New Hampshire Motor Speedway — sometimes referred to as Loudon after the town in which the track is located — hosted its first NASCAR Cup Series race in 1993. This weekend’s race will be the 51st.
The 1.058-mile track is the flattest oval NASCAR currently visits. The paper-clip shape provides two straightaways of 1,500 feet each, making the track 46.3% turns. The turn radius is the same in all four corners: 450 feet. That’s much smaller than the 741-foot turns the Cup Series ran last week at Atlanta.
The turns are progressively banked from four degrees near the apron to seven degrees by the outside wall. That means that the frontstretch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has higher banking (nine degrees) than the Loudon turns.
“The straightaways are long at this track and the corners are flat,” Tyler Reddick noted. “It’s a one-mile racetrack, but it races somewhat like a short track with how you break the corner up and how corner entry is important.”
Air pressure is one of the most important tools teams have to help drivers navigate flat corners, along with shock and camber settings. The rash of tire problems has lessened as teams learn how to set up the Next Gen car, but everyone will be watching tire wear during the first few green-flag runs.
Although this is the Cup Series’ first (and only) visit to NHMS this year, teams can leverage information from Phoenix, Richmond and World Wide Technology Raceway. They’re even using the same tire combination they used at those three tracks this year.
Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, adds Martinsville to the list of reference tracks.
“The paper-clip shape of the track and how tight the corners are and how much shifting is gonna be going on,” Childers said. “It just depends what the pace ends up being and what the grip level is like when we get there, whether you’re gonna be shifting once in each corner or twice in each corner.”
The rule prohibiting drivers from racing back to the start-finish line when a caution is thrown developed in response to a 2003 incident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Dale Jarrett stalled on the frontstretch, in front of cars racing for position. Starting with the next race, NASCAR froze the field at the moment of the caution, and instituted the free-pass rule.
New Hampshire does not have lights. Original owner Bob Bahre signed a legal agreement with the town of Loudon that he would not install lights. That agreement stands, even though Speedway Motorsports now owns the track.
Winning the pole at NHMS historically doesn’t provide much advantage for winning the race. Jeff Gordon was the first NHMS polesitter to find victory lane in 1998. The sixth, and most recent driver, to win from the pole was Kyle Busch in 2017.
The eventual race winner started outside the top 10 in five out of the the last seven races where qualifying was held. Only once has a driver won a Cup Series race at NHMS after having to start from the rear of the field: Robby Gordon, in 2001.
Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers both have four wins at NHMS, but only three are with each other. Harvick won with Todd Berrier in 2006, while Childers won in 2013 with Brian Vickers.
Harvick shares the record for NHMS wins with Jeff Burton, but Childers holds the crew chief record alone. Ray Evernham, Frank Stoddard, Greg Zipadelli, Chad Knaus and Jason Ratcliff each have three wins. All but Zipadelli’s wins were with the same driver. If Harvick wins at New Hampshire, he and Childers will have the most wins by a single driver/crew chief pair.
Neither will the record for oldest winner, which is held by Mark Martin (2009; 50.7 years old). The oldest driver in Sunday’s field is Kevin Harvick at 46.6 years old.
A comeback track for older drivers?
But here’s a record that might be broken: Since the spring 2015 race, no driver younger than 30 has won at New Hampshire. The average age of the last nine winners is 38.3 years.
Younger drivers have numbers and recent history on their side. Of the 36-man field for Sunday’s race, 19 drivers (52.7% ) are under 30. The average age of 2022 race winners is 30.6 years.
While the average age of winning drivers had been mostly rising, it’s started downward recently. The last five 2022 winners have an average age of 28.4 years. The average age of the last three winners is 26.6 years.
On the other hand, the drivers with the best finishing averages in the last three races at NHMS are Kevin Harvick (4.00), Denny Hamlin (4.67), and Brad Keselowski (4.67). The highest under-30 driver on the list is seventh: Ryan Blaney has an average finishing position of 9.67.
As my colleague Dustin Long noted, Harvick finished sixth in Phoenix and second at Richmond. He ran well at World Wide Technology Raceway until a mechanical failure.
Not only is NHMS one of Childers’ favorite tracks, he feels like the team has made progress recently.
“I think the key was Nashville,” Childers said, “and being able to run with the good cars all night and have a really good race. I hope that was a turning point for us and we can keep moving forward from there.”
Milo the Moose is the track’s mascot. Milo’s name comes from NHMS being a mile oval. Moose are the largest members of the deer family. According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, moose are the largest land mammal in the state. A mature bull moose’s antlers have a spread of about 79 inches – just a little bigger than Austin Cindric, who stands 76 inches tall.
The adverb “wicked” isn’t exclusive to New Hampshire. It’s used around much of New England, but not to indicate evil. It means, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “to an extreme or impressive degree.”
While you might guess that the origin of “wicked” relates to New England’s history with witches, it’s really a late-20th-century development. The word is unusual because it is still used primarily in New England, whereas most once-regional words have spread across the country.