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Here’s your primer for Week 2 of the NASCAR Cup playoffs: New Hampshire

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Last week, we brought you a primer on what NASCAR fans should expect for both the overall 10-race Cup playoffs, as well as specifically for the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Thanks to our friends at Racing Insights, here’s some of the top points fans should know heading into this weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon:

Breaking down the Playoffs:

The 16-driver field is made up of drivers from Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing (three drivers each); Chip Ganassi Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing (two drivers each), and single drivers each from Team Penske, Furniture Row Racing, Wood Brothers Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Chevrolet leads the way with seven drivers, followed by five from Ford and four from Toyota.

  • Two drivers making first playoff appearance (Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
  • One team making first playoff appearance (Wood Brothers).
  • Six past Cup champions who combined to win 10 of the last 11 championships.

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The return of Darian Grubb:

  • 23 Monster Energy Cup Series Wins (will now rank third among active crew chiefs).
  • 2006 Daytona 500 champion with Jimmie Johnson.
  • Won the 2006 Cup championship as lead engineer for Jimmie Johnson.
  • 2011 Cup championship with Tony Stewart.
  • Was last a Cup crew chief in 2015 with Carl Edwards.
  • Returned to Hendrick Motorsports in 2016 as vehicle production director.
  • Served as Director of Competition Systems in most recent role at Hendrick.
  • Graduate of VA Tech with a Mechanical Engineering degree.
  • Becomes the fifth crew chief to work with Kasey Kahne in his Cup career.

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Most Career NASCAR Cup Wins by Active Crew Chiefs:

Chad Knaus (81,) 
Todd Parrott (31), 
Darian Grubb (23), 
Paul Wolfe (22
), and Alan Gustafson (20) (Note: Gustafson is the only active crew chief with at least 20 wins who doesn’t have a Cup championship)

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Jimmie Johnson Can Turn it On During the Playoff Races:

Comparing his wins in the 26 races of the regular season to playoff races since 2004 …

Johnson’s starts and wins: Regular season: 339 and 45 (13 percent winning percentage); playoff races: 131 starts and 29 wins (22 percent).

Jimmie Johnson’s 2016 Regular Season Compared to 2017:

Season 2016 vs. 2017 
: Poles 1, 0
 Wins 2, 3

Season 2016 vs. 2017:  Top fives: 7, 3 Top 10s: 10, 8 Laps Led: 266, 188 DNFs: 4,  5 Avg. Finish 15.27, 16.69

  • Johnson won the 2016 Championship after winning three times in the Playoffs
  • Johnson led 471 laps in the 2016 playoffs after entering with only 266 led

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Hendrick Motorsports’ Dry Spell at New Hampshire:

  • Hendrick Motorsports has nine wins at New Hampshire, but the last was in July 2012 with Kasey Kahne.
  • Hendrick has won on 15 different tracks for a total of 45 wins since they got their last win at New Hampshire.
  • Hendrick doesn’t have a top-five finish at New Hampshire since Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth there in July 2015.
  • As a team, Hendrick has led 14 total laps at New Hampshire in the last seven races there.

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Oldest track surfaces:

All three tracks in Round 1 are among the top five oldest race surfaces in the Cup Series:

  • Dover, concrete (last paved 1995)
  • Atlanta, asphalt (1997)
  • Fontana, asphalt (1997)
  • Chicagoland, asphalt (2001)
  • New Hampshire, asphalt (2002)

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Martin Truex Jr.‘s nickname should be “The Dominator”:

Martin Truex Jr. comes into New Hampshire either leading or ranked second in a number of categories thus far this season.

Here’s the categories where he’s ranked first: wins (five), top 10s (18), laps led (1,723), average start (6.78), stage wins (18), stage points (359), playoff points (58).

Truex is also ranked second in top fives (tied) and average finish (11.0).

New Hampshire has been good to the Truex family: Father Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Truex have all gone to victory lane at New Hampshire in the NASCAR K&N East Series (Formerly NASCAR Busch North Series).

