Who will stand out on a wide-open New Hampshire weekend?
ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up
Martin Truex Jr. ($10,300)
New Hampshire: 22 starts, three top fives (13.6 percent), eight top 10s (36.4 percent)
Average finish at NHMS: 13.7
Truex secured his third win of the season last weekend at Kentucky, piling on to his already impressive playoff point total. On top of that, Kyle Larson was issued a penalty following his second-place finish due to an issue with the rear brake cooling unit. That penalty includes a loss of 35 points, resulting in Truex taking back the regular season series points lead.
At NHMS, this Furniture Row Racing veteran has been a DraftKings dominator two races in a row. In the summer race, Truex led 123 laps. In the fall event, he led a race-high 141 laps and finished seventh. As is the narrative for the past few months, it’s Truex or bust when creating your lineups.
Kevin Harvick ($10,000)
New Hampshire: 32 starts, two wins, nine top fives (28.1 percent), 17 top 10s (53.1 percent)
Average finish at NHMS: 13.1
Harvick notched his 11th top-10 finish of the 2017 season last weekend at Kentucky. He has one win and sits fourth in the series standings.
Harvick is the most recent NHMS winner, posting an average finish of 6.4 in the last five races in The Granite State. He also led laps in four of those five events, including two with over 100 laps led.
Harvick’s win last season came from the 19th starting spot. Even at a track where passing is difficult, he deserves a look no matter where the No. 4 car qualifies.
Brad Keselowski ($9,900)
New Hampshire: 15 starts, one win, six top fives (40 percent), nine top 10s (60 percent)
Average finish at NHMS: 10.3
Following a podium finish at Sonoma, Keselowski has wrecked out of two straight races. He was the dominant car at Daytona until he blew a tire and popped the wall. Last week at Kentucky, he wrecked on lap 89, an incident which brought his controversial comments against Team Penske’s manufacturer and NASCAR’s design flaws at the Cup level.
But at New Hampshire, there is no better driver than Keselowski when it comes to consistency. He leads all active drivers with a 10.3 average finish. Speaking of leading, Kes has been up front in 11 straight NHMS races; he's 12-for-15 overall at the track.
Keselowski has been the class of the field in multiple races this season, and now NASCAR is headed to a place where he has seen loads of success over his career. Count him an early favorite to win this weekend.
ALL-STAR TIER: $8,500 – $9,900
Matt Kenseth ($9,300)
New Hampshire: 34 starts, three wins, 10 top fives (29.4 percent), 19 top 10s (55.9 percent)
Average finish at NHMS: 12.0
Kenseth was competing for the win two weeks ago at Daytona before he was involved in Larson’s late-race wreck. He is still within the playoff picture even without the elusive victory. Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing announced that the former series champion will not be returning to the No. 20 car next season, making 2017 all about proving he still has what it takes to secure a ride for 2018.
In the past three New Hampshire races, Kenseth’s worst finish was a second place in the September event in 2016. Kenseth won the fall race in 2015, and then followed that up with a trip to Victory Lane in July.
Kenseth has three career wins at NHMS and has acclimated himself well with Loudon the Lobster. There's a good chance he could bring another one home on Sunday and end Joe Gibbs Racing's victory drought.
Joey Logano ($8,800)
New Hampshire: 17 starts, two wins, six top fives (35.3 percent), eight top 10s (47.1 percent)
Average finish at NHMS: 14.9
Since his encumbered win at Richmond nine races ago, Logano has an average finish of 21.8. That number is well below what we are used to seeing from the Connecticut native over the past few seasons.
Luckily, this week Logano returns to his home track, which is also the place where he won his first Cup Series race back in 2009. Logano has four top-five finishes at NHMS dating back to his win in the fall of 2014.
It will be interesting to see how much speed the No. 22 team has off the hauler on Friday. If Logano is fast in practice, translating to a good effort in qualifying, we will see the bounce back we have been waiting for.
Kurt Busch ($8,100)
New Hampshire: 32 starts, three wins, eight top fives (25 percent), 13 top 10s (40.6 percent)
Average finish at NHMS: 15.8
Busch has been plagued with two straight DNFs, dropping in points to just above the would be cutline for the playoffs. Fortunately for Kurt, he locked in a playoff berth with a win in February's Daytona 500.
Busch’s track record at NHMS over the past five years is nowhere near where it was when he was driving for Roush Fenway Racing and Team Penske. But he does have two top-10 finishes in the past four races. Last fall, he finished fifth after starting 13th.
Stewart-Haas Racing has started to show an uptick in performance the past few weeks. Both Harvick and Clint Bowyer have run well all season while all four cars have shown increased speed as of late. The equipment is there, so if Busch can keep his nose clean, he will put together at least another top-15 finish this weekend.
BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $8,400
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,400)
New Hampshire: Eight starts, two top 10s, three top 15s
Average finish at NHMS: 21.2
Stenhouse is undoubtedly putting together a comeback driver of the year type season. He has two wins, matched a career high in top fives (four), and surpassed his previous career best top-10 finish mark with seven.
His average finish of 15.4 throughout 18 races this season is a more realistic expectation for this weekend than his 21.2 in eight NHMS starts. Two of his three top-15 finishes at New Hampshire came in the past three races and he finished in 10th in this same event last year.
Stenhouse has shown more consistency this season than in his previous three. With the re-emergence of RFR, Ricky is a threat for a top-10 finish week in and week out.
Austin Dillon ($7,000)
New Hampshire: Six starts, one top 10, four top 15s
Average finish at NHMS: 14.0
Dillon has flown under the radar when it comes to New Hampshire. He ranks 10th among active drivers in average finish at the track, but is still listed at the $7,000 mark on DraftKings. Dillon finished 13th and 16th here last season, posting positive position differential points in both races. He has an average starting spot of 21.5, but an average finishing position of 14.0.
Dillon will have a good shot at a top-15 finish, which will be enough to cover his value for the week. The Richard Childress Racing driver will be one to keep an eye on throughout practice. In recent weeks, his race trim times have ranked several spots above his qualifying position, which is a direct correlation to position differential.
(Top photo by ASP Inc.)