The NASCAR Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 18, the final race before a break in the schedule. Time is running out for the bubble drivers to lock up a spot in the playoffs while others need to get back to early-season form. Here are the biggest names to watch ahead of the trip to Loudon, NH.
Kevin Harvick has yet to win a race in the 2021 season after reaching Victory Lane nine times in 2020. However, the trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway could serve as his best opportunity. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang has three wins at the 1.058-mile track since 2016, including two of the past three races.
Harvick did not win at NHMS in 2020, losing to a fellow Cup Series champion. However, he still posted a top-five finish to boost his lead in the points standings. Now he will return to track with a spot above the cut line, but he will have to perform at his best to take the checkered flag.
Can Brad Keselowski Recapture His Winning Form?
The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang, Keselowski locked up a spot in the playoffs early in the season. He won the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway after a wild final lap, holding off William Byron and Michael McDowell. However, he has struggled during several of the 2021 races.
Keselowski has four finishes outside the top 15 since reaching Victory Lane. The list includes 24th at Darlington Raceway, 19th at Circuit of the Americas, 15th at Sonoma Raceway, and 23rd at Nashville Superspeedway. Though Keselowski posted top-10 finishes during the Pocono doubleheader races, including third in the Explore the Pocono Mountains 350.
Keselowski will now return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a track where he has previous success. He captured the win in 2020, locking up the lobster trophy in the process. This win was the second of his career at the 1.058-mile track along with one in 2014. In total, Keselowski has eight top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 20 starts.
Austin Dillon Needs a Career-Best Performance
While Harvick and Keselowski both have previous wins at the Loudon track, another driver in the playoff picture has far less success. Dillon, the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro, has 11 starts to his name but only one finish inside the top 10. He captured eighth during the 2015 race that Kyle Busch won.
Dillon has six finishes outside the top 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, including 32nd in 2019. He has struggled to perform at the 1.058-mile track, but he can not afford to have any issues during the 2021 trip. Dillon will have to fight for at least a top-10 finish to stack some points.
Dillon is currently above the playoff cut line, but he does not have a win. His spot is not yet secure, so he has to continue stacking stage points in order to maintain an advantage in the chase. There are several still fighting for spots, including Tyler Reddick, Ross Chastain, and Chris Buescher.