Only one race in to the Chase and already certain drivers are feeling the pressure and in desperate need of a good result in order to keep their Championship hopes alive. Those hopes would be pinned on a successful race at New Hampshire Motorspeedway where NASCAR visits for the second time this season. Traditionally a track where cautions are few and far between with plenty of strung out racing, the gen 6 car changed this in the summer race with 12 cautions and plenty of action. The Chase hopefuls will be looking to stay out of that action and have a clean race.
Saturdays qualifying sessions saw Kasey Kahne go out early and set a new track record only to then lose the pole position to Jeff Gordon. But it wasn’t to be Gordon’s day as a determined Ryan Newman showed that he has the speed to mount a serious challenge to get to victory lane as he broke the track record not once but twice by going even faster on his second qualifying lap. His final time around the mile long circuit was a blistering 27.904 seconds (136.497 mph) to claim his second pole position of the season. With the rest of the Chase drivers qualifying anywhere from 1st to 26th there should be plenty of hard racing from the title contenders.
As the green flag drops Newman holds the inside line from Kahne and is able to keep him at bay a they head through lap one. Kahne isn’t letting the 39 get away and keeps right on his rear bumper constantly checking the inside line until on lap three he sees a chance and puts his car all the way inside Newman and takes the lead. It appears that it is taking the 39 car a little bit of time to get up to a comfortable race pace as he gets passed by Gordon and then a few laps later by Martin Truex Jr and Kurt Busch. The early part of the race is going no better for title contender Carl Edwards after starting in 26th he is still struggling back in 22nd the last of the Chase drivers. But there is no mistaking who the leader is as Kahne, who won at this track back in July 2012, now has a lead of 1.7 seconds over Gordon and before the race reaches lap 20 he is already starting to lap the slower cars.
Just as Kahne’s lead hits two seconds he loses it all when the first caution of the day comes out as the 35 of Josh Wise spins after having a bit of contact with the 51 that was inside him. There was going to be a competition caution on lap 30 so this will now serve as that caution. All the leading cars come to pit road and a couple of issues for the Chase contenders as Gordon is squeezed towards the 14 pit crew as he exits the pits and has to brake hard to avoid hitting them and Clint Bowyer makes contact with another car. Gordon falls to sixth as Kahne, Truex Jr, Brad Keselowski (who took a gamble with fuel only and moves up over 10 places), Newman and Joey Logano make up the top five. On the restart the 5 and 56 go door to door into turn one but Truex Jr shows that the inside line is just as fast as the favoured outside line as he gets a much better drive out of turn two and takes the lead. Slightly further back there is an almighty scrap between Kurt, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.
Before that scrap gets too nasty the yellow flags are back out as Jamie McMurray appears to get hit by team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya and gets pushed up into the outside wall where the 30 of Kevin Swindell has nowhere to go but into the side of the 1 car. The leaders all stay out and the top five at the restart is Truex, Kahne, Newman, Keselowski and Gordon. On the restart this time Truex Jr will be on the outside and he gets an easy restart as it appears Kahne spun his tyres. But closer inspection seems to suggest that the 56 may have slowed the pack down, but as leader that is his right and under the new restart procedures if the 56 doesn’t go at the end of the restart zone than the 5 is perfectly entitled to take the lead. While Truex Jr disappears out front Kahne and Keselowski are side by side for second with Kahne eventually getting the better of the fight while behind them Johnson, Newman and Kenseth go three wide for 5th with Johnson taking the position.