Race No. 2 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup takes place Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and should be fiercely competitive affair. Here are eight things to keep an eye on during the running of the Bad Boy Off Road 300:
The guys with the most pressure on them in Sunday’s race likely will be Austin Dillon and Chris Buescher. Neither driver is in the top 12 in points and neither has shown any meaningful speed this weekend And Dillon will be in a backup car.
After a strong Chase opener at Chicagoland, neither Brad Keselowski nor Joey Logano qualified in the top 10. Nor did the Team Penske drivers finish any of the three practices in the top 10 for either single-lap speed or 10 consecutive lap averages. That’s not good.
Getty ImagesSean Gardner
Last week, Larson’s Chase got off to a slow start. But in the three prior races he posted finishes of first, third and second, and in practice at New Hampshire, his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was fastest in all three sessions. He’ll start sixth on Sunday.
Kevin Harvick should have won this race last year but ran out of fuel with three laps to go, one of several drivers who saw their tanks run dry before the end of the race. That could be an issue again on Sunday. And, oh by the way, a Harvick win this time would surprise no one.
Pit-road speeding penalties stopped Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, among others, from winning last week. And Chase Elliott lost when he got beaten off pit road in the final stop. Sunday’s winner will have to be perfect on pit road.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesJeff Zelevansky
For the first time in a long time, Hendrick Motorsports dominated last week’s race, although the team couldn’t quite seal the deal. The New Hampshire race might be a good indicator of whether or not they’re really back or if they still have work to do. We know the Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing Toyotas are still fast; Hendrick remains an open question.
Getty ImagesChris Trotman
New Hampshire is a short race -- the July event here took just 2 hours, 57 minutes and 53 seconds. That means crew chiefs won’t have a lot of opportunities to make chassis changes and drivers will have to nail their restarts. Fall back here and it’s awfully hard to make the positions back up on the tight, flat track.
The biggest story of the season this year has been penalties. What happens in post-race inspection Sunday night might prove as critical as what goes on during the race. For the first time, all 16 Chase cars will go through post-race tech on the NASCAR laser inspection station. NASCAR has tweaked the inspection rules so teams have more gray area, but if someone flunks now, it will basically knock them out of title contention.