Year and Winner: 1994, Martin Truex; 2000, Martin Truex Jr.; 2003, Martin Truex Jr.; 2010, Ryan Truex (twice).

  • Truex Jr. has never won in 23 career Cup starts at the 1.058-mile flat track.

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Most Laps Led at New Hampshire All-time without a Win:

Martin Truex Jr., 549 laps; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 378; Ricky Craven, 169; Sterling Marlin, 154; Juan Pablo Montoya, 149; Bobby Hamilton, 146; Carl Edwards, 139.

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Playoff Insights:
• Martin Truex Jr won two of the three races in the round of 16 in 2016 including Chicagoland
• The winner of the first race of the playoffs went on to win the Championship three times: 2004 Kurt Busch, 2011 Tony Stewart and 2012 Brad Keselowski. Both Stewart’s and Keselowski’s wins came at Chicagoland.
• All drivers were running at the finish in Chicagoland, it was the fourth time all drivers were running at the finish of a playoff race the last three came in the last three Chicagoland races
• Only 22 of 131 playoff races were won by non playoff drivers, the last time a non playoff driver won a race was Dale Earnhardt Jr at Phoenix in November 2015
• Championship eligible drivers won the last 12 playoff races
• The last 11 playoff races were won by five drivers: Jimmie Johnson 3 wins, Martin Truex Jr 3 wins, Joey Logano 2 wins, Kevin Harvick 2 wins, Carl Edwards 1 win
• Jimmie Johnson won at least one playoff race in every year of the playoffs (2004-2016)
• Jimmie Johnson has won the Championship in 54% of the years the playoffs has existed
• Joey Logano won all three races of the second round in 2015 it is the only time in the elimination format that a driver swept an entire round.
• A driver has won the first two races of the playoffs three times: Greg Biffle 2008, Tony Stewart 2011 and Matt Kenseth 2013. Stewart was the only driver to go on to win the Championship.
• Three drivers have won races during the playoffs in all three years of the elimination format: Kevin
Harvick, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson
• Kurt Busch (2004) is the only driver to win the Championship in his first Playoff appearance, 2004 was the first year of the playoffs
• Only two of the 131 Playoff races were won by drivers getting their first MENCS win: Clint Bowyer 2007 at New Hampshire and Brian Vickers 2006 at Talladega
• Each manufacture won two of the last six playoff races in this order: Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Toyota
• The driver who led the most laps failed to win the last seven playoff races
• In six of the last seven playoff races the winner did not lead for the first time until after half way
• There were no cautions for incidents in the first two stages at Chicagoland
• Four cautions at Chicagoland is tied for the fewest cautions in the last 12 playoff races, two of those
cautions were for stage breaks
• 10 different playoff drivers scored stage points at Chicagoland: Eight scored in stage 1, nine scored in stage 2

Bristol Motor Speedway issues statement on fan confronting Kyle Busch (video)

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Bristol Motor Speedway issued a statement Monday in regards to a fan confronting Kyle Busch after Saturday night’s race.

The track stated:

“Our security team has investigated a post-race incident where a guest repeatedly confronted Kyle Busch verbally and physically while he was signing autographs for fans. As Busch then prepared to leave in his golf cart, the individual struck the driver across the chest, and at that time, Busch confronted the individual. The two were separated quickly and a uniformed officer pulled the individual to the side, allowing Busch to depart.”

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports that the sanctioning body was aware of the incident and discussed it with police.

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Bristol recap, Robert Wickens injury update

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and reviews all the big stories from the weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut. They will be joined by Nate Ryan via phone.

