At the halfway point in the 2017 NASCAR season, only 11 drivers have notched Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins and solidified their spot in the playoffs*.Through 18 races, that means that more than a few fan favorites are still looking to notch their first victory of the season and guarantee their spot in the playoffs. If past records are any indication, New Hampshire could be the track where winless drivers break through.
Matt Kenseth comes into this weekend tied for the most all-time New Hampshire wins among active drivers with three, two of which he has earned since the start of the 2015 season. He finished 16th last weekend in Kentucky, but picked up bonus points for finishing in the top ten in stages one and two.
New Hampshire has historically been kind to Kenseth, whose three wins there are the second-most he has at any track over his career, bested only by his four career wins at Bristol. Kenseth boasts an average finish of 2.50 through his last four races in Loudon, leading all active drivers in that time period. Kenseth is currently just out of the top ten in the points race, where he is ranked 11th with 478 points. If the cutoff was today, that would put Kenseth out of the postseason picture as the 17th driver, behind those with wins.
Kyle Busch is currently third in the point standings, but has yet to notch a win on the season. In fact, his 609 points are the most of any driver without a win in 2017. Much like Kenseth, Busch heads into New Hampshire with a strong record at the speedway. His one-for-four record since February 2015 is second only to Kenseth, and he has two New Hampshire wins in his career. Busch finished fifth this past weekend at Kentucky, finishing second in both stages. Though Busch’s point standing gives him a comfortable cushion for a playoff position, if he can earn his third career win at New Hampshire this weekend, he will guarantee that spot.
Emporia, Kansas native Clint Bowyer sits just above Kenseth in points with 495 but has yet to earn a playoff point or race win. He is tied with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick in career wins (two) among active drivers at New Hampshire. He and Hamlin, who is currently ranked seventh with 538 points, will both be looking to up their New Hampshire career win total to three and secure their first win of the season. If there is a track where either is most likely to pull off the win, it just may be New Hampshire: Hamlin’s 10.41 all-time average finish at New Hampshire is second among all active drivers, and Bowyer’s two career wins there are tied for the most he has earned at any track.
Tune into the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Overton’s 301 Sunday, July 16 at 2 p.m. CT to catch the action and see if the winless can clinch their first victory of 2017. Both the Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series races will be broadcast on NBCSN.
*Note: Joey Lagono was penalized following his win at Richmond; the win will not qualify him for the postseason.