With this being my first race review, I’ll put it out there right away that the race summaries are mostly going to be really quick, unless something spectacular has happened, as my main objective will be to analyse certain events and give my views on the news coming out of the NASCAR world.
We had a crazy Sunday evening at New Hampshire with a lot of close racing, varying pit strategies and even a short sprinkle of rain at the beginning of the second stage. The first major incident came already on lap 16 when reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch blew a right front tire, sending him straight in to the wall and out of the race, meaning he is still winless in 2020. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin were the dominant cars pretty much the whole race, with Hamlin winning stage one and Keselowski winning stage two.
Unfortunately, the battle for the lead died off at the beginning of the final stage when Keselowski finally managed to clear Hamlin and set the pace. Keselowski scored his third win of the season with Hamlin in 2nd and Martin Truex Jr. in 3rd. Kevin Harvick restarted 26th with 95 laps to go and drove all the way up to 5th, just a lap or two short of catching Joey Logano in 4th. Matt DiBenedetto scored an impressive 6th place finish, Aric Almirola scored his ninth straight top-10 finish in 7th and Cole Custer finished 8th.
The main battle towards the end of the race was for the bottom end of the top 10, where Chase Elliott eventually prevailed to take 9th ahead of Tyler Reddick, William Byron and Jimmie Johnson. This was probably the most important battle of the whole race, as it involved all the main drivers who are currently right on the bubble for the final spot in the playoffs. With the help of a few stage points, 16th placed Byron managed to increase his gap down to Reddick in 17th. With only six races left of the regular season, this battle is getting very interesting.
14. Clint Bowyer +43
15. Matt DiBenedetto +40
16. William Byron +15
17. Tyler Reddick -15
18. Jimmie Johnson -25
19. Erik Jones -31
Next weekend we will see four races across the main three series. Friday evening the Trucks Series race 100 laps at Michigan where Matt Crafton will be looking to build on his momentum from last weekend. Saturday will start off with the Xfinity Series racing 45 laps around Road America where Chase Briscoe will be going for his sixth win of the season, while Austin Cindric will be looking for redemption for the Indianapolis race. That will be followed by the first part of the Cup Series double-header at Michigan, racing 156 laps, were we can expect Kyle Busch to try to bounce back and capture his first win of the season. Then Sunday evening will see another 156-lap race in the Cup Series, with the grid being set based off of Saturdays result and the top 15 being inverted.
The two drivers to keep a close eye on for Michigan, apart from the obvious front runners, will be Alex Bowman and Tyler Reddick. Bowman scored his only win of the season at Auto Club earlier this year, which is the only other 2-mile track the Cup Series go too, and with the playoffs getting ever closer, he will need to put in some more good results to build momentum for his team going in to the Round of 16. Reddick as we all know, loves to run along the wall, and Michigan is a track where you will benefit a lot if you are able to do that. Depending on if and how they apply the PJ1*, we will probably see Reddick being one of the first drivers to venture all the way up the wall. With the playoff picture being as it is, he will need as many points as he can get, so expect him to be pushing really hard right off the bat.
*PJ1 is a traction compound applied to certain parts of the track to increase the grip of the cars in that certain area
Later this week we will take a look at the current contract situation in the Cup Series, which seats are currently vacant going in to 2021 and who I predict will end up where. Until then, stay safe!