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Race Day: Is Race To The Chase A Real Deal?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 27 2010

Mark Martin will be attempting to make it two straight wins at New Hampshire this afteroon. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Today’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 marks the beginning of the so-called Race to the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series.

And while this 10-race stretch which leads up to the real, actual Chase playoff is more marketing ploy than real, actual event (It’s kind of like what Boss’s Day is to holidays), it seems that teams and drivers are beginning to ramp up their senses of urgency at this time of season.

Starting the Race to the Chase at New Hampshire adds a bit more significance to the 301 as the track will also host the first race of the real Chase.

This weekend in the New Hampshire garages, a select group of drivers were asked about the Race to the Chase now that the Chase to the Race to the Chase is over. Here is what they had to say:

Kevin Harvick, points leader with one victory: “Obviously we’re in a good position points-wise right now. We’ve just got to put ourselves in position to win another race or two before the Chase gets started (in order to get bonus points) and also in that time advance our cars a little bit as we get through the next few weeks and into the Chase.”

Tony Stewart, 10th in points with no victories: “I think if you are in the top three or four guys right now, that is all you are worrying about is getting wins. You have that cushion with enough points to not have to worry about not making the Chase so it is a matter of just getting the wins. If you are ninth through 12th right now, you are worrying about just making sure you have enough points to be in it and going from there. It just depends on where you are at in the standings right now.”

Jimmie Johnson, second in points with four victories: We’ll see how things turn out at the end of the weekend. You can come in here and try things or you can come in and just try to refine the package that you have. We have both things in mind. We have a lot of stuff that we want to try here on this flat track and use this as a test session of sorts to make sure we’re ready for the Chase when we come back.”

Fast facts

What: Lenox Industrial Tools 301

Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway; Loudon, N.H.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: TNT, noon ET

Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 1.058-mile oval

Banking in turns: Variable at 2 and 7 degrees

Grandstand seating: 93,521

Race distance: Distance: 301 laps/318.4 miles

Estimated pit window: 70-78 laps

2009 winner: Joey Logano

2009 polesitter: Tony Stewart

Today’s polesitter: Juan Pablo Montoya

Trivia time

In 2001, the fall race at New Hampshire was moved to the end of the season because of the 9/11 attack on New York City. Who won that race when it was finally held in late November?

Cole powered

This year marks the 20-year anniversary release of the racing movie “Days of Thunder”. Never a huge hit with critics, it does have it’s fans.

Juan Pablo Montoya was asked his thoughts about the movie this weekend.

The native of Colombia said, “I did watch ‘Days of Thunder’. One of the coolest things about it was when surround came out. A friend of mine in Miami had an old style DVD disc player, the huge ones. When he started it, you could see the cars running in the background, I still remember that. My car looked like that last weekend. Honestly, I nearly went to Brian (Pattie, crew chief) and say ‘Do we need to hit the pace car as well? We’ve hit about everything else’.”

New Hampshire tidbits

Most wins – 4, by Jeff Burton

Most poles – 4, by Ryan Newman

Most top-fives – 13, by Jeff Gordon

Most top-10s – 16, by Jeff Gordon

Most leaders – 15, in July of 1996

Fewest leaders – 1, in September of 2000

Most cautions – 17, in July of 1994

Fewest cautions – 2, in September of 1997

Most wins by a manufacturer – 13, by Chevrolet

Closest margin of victory – .068 seconds in July of 2007

Largest margin of victory – 7.439 seconds  in July of 1998

Career change?

Jimmie Johnson on Friday was asked if he was serious about wanting to test a Formula One car some day.

“Yeah, I really would enjoy it,” Johnson said. “The way I grew up, IndyCar racing was really the only asphalt exposure I had as a kid growing up. So I dreamed of racing the Indy 500. I’d go to the Long Beach Grand Prix and hope that I could be on that circuit racing at some point. So yeah, I would love to. My path is clearly taking me in a different way. I think it would be very difficult to get an F-1 test but maybe putting it out there would create it and it could happen.

“Even driving an IndyCar, I know the ovals aren’t necessarily the safest thing, but just to experience that on a road course would be really good for me. I think that running the Grand-Am car has helped me be a better road course driver and that would be another step of that to see things that even faster speeds, the braking zones, the capabilities of the car, and how it turns in. I think the Grand-Am Series has been really good for me. Going faster yet would make it even better.”

Milestones

Greg Biffle will be making his 600th NASCAR start (all national levels)

Jimmie Johnson will be making his 400th NASCAR start (all national levels)

Matt Kenseth will be seeking his 100th top-five finish in Cup

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is celebrating its 20th anniversary

Trivia answer

Robby Gordon won the 9/11-attack postponed race at New Hampshire in 2001.

Up next

The Coca-Cola 600 at Daytona International Speedway. Tony Stewart won last year’s event while Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 at DIS his past February.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 27 2010
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