On today’s show:

  • This past weekend, all the buzz was around the Busch brothers – Kurt for snapping a 58-race winless streak, and Kyle for enduring a season’s worth of events in one crazy night. We’ll cover all the angles from the memorable Bristol night race. Plus: With Chase Elliott continuing his hot run with a third-place finish, has he become the top challenger to NASCAR’s “Big 3”?
  • The countdown to Throwback Weekend at Darlington continues! Check out Denny Hamlin’s vintage look for the upcoming Southern 500, which draws on his own history in the sport.
  • And we’ll have the latest updates on injured IndyCar driver Robert Wickens, who was hospitalized in a brutal crash that overshadowed Alexander Rossi’s victory Sunday at Pocono.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Denny Hamlin throwing way back to his short track days for Southern 500

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Denny Hamlin will join the ranks of Cup drivers who will drive their own throwback paint schemes in this year’s Southern 500 (Sept. 2 on NBCSN).

But unlike Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Derrike Cope, Hamlin’s paint scheme has never been run in Cup.

Joe Gibbs Racing unveiled Hamlin’s scheme Monday, revealing that his No. 11 Toyota will look like the No. 11 mini-stock Hamlin drove in 1997 when he competed on short tracks in his home state of Virginia.

MORE: Southern 500 paint schemes

MORE: Denny Hamlin’s Xfinity scheme for Darlington

On the car will be the logo for Chesterfield Trailer & Hitch, the company his parents owned and that helped keep his racing dreams alive.

Hamlin is the defending winner of the Southern 500.

Watch the video below to learn more about the scheme and Hamlin’s early days of racing.

Kurt Busch: ‘I haven’t decided’ about NASCAR future

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Where will Kurt Busch race in 2019?

Busch’s current co-owner, Gene Haas, claims to be in the dark about the future of one of his four Cup drivers.

“I really think you need to talk to Kurt Busch and Chip Ganassi and Jamie McMurray. I think they know more than we do,” Haas told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Saturday night, not long after Busch’s first win of the season and a week after it was reported that the 40-year-old driver would leave Stewart-Haas Racing for Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 car next year.

After claiming his 30th Cup Series win, Kurt Busch said he hasn’t made any commitments to where he’ll be racing in 2019.

“I haven’t decided and there’s time, that’s in our favor,” Busch told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, has driven for SHR since 2014 and accumulated six wins, including the 2017 Daytona 500. Saturday night’s win snapped a 58-race winless streak for the No. 41 Ford and secured Busch a spot in the playoffs with teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer.

“Drivers have a right to do what they want,” Haas said. “We have expectations, they have expectations and sometimes you can’t all make them meet up to have a favorable outcome. I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not that it’s personal or anything, it’s just that this is racing. Kurt’s been with us for (five) years. It’s been an interesting time and we’ve had a lot of good time. We won Daytona last year. There’s a lot of good that came out of it. Just like you make changes to cars, sometimes you make changes to crews, sometimes drivers change. I don’t read a lot into it. I don’t have any animosity. Who knows? There’s the possibility he could be driving with us next year. At the moment, the rumor mill knows all.”

It’s the second year in a row Busch’s future in the No. 41 Ford has been in doubt.

Last year, Busch signed a one-year deal in December after SHR declined to pick up his option in August. Busch said then that he also was exploring rides with other teams and that he had offers.

Following the report about his potential departure for Ganassi, Busch said the week leading up to the Bristol race “was tough.”

“There’s not anything to announce or anything to do,” Busch said. “So we’re going to go enjoy this off week and that’s what I’ve asked everybody to do and we just have to have clarity as we move forward. They know I’m a winner. I know they’re a winner. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

Busch’s Bristol win was significant personally, not just because it ended a long winless streak and got him into the playoffs.

He reached a goal he set for himself 19 years ago at the start of his Cup career.

“I always wanted to get to 30 (wins),” Busch said. “This is a big win for me. I grew up at Roush Racing watching a guy named Mark Martin help me. He was a great mentor. I looked up to him as a racer. He had 33, 34 wins (at the time). I think he might have ended his career with 40. Early on, before I won my first ever race, (I thought) If I can get to 30, that’s a pretty special career. Made it tonight. I’m choked up about it. I really love this win tonight. To have six Bristol trophies is special.”

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