When it comes to events on the NASCAR Cup Series 2023 season schedule that could shake up the Playoff standings as the postseason approaches, look no further than this weekend’s Crayon 301 on July 16 at 2:30 p.m. ET (USA Network, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Not only is the unique short track a one-of-a-kind on the Cup schedule, but it has also produced a large number of longshot winners starting outside the top-20, and for three of the last four winners at the 1.058-mile track the victory was the catalyst to earning their spot in the Playoffs – Kevin Harvick (2019), Aric Almirola (2021) and Christopher Bell (2022).
“I love going up to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it’s been a really good racetrack for me in the past,” said Christopher Bell. “The track is really unique in the fact that Turns 1 and 2 are really smooth, 3 and 4 are very rough, it’s very flat everywhere but has a little more banking running up the track in lane two and three, there’s nowhere else in the country that’s like it.”
So, you’re saying longshots have a chance? You bet. A NASCAR Cup Series driver has started outside the top-20 and went on to win the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway 10 different times (19.6% of the total races).
New Hampshire is tied with Charlotte Motor Speedway for the third-most winners starting outside the top-20 in the NASCAR Cup Series (with 10 each); behind only Daytona International Speedway with 14 and Richmond Raceway with 12.
The 2021 New Hampshire winner, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, started from the 22nd position, and with 11 different winners this season New Hampshire Motor Speedway could very well stir up some magic and produce a 12th.
Heading into this weekend at New Hampshire, 10 of the 19 winners from last season are still looking for their first victory this year – Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Bubba Wallace, Chase Briscoe, Chris Buescher, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones.
Of the 10 drivers that won last season and are looking for their first win of this year, Kevin Harvick is the only former winner at New Hampshire in the NASCAR Cup Series this Sunday.
Harvick leads all active drivers in wins at the 1.058-mile track with four victories (2006, 2016, 2018, 2019). A victory this weekend would not only ensure his path to the Playoffs for the 17th time in his career, but he would also become the sole wins leader in the NASCAR Cup Series at New Hampshire, breaking the tie with Jeff Burton.
Whole lotta Magic in the Mile at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Groundbreaking for New Hampshire International Speedway, as New Hampshire Motor Speedway was originally named, was August 13, 1989.
The 1.058-mile paved oval is located on approximately 1,200 acres and the multi-use complex is the largest sports facility in New England. Speedway Motorsports agreed to purchase New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob and Gary Bahre on January 11, 2008, and then renamed the track New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The first NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was on July 11, 1993 and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace driving a Team Penske Pontiac (105.947 mph, 02:59:45).
“I remember watching it sort of sprout from the ground and take shape,” said former NASCAR driver Ricky Craven, a native of Maine. “The speedway was exciting in terms of fans and became New England’s largest sport’s facility. …”
There have been 51 NASCAR Cup Series races held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; one per year from 1993 through 1996 and two per year from 1997-2017. In 2018, the track reverted back to just one event per season.
The 51 NASCAR Cup Series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway have produced 22 different pole winners and 26 different race winners.
Rick Ware Racing’s Ryan Newman leads the NASCAR Cup Series in poles at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with seven (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2011 sweep, 2013). Five of the 22 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at New Hampshire Motor Speedway are active this weekend.