Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire

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The flat, 1.058-mile oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is up next for the NASCAR Cup Series Sunday (3 p.m. ET, USA Network).

With seven races left in the regular season, there are still just three spots up for grabs in the 16-driver playoff field.

For some drivers still looking to clinch a playoff spot, past performances at New Hampshire can give them confidence entering Sunday.

For others in the same scenario, they might feel something else.

FRONT RUNNERS

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: Leader
  • Last three races: WIN at Nashville, 2nd at Road America, WIN at Atlanta
  • Past at New Hampshire: One top-five finish in eight Cup starts (5th, 2018)

Now that Georgia native Elliott has crossed his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway off the list, he’ll set his sights on New Hampshire, a track that hasn’t been particularly great for him. He did, however, lead 53 laps there last year — a career-best at the Magic Mile.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: 5th at Nashville, 4th at Road America, 2nd at Atlanta
  • Past at New Hampshire: Finished 8th last year (3rd Cup start at track)

Chastain doesn’t have a particularly large body of work at New Hampshire, but he comes in on a tear with three straight top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes in his last 10 races (including his win at Talladega).

Kevin Harvick

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 10th at Nashville, 10th at Road America, 12th at Atlanta
  • Past at New Hampshire: Four-time winner

Down 19 points to Christopher Bell for the final playoff spot, Harvick needs another strong result at New Hampshire to at least keep pace. Over his last eight races there dating to 2016, he picked up three wins and finished no worse than sixth in all but one race (36th, DNF-crash, Sept. 2017).

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Joey Logano

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 9th at Nashville, 27th at Road America, 26th at Atlanta
  • Past at New Hampshire: Two-time winner (most recent: Sept. 2014)

It’s been feast (wins at Darlington and World Wide Technology Raceway) or famine (seven finishes of 17th or worse, including three DNFs) lately for Logano. But with nine top-10s in his last 11 Cup starts at New Hampshire, this could be a place for him and the No. 22 team to get sorted.

Christopher Bell

  • Points position: 16th
  • Last three races: 8th at Nashville, 18th at Road America, 19th at Atlanta
  • Past at New Hampshire: Finished 2nd last year (2nd Cup start at track)

Sitting on the playoff bubble, Bell must shake off a tough Sunday at Atlanta, where a promising effort was undone by a spin and an ill-fated pit stop that saw his left-rear wheel come off. He was runner-up behind winner Aric Almirola last year at New Hampshire.

Austin Dillon 

  • Points position: 20th
  • Last three races: 14th at Nashville, 31st at Road America (DNF-brakes), 35th at Atlanta (DNF-crash)
  • Past at New Hampshire: One top-10 finish in 12 Cup starts (eighth, July 2015)

Thanks to back-to-back DNFs, Austin Dillon’s deficit to the playoff cutline has grown from 53 to 116 points. He’s in a must-win situation for the rest of the summer, and he’s heading to a track where his results have been average at best. Then there’s the recent news surrounding his teammate