After a bit of an extended break following the Thursday night race at Kansas Speedway, the Cup Series returns to action this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The flat, one-mile oval will host Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, and while having a fast car certainly won’t hurt a driver’s chances of winning, restarts and pit strategy could ultimately decide the outcome this weekend.
Passing is tough at any track with NASCAR’s current rules package, and completing passes at a flat track like New Hampshire is even tougher. Many crew chiefs will likely roll the dice on a variety of pit strategies throughout the race to try to get their drivers out front and in clean air. Drivers also have to deal with a significant disparity in the inside and outside lanes on restarts. Drivers on the inside line can easily get pinned down in the corner and lose spots, and if the race ends with a rash of cautions, the running order could get jumbled up in a hurry.
From a fantasy perspective, the dependence on pit strategy and restarts can cause some headaches, but it can also create some opportunities, especially in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game. Since drivers can often steal a few spots, you may be able to grab strong finishes from some midrange drivers, posting solid scores while saving some starts from the elite drivers.
After the barrage of races at mile-and-a-half ovals in recent weeks, we could all use a chance to leave the big names off our rosters. Sunday’s race actually starts a stretch without any trips to 1.5-mile tracks, so use the opportunity to line up your remaining starts for the stretch run.
1. Kevin Harvick
While he didn’t dominate the 2018 or 2019 New Hampshire races, Harvick did go to victory lane in both. He has three wins and five Top 5s in the last six races here, and his seven Top 5s in the last 10 New Hampshire races lead all drivers. The most consistent driver of 2020 should once again be a safe way to anchor any lineup.
2. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin is one of the best flat track drivers in the series, so it is no surprise he has had success at New Hampshire. His most recent win here came in 2017, and he had the car to beat last year, leading 113 laps in a runner-up effort. Don’t be surprised if he adds to his series-leading win total this weekend. Use him in all formats.
3. Martin Truex Jr.
Although he is still looking for a win at New Hampshire, Truex is no stranger to strong runs here. He has finished seventh or better in five straight starts here, and he has led more than 80 laps in five of the last six New Hampshire races, leading more than 100 laps four times. At the very least, you need to have plenty of exposure in formats that reward laps led.
4. Kyle Busch
Busch remains winless in 2020, but his record at New Hampshire is tough to ignore. He leads all drivers with eight Top 10s, 396 points and 730 laps in the last 10 races here, and he has led more than 90 laps in five of those starts. In fact, Busch has led more than 30 laps in each of the last four New Hampshire races, leading at least 95 laps three times and leading a race-high 118 laps last year. I’d target him at Fantasy Live and DraftKings.
5. Ryan Blaney
Blaney has had as much raw speed as any driver in the field this season, and he has been trending in the right direction at New Hampshire. He has finished ninth, seventh and fourth in his last three starts here, and he has finished 12th or better in five of his seven starts overall. I’d probably save him for a 1.5-mile oval in the Driver Group Game, but I’m expecting Blaney to challenge for a Top 5.
6. Brad Keselowski
You won’t find many drivers with a higher floor at New Hampshire than Keselowski. He ranks fourth in points scored over the last 10 races here, logging seven Top 10s and a 9.6 average finish. During that same stretch, Keselowski has just one finish outside the Top 15.
7. Joey Logano
His last dominant performance at New Hampshire was a win in the fall of 2014, but while he has led just 13 total laps in the eight races since the victory, he has also finished 11th or better in seven of those starts. The consistency should make him a great addition to Fantasy Live lineups.
8. Chase Elliott
Elliott has had plenty of success at flat tracks overall, but his New Hampshire record doesn’t jump off the page. He has four Top 15s in six starts, including a fifth-place run in 2018 when he led 23 laps. Elliott should challenge for a Top 10 Sunday, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to roster him. He can provide a lot more value at other tracks.
9. Aric Almirola
He has eight straight Top 10s heading into Sunday’s race, and there is a good chance that Almirola extends the streak this weekend. He has finished third and 11th in the last two races at New Hampshire, leading double-digit laps in both starts. You may just want to stay on the Almirola bandwagon.
10. Kurt Busch
Busch is a three-time winner at New Hampshire, and he has three Top 10s in the last five races here, including an eighth-place run in 2018 when he led 94 laps. I also like that he has been steady throughout 2020, logging an 11.1 average finish and 12 Top 10s in 19 races. Busch should offer a solid floor as a Group B play in the DGG.
11. Erik Jones
Since crashing in his track debut, Jones has been solid at New Hampshire. He has an 8.3 average finish in his other starts, and he finished third here a year ago. Jones has been far from consistent in 2020, but his Top 5 upside should have him on your radar, especially at the DFS sites.
12. Matt DiBenedetto
DiBenedetto had himself a day at New Hampshire last year, qualifying in the Top 10 and delivering a Top 5 finish. I see no reason he can’t offer the same type of upside now that he is driving Team Penske equipment. I love him as a Group B sleeper in the Driver Group Game this weekend.
13. Jimmie Johnson
He has been struggling in recent weeks, but a trip to New Hampshire could be just what the doctor ordered. He suffered a mechanical failure while running in the Top 10 here last year, and he had cracked the Top 15 in his six previous starts, logging four Top 10s.
