer was third and Josh Berry was fourth. Austin Hill completed the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek remains the points leader after 13 races. He has a 14-point lead on Hill. Nemechek leads Allgaier by 44 points.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Portland in overtime


Cole Custer held off Justin Allgaier at the finish to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in overtime at Portland International Raceway. It is Custer’s first victory of the season.

JR Motorsports placed second, third and fourth with Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Josh Berry. Austin Hill finished fifth.

MORE: Race results, driver points

Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when Parker Kligerman, who restarted third, attempted to pass Allgaier, who was leading. Sheldon Creed was on the outside of Allgaier. All three cars made contact entering Turn 1, allowing Custer to slip by. Creed finished seventh. Kligerman placed 14th.

Custer won the second stage when John Hunter Nemechek made contact with Creed’s car while racing for the lead on the final lap of the stage. The contact spun Creed and Custer inched by Nemechek at the line.

Early in the final stage, Creed gained revenge with contact that spun Nemechek, who went on to finish 10th. A few laps later, Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith had issues. Smith spun Nemechek. After getting back around, Nemechek quickly caught Smith and turned into Smith’s car, damaging it.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Despite the contact on the overtime restart, runner-up Justin Allgaier managed to score his fourth consecutive top-three finish. … Sam Mayer’s third-place finish is his best on a road course. … Austin Hill’s fifth-place finish gives him four consecutive top-five results.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Hemric finished 33rd after a fire in his car. … Riley Herbst placed 32nd after an engine issue. After opening the season with six top 10s in a row, Herbst has gone seven races in a row without a top 10.

NEXT: The series competes June 10 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Truck race results at WWT Raceway: Grant Enfinger wins


Grant Enfinger took the lead when the leaders wrecked in the final laps and held off the field in overtime to win Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

It is Enfinger’s second win in the last five races. He also collected a $50,000 bonus for winning the Triple Truck Challenge.

MORE: Truck race results

MORE: Driver points after WWT Raceway

Christian Eckes finished second and was followed by Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar and Chase Purdy.

Ty Majeski and Zane Smith wrecked while racing for the lead with six laps to go. Majeski, running on the inside of Smith, slid up the track and clipped Smith’s truck. Both hit the wall. That put Enfinger in the lead.

Smith finished 20th. Majeski placed 30th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Stewart Friesen

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Grant Enfinger’s victory is his fourth top 10 in the last five races. … Carson Hocevar’s fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five result. … Stewart Friesen’s third-place finish moved him into a playoff spot with four races left in the regular season. … Matt DiBenedetto‘s sixth-place finish is his third consecutive top 10. … Jesse Love finished ninth in his series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ty Majeski had a chance to take the points lead with series leader Corey Heim out because of illness, but Majeski’s 30th-place finish after running at the front most of the day, leaves him behind Heim. … Hailie Deegan finished 32nd after contact sent her truck into the wall hard. … After finishing a career-high third last week at Charlotte, Dean Thompson placed 34th Saturday due to an engine issue.

NEXT: The series races June 23 at Nashville Superspeedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1)

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.