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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

Preliminary entry lists for playoff races at Martinsville Speedway

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It’s time for the last short track races of the NASCAR season as the playoffs roll on at Martinsville Speedway.

The Cup and Camping World Truck Series will be in action this weekend at the .526-mile track in Virginia.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the weekend.

Cup – First Data 500 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 40 entries for the race.

Matt Kenseth is back in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford.

Hermie Sadler is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet for his first start of the year. Five of his last six Cup starts have been at Martinsville.

There is no driver listed for Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford.

Clint Bowyer won the March race at Martinsville. He beat Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Busch is the defending winner of this race. He beat Martin Truex Jr. and Bowyer.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Texas Roadhouse 200 (1 p.m. ET Saturday)

There are 35 entries for the race. Three trucks will not make the field.

Kyle Benjamin, Jeb Burton and Timothy Peters are entered in the race.

Harrison Burton is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota.

John Hunter Nemechek won the March Martinsville race over Benjamin and Brett Moffitt. Noah Gragson won this race last year over Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter.

Click here for the entry list.

Scott Graves to be Ryan Newman’s crew chief at Roush Fenway Racing

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Roush Fenway Racing confirmed Tuesday that Scott Graves will be Ryan Newman‘s crew chief next season on the No. 6 Cup team.

Graves had been the crew chief for Daniel Suarez this season until leaving Joe Gibbs Racing Oct. 9.

Graves joined Roush Fenway Racing as an engineer in 2006. He was a crew chief there from 2012-15. He did four races as an Xfinity crew chief in 2012, working with a variety of drivers. In 2013, he served as Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s crew chief for three Cup races late in the season. Graves was Stenhouse’s crew chief in Cup for the 2013 season. Graves returned to the Xfinity Series and was the crew chief for Chris Buescher in 2014-15. They won the championship in 2015.

Graves left Roush for Joe Gibbs Racing and was Suarez’s crew chief in Xfinity in 2016 when he won the championship. Graves started 2017 with JGR’s Xfintiy program before moving up to be Suarez’s Cup crew chief early in the season.

“We are very pleased to bring Scott back to the fold,” said team co-owner Jack Roush in a statement from the team. “Scott is an exceptional talent atop the pit box and he has done an outstanding job throughout his career – with multiple championship campaigns attesting to that.

“He brings a strong engineering background to the table and we are excited about the opportunity to pair him with Ryan Newman going into the 2019 season.”

Roush Fenway Racing announced Sept. 22 that Newman would join the team in 2019.

Matt Puccia is the crew chief on the No. 6 car this season. Roush Fenway Racing stated that details on Puccia’s role are being worked out.

 

 

Bump & Run: Martinsville hot dogs, looking ahead to Round 3

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What’s your career high of Martinsville hot dogs in a weekend?

Nate Ryan: Maybe one or two? It’s been roughly 18 years since I consumed one. My career high of turkey sandwiches from the Sheetz near the 58/220 intersection is about six, though.

Dustin Long: One. Not my thing.

Daniel McFadin: In my four visits I’ve never had more than two in a race day.

Dan Beaver: I’m ashamed to say only two.

What percentage do you put it that the Big 3 all advance to the championship race in Miami?

Nate Ryan: More than 80 percent. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch likely are safe on playoff points, and Martin Truex Jr. could either win at Texas or be consistent enough over the next three races to advance. The only scenario in which one of the trio won’t race for the championship involves two other playoff drivers winning in this round; Busch, Harvick and Truex will post the finishes to garner the necessary points.

Dustin Long: 95 percent. Forget recent struggles, they will be there in Miami racing for a championship.

Daniel McFadin: 60 percent. I think Martin Truex Jr. is going to be in danger once Phoenix rolls around. The 78 team has lost its fire over the last four races, despite finishing fifth in Kansas. Kyle Busch can be expected to be a threat in all three races and Harvick should be the man to beat at Texas and Phoenix, if he can keep from making mistakes.

Dan Beaver: 50 percent: One of the non-Big 3 will win a race in this round and that means Martin Truex Jr. is going to need to seriously improve his performance to advance.

What’s stood out to you so far with the Cup playoffs?

Nate Ryan: The emergence of Chase Elliott and the cohesiveness, the competitiveness of Stewart-Haas Racing and the lone win among Busch, Harvick and Truex. It’s difficult to pin down an overall narrative.

Dustin Long: There there have been no upsets or surprises so far in who has been eliminated. Even when Brad Keselowski won three in a row he was saying they needed more speed. They won by execution. Running out of fuel at Talladega hurt him and then they didn’t have the speed at Kansas to make up for all those lost points at Talladega. The strongest teams are left. 

Daniel McFadin: The late-race success of teams that didn’t dominate in the regular season. Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola each earned their first wins of the year in the playoffs and Chase Elliott earned wins No. 2 and 3. The competition has finally evened out, though some of that has been through help from late mistakes and cars running out of gas.

Dan Beaver: Chase Elliott with his pair of victories in Round 2. Along with his Watkins Glen win in August, he has won on three very distinct tracks.

What track in this round — Martinsville, Texas or Phoenix — do you think will have the most impact in the playoffs?

Nate Ryan: Phoenix because of the fresh layout and because the points scenarios always lend themselves to the Round of 8 cutoff race playing a major factor on the championship.

Dustin Long: Phoenix. Last chance to advance to Miami. Desperate times call for desperate actions.

Daniel McFadin: Martinsville. Teams will view it as the biggest equalizer in the round and with the possibility of a wild race, a non-playoff driver could win putting even more emphasis on the next two races for non-Big 3 drivers.

Dan Beaver: Every playoff driver will be trying to get off to a strong start at Martinsville and that will create some chaos.

NASCAR America: Will Martin Truex Jr. make the championship race?

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There are just three races left to decide who will compete for the Cup title.

On NASCAR America, Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton discussed Martin Truex Jr.‘s chances of getting a shot to repeat as champion.

Letarte believes Furniture Row Racing is hurt by the fact that it will close down at the end of the season.

“The way I look at it is there’s going to be four drivers that race for a championship in Miami and two heavyweights are already in,” said Letarte, referring to Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. “I don’t think Martin Truex makes it. I just don’t. I think that they’ve done a great job of trying to protect their team from the news, but the simple fact is we are four weeks from a championship and we are four weeks from an entire shop of people losing their job. That’s fact. That’s life. That’s what they’re trying to deal with out there in Colorado.”

Burton believe’s “no one’s a lock” for the championship four but admits it would “take special circumstances” for Harvick and Busch to not make it. He also thinks Truex is in a better position to advance compared to those he’s fighting for the final two spots in Miami.

“Who is trying to take him out of the Big 3?” Burton asked. “I haven’t seen it from (Clint) Bowyer. (Aric) Almirola’s been running pretty well lately. But you’re going to have to be better than just run with him. He has more points than you have.”

Watch the above video for more. Below is the playoff standings entering Martinsville and the Round of 8.