14. Alex Bowman
He has finished 11th and 14th in two starts a New Hampshire since jumping in the No. 88 full time, and Bowman also logged a Top 15 here in 2016 while subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. I don’t think he has the Top 5 upside that he offers at the 1.5-mile ovals, but Bowman should deliver a solid finish Sunday.
15. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer is a former winner at New Hampshire, and he has had several strong runs here over the years. Unfortunately, the finishes just haven’t been there recently. Outside of a pair of seventh-place finishes in 2017, he has finished 20th or worse in six of his last eight New Hampshire starts. Bowyer should be considered a high-risk, high-reward midrange play this weekend.
16. William Byron
He is starting to find a little momentum, and Byron has seven Top 15s, including six finishes of 11th or better, in the nine races coming into Sunday’s race. He has also cracked the Top 15 in both of his starts at New Hampshire. Don’t forget about Byron as a Group B sleeper in the Driver Group Game.
17. Austin Dillon
Dillon is having one of the best seasons of his career, but he has done the majority of his damage at the 1.5-mile ovals while delivering up-and-down results at other track types. He has three straight finishes of 19th or worse at New Hampshire, so you won’t want to count on more than a mid-pack finish. I probably won’t have a lot of exposure unless he starts deep in his tier.
18. Tyler Reddick
He continues to show Top 10 upside on a weekly basis, and Reddick enters New Hampshire ranked 15th in points with a 16.9 average finish overall. The rookie is more than capable of having another solid run this weekend, but as strong as he has been at the 1.5-mile ovals, especially compared to other Group C options in the DGG, I’d recommend saving him for another week.
19. Ryan Newman
His ceiling seems to have slipped a notch this season, but Newman is still sneaking into the Top 20 most weeks and delivering an occasional Top 15. He does have three straight finishes of 13th or better at New Hampshire, including back-to-back Top 10s, but I’d expect more of a finish in the low teens out of him Sunday.
20. Christopher Bell
Bell has been enjoying a solid rookie season, especially since the series returned from break. He has also excelled at New Hampshire in the lower series, winning both of his XFINITY starts while leading 279 of the 400 laps and finishing first and second in two Truck appearances here. I plan on using him in the Driver Group Game as my C option.
21. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth was an absolute force at New Hampshire while with Joe Gibbs Racing, and he managed a Top 15 here with Roush Fenway Racing in 2018. He has been running a little better in recent weeks, cracking the Top 20 in five of the last six races. I think this could be a good week to use Kenseth as a Group C option in the DGG.
22. Cole Custer
The rookie is in a groove right now, finishing seventh or better in three of the last four races and cracking the Top 20 in five of his last six starts. New Hampshire doesn’t fit the mold of other tracks where he has had some success, but Custer should at least battle for a Top 20. He offers a decent floor as a Group C option in the DGG, but I’d opt for a driver with a higher ceiling.
23. Chris Buescher
Buescher had a career-best 15th-place finish at New Hampshire last year, but he is in a bit of a slump heading into Sunday’s race. He has finished 19th or worse in five straight starts, finishing outside the Top 30 three times in that stretch. With that current qualifying format limiting Buescher’s place differential upside, his fantasy value has taken a hit.
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Following a pair of Top 15 finishes here in 2017, Stenhouse has finished 30th or worse in back-to-back starts at New Hampshire. He has also been mired in a serious slump in recent weeks, finishing 29th or worse in the last four races and suffering three finishes of 36th or worse. Stenhouse is no more than a shot-in-the-dark DFS play.
25. Bubba Wallace
Wallace has finished 24th and 22nd in two Cup starts at New Hampshire, and while he has certainly taken a step forward in 2020, he is still not someone you can pencil in for a Top 20. He was already a risk in season-long contests, and when you throw in the fact that Wallace can’t start worse than 24th right now, he doesn’t have the place differential points to be a great DFS play either.
26. John Hunter Nemechek
You have to give Nemechek a lot of credit for delivering steady results as a rookie despite below average equipment. He has a 20.1 average finish for the year, and he has only finished outside the Top 25 in two of the 19 races. If he starts outside the Top 30, he can be a solid source of cap relief at Slingshot and the DFS sites.
27. Ty Dillon
He has a low ceiling, but Dillon has been relatively consistent at New Hampshire. He has a 19.2 average finish in four starts, finishing 23rd or better in all of them and logging a 16th-place finish last year. If Dillon starts outside the Top 30, he could be a low-priced option for cash lineups at DraftKings.
28. Michael McDowell
McDowell managed a 17th-place finish at New Hampshire last year, and he has been popping up in the Top 20 on a routine basis in 2020. No, he doesn’t have great equipment, but he has mostly avoided horrible finishes. Depending on how the qualifying draw plays out, McDowell could have some appeal as a source of cap relief at the DFS sites.
29. Ryan Preece
Preece had a 21st-place finish at New Hampshire last fall, but the 2020 season has not been kind to him. He has a 27.3 average finish overall, and he has finished better than 20th just twice in 10 races. Preece is tough to take a chance on in any format, even if he starts way in the back.
30. Corey LaJoie
LaJoie cracked the Top 25 for the first time in five starts at New Hampshire when he logged a 23rd-place finish here last season. A repeat performance is probably the best-case scenario this weekend, making him a low-priced DFS lottery ticket, at best.