Fans like the excitement of playoffs and teams work all season to be there for them. That’s true in all sports and in NASCAR as well. The 36-race stock car racing season is months long and only the last 10 races determine the champion. Getting in the top 12 spots after 26 races is on the minds of drivers and teams at every event.
But results aren’t as crucial in the first 26 races as they are in the last 10.
The next Chase race is the second of 10—The Sylvania 300 on the 1.058-mile oval track with 12 degree banking at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Fans in New England can enjoy cooler temperatures of autumn in the stands on Sept. 23 and fans across the world can view the action at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN—no matter what the ambient temperature is in their part of the earth.
But whatever any thermometer reads, teams and drivers will bring heated ambitions to the challenging track at NHMS and fans will warm up to the engine intensity.
For Chase contenders every race of the final 10 events is significant. Greg Biffle was perched at the top of the field before restructuring. After a mediocre finish in the first Chase race he now faces reality in eighth place—19 points behind point leader Brad Keselowski.
“We know 19 points is a little ways to go,” Biffle said. “That’s a couple of races to get back into the lead. We know a couple good finishes and we’re gonna be right back in the top three in points.”
Biffle also analyzed Chase strategy.
“We all know that minimizing the bad days is the most important thing because when you have a good day, you have a good day,” Biffle said. “The bad day is when your shock breaks or you run out of gas or you miss the setup. [...] That’s gonna determine this Chase, versus how many good days you have. It’s how you minimize the bad day.”
Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Dodge)
“The points lead is nice,” Keselowski said. “It means we won the first race in a 10-race playoff format. But that’s really about all. I refuse to let it sink in because there is so much work left to be done. We need to keep our eyes looking forward. It would be a disservice to Sunday’s win if we allow our focus to get away from tomorrow’s workload.”
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
When you get in traffic you need the car to turn a lot stronger to run a tighter radius and inside of someone,” Johnson said. “It’s tough to blend those two worlds. That is the thing we fight so much is we work in practice running by ourselves. You get in the race you are rarely by yourself then trying to find a way to make your car work in traffic.”
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)
“It just has long, sweeping corners,” Stewart said. “The corners in comparison to where we normally race, we’re used to having a lot of banking, but New Hampshire is pretty flat. It’s one of those tracks where you’re either fighting entry-loose, entry-exit and nice in the center, or you’re fighting tight in the center and you’re good on entry and good on exit. It’s a juggling act trying to get the car balanced for all three sections of the corner.”
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“Loudon, in particular, we’re really excited about going to,” Hamlin said. “But I know exactly what I need out of my race car now. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) does a good job of asking me the right questions so it makes my job easier. I think that really we’re just experienced more all around—our whole race team is.”
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
“It feels really good to go back to New Hampshire during the Chase,” Kahne said. “The win in July was a big turning point for the team and should give everyone some more confidence this weekend.”
While the competition is heating up and with every race of the Chase, fewer of the 12 contenders will be taking tall confidence as checkered flags dwindle.
Race details on www.nhms.com
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.