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W2W4: Who's Hot and Who's Not - New Hampshire Edition

Who's Hot and Who's Not - New Hampshire Edition

HOT
- Matt Kenseth: 2 wins, 1 2nd-place finish in last 3 races at New Hampshire (won 3 of last 7 Cup races at track)
- Kevin Harvick: won last Cup Series race at New Hampshire; 4th or better in 4 of last 5 races at track
- Kyle Busch: 5 top-3 finishes, 7 top 10s in his last 8 New Hampshire races
- Joey Logano: 4 top-5 finishes in last 5 New Hampshire races (finished 11th in other start)
- Brad Keselowski: 10.3 career Avg finish at New Hampshire (his best at any track series visits twice a season)

NOT
- Martin Truex Jr.: 0 top-5 finishes in last 17 New Hampshire races (3 top 5s in 1st 5 races at track)
- Jimmie Johnson: finished 42nd, 22nd, 12th in last 3 July New Hampshire races
- Kyle Larson: finished 10th or worse in last 4 New Hampshire races (finished 3rd and 2nd in his 1st 2 races at track)
- Chase Elliott: finished 34th, 13th in 2 races at New Hampshire last year as a rookie
- Clint Bowyer: finished 22nd or worse in last 4 races at New Hampshire


1. Nobody Can Handle the Truex

Martin Truex Jr. failed to finish back-to-back races at Sonoma and Daytona, but he turned it around last weekend at Kentucky, leading 152 of 274 laps to pick up his 3rd win of the season, all on 1.5-mile tracks. Truex has won 7 times in 54 races over the last 2 seasons, after winning 3 times in 369 career starts entering 2016.

Martin Truex Jr. - NASCAR Cup Series Career
2004-15 2016-17
Starts 369 54
Wins 3 7
Win pct 0.8 13.0
Laps led 2,457 2,924

Truex is set up incredibly well to go to the playoffs. He's won 13 stages this season (out of 37 possible stages); no other driver has more than 4 stage wins. Combine that with his 3 race wins, and he's collected 28 playoff points, which will be applied at the start of each round of the playoffs, when the points are reset. Truex also leads the traditional points after a Kentucky post-race penalty to Kyle Larson, which puts him in line for a 15-point bonus entering the playoffs.

He could add to his series-best 1,115 laps led this season Sunday at New Hampshire. Despite finishing 16th and 7th in the 2 races at the track last year, Truex went over 100 laps led in both races, leading the series in laps led at the track last year.

Most Laps Led at New Hampshire - NASCAR Cup Series Last Season
Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 264 >>0
Matt Kenseth 143 1
Kyle Busch 136 0
Danica Patrick 9 0
Kevin Harvick 8 1
>>Finished 16th, 7th in 2 races


2. 8 Races Until the Playoffs, Logano in Danger

Joey Logano won the April race at Richmond, and usually that would be enough to lock up a playoff spot. However, due to rules violations found after the race, Logano's win won't count toward playoff consideration, and the playoff points he earned won't carry over. Since then, Logano has struggled.

Joey Logano - 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Season
>>1st 9 Races Last 9 Races
Top 5 6 1
Top 10 8 2
Avg finish 7.2 21.8 (196/9)
Pts rank 5th 22nd
>>Ending with Richmond win

10 drivers have earned wins that will get them into the playoffs, meaning that there are 6 spots available now for the top non-winners in points, but those spots could dwindle if there are new race winners in the final 8 races before the playoff field is set. Logano, who led the series with 6 wins in 2015 and finished 2nd in points (with 3 wins) last season, is the 1st driver outside looking in.

Playoff Picture - 8 Races to Go Until Playoffs
To Cutoff
11. Kyle Busch +138
12. Chase Elliott +89
13. Jamie McMurray +74
14. Denny Hamlin +67
15. Clint Bowyer +24
16. Matt Kenseth +7
-------------------------
17. Joey Logano -7
18. Erik Jones -52
19. Daniel Suárez -105
20. Trevor Bayne -126
21. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -146
>>10 drivers have won races towards playoff eligibility


3. Despite 0 Wins, Kyle Busch Still Among Title Favorites

Despite leading 112 laps from the pole last week at Kentucky, Kyle Busch came home 5th, his 7th top-5 finish this season, with 0 wins. Busch sits 11th in the playoff standings because he's yet to win, but is 3rd in the traditional points and 2nd in laps led this season.

Kyle Busch - NASCAR Cup Series Ranks This Season
Laps led 858 2nd
Top 5 7 T-3rd
Points 609 3rd
Wins 0 T-11th

That being said, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook still lists Busch as tied with Kyle Larson for the 2nd-best odds to win this season's championship.

Best Odds to Win NASCAR Cup Series Championship - Source: Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
2017 Wins
Martin Truex Jr. 7-2 3
Kyle Busch 5-1 0
Kyle Larson 5-1 2
Jimmie Johnson 6-1 3

And he opened as the favorite to win Sunday's race at New Hampshire at 4-1.

Best Odds to Win at New Hampshire - Source: Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Career NH wins
Kyle Busch 4-1 2
Martin Truex Jr. 5-1 0
Kevin Harvick 6-1 2
Denny Hamlin 7-1 2
Brad Keselowski 7-1 1


4. Kenseth's Final Year at Gibbs

Last week in a surprise announcement, Matt Kenseth said that he didn't expect to have the option to race for Joe Gibbs Racing next season. On Tuesday, Joe Gibbs Racing formally announced that Erik Jones would run the #20 car next season. Jones, a rookie driving for Furniture Row Racing, actually replaced Kenseth for 2 races in the 20 car in 2015, when Kenseth was suspended following an incident with Joey Logano.

Matt Kenseth vs Erik Jones - 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Season
Kenseth Jones
Full Cup season 18th 1st
Age 45 21
Top 10 6 5
Pts rank 11th 14th
Kenseth had some of the best years of his career with Gibbs, although his championship came driving for Roush Fenway Racing in 2003 (then known as just Roush Racing).

Matt Kenseth - NASCAR Cup Series Career by Team
Roush Fenway Gibbs
Years 1999-2012 2013-17
Races 471 160
Wins 24 14
Best pts finish 1st (2003) 2nd (2013)
>>Drove 1 race in place of Bill Elliott in 1998