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After a brief reprieve from the usual names hitting Victory Lane, the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 with Martin Truex Jr. as the latest winner.
Truex pulled down a checkered flag in Kentucky one week removed from Erik Jones’ unexpected win at a crash-filled Daytona event. Meaning, Truex now has four wins on the season, sitting one behind both Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, who each have five wins apiece.
As a whole, only seven drivers have won a race this year and four of those—the other being Clint Bowyer—have won double-digit outings.
Sunday, the 318-mile trek figures to once again see the usual suspects near the front of the pack while others look to play the spoiler.
Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
When: Sunday, 2 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live
Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
1. Kurt Busch
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Kyle Busch
4. Denny Hamlin
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Erik Jones
8. Alex Bowman
9. Daniel Suarez
10. Chase Elliott
2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Standings
|1. Kyle Busch||799|
|2. Kevin Harvick||740|
|3. Martin Truex Jr.||689|
|4. Clint Bowyer||629|
|5. Joey Logano||648|
|6. Erik Jones||480|
|7. Austin Dillon||362|
|8. Brad Keselowski||630|
|9. Kurt Busch||601|
|10. Kyle Larson||581|
|11. Denny Hamlin||559|
|12. Ryan Blaney||546|
|13. Aric Almirola||534|
|14. Jimmie Johnson||484|
|15. Chase Elliott||469|
|16. Alex Bowman||427|
Drivers to Watch
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
When looking over the field, Denny Hamlin might be an underdog name to watch given his history at the event.
Hamlin won this race a year ago, leading 54 laps out of the eighth spot for his first of two wins on the season. He’s shown some interesting consistency this year, at one point finishing seventh or better in five out of six events.
The idea Hamlin could get hot again isn’t so far-fetched. Not only would it be good for the series as a whole, it could make for another funny moment like it did a year ago:
NASCAH on NBC @NASCARonNBC
“I have a lobster phobia.” – @dennyhamlin
They’re racin’ for a crustacean! It’s race week at @NHMS! #Foxwoods301 https://t.co/zzCHDF322h
Granted, Hamlin has finished 38th and 16th over his last two races, though slowly rebounding from the wreck-filled affair at Daytona isn’t something worth knocking him over.
Like the unexpected win from Jones, Hamlin could pull another one out of his hat when fans least expect it in large part because he and his crew seem to love New Hampshire so much.
John Raoux/Associated Press
One would think in a season dominated by big names, Brad Keselowski would be among the giants pulling in checkered flags.
Keselowski has been oddly inconsistent this year, stringing together only three sixth-or-better finishes and otherwise having a smattering of double-digit placements on his resume so far.
Which isn’t to say the Penske Racing star can’t turn it around in a hurry. He just finished third in Kentucky and has been open about his team’s needing to improve late in races.
“We’ve been good, not great this year, and this is a sport of great,” Keselowski said, according to Tim Southers of Motorsport.com. “You know, you’ve got to be great to win. This is the closest we’ve been to great this year on the mile‑and‑a‑halfs.”
New Hampshire is quite the place for Keselowski to build on the momentum. He led 38 laps a week ago and has a strong history at the track, even winning this event back in 2014. With the inconsistency problem late in races identified, it might just take the right locale to iron the issues out.
At this point, Keselowski rejoining the list of winners and providing a breath of fresh air speaks to how desperately the series needs more winners to emerge.
Martin Truex Jr.
Mary Schwalm/Associated Press
It seemed like only a matter of time before Truex got back to Victory Lane.
Truex won his fourth race of the year in dominant fashion, leading 174 laps, better than his wins at Sonoma (62), Pocono (31) and California (125). The latest and greatest also continues a stretch where he’s posted four top-five performances in a row, including a runner-up finish and two wins.
It’s almost fitting Truex heads into New Hampshire at this juncture. A fifth win would put him on par with the other two drivers who have combined for 10 wins so far—and it would give him his first triumph at the track.
“We had our chances the past couple of years, leading a lot of laps but couldn’t complete the job,” Truex said, according to USA Today‘s Mike Hembree. “Last year (in July) we had the best car for a lot of that race, but we didn’t at the end.”
NASCAH on NBC @NASCARonNBC
You can’t do any better than Martin Truex Jr. did Saturday night at Kentucky.
For the second straight season, he won both stages on route to a dominant win, presented by @ToyotaRacing. https://t.co/Pb3L73QJnE
Truex only has one dry spell on the season to speak of as he finished 14th or worse in four consecutive races back in April.
He’s a long way from the hiccup though and despite the sheer dominance of others in the series, clutches four wins and counting. A win for Truex Sunday would mean more of the same, but it would also be an interesting storyline at an elusive track.