Daytona races are always a nail-biter and this one last Saturday was no exception. Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson and his win at Daytona! That was the first time since 1982 that the winner of the Daytona 500 also won the summer 400-mile race.
Daytona is in the books and now it is time to head to the Granite State and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Camping World RV Sales 301.
NASCAR ‘s Cup Series began racing at New Hampshire in 1993, with Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace taking the first race at The Magic Mile. Several events at New Hampshire over the years have caused NASCAR to make changes to its safety procedures, most recently in 2003. This particular incident led to the birth of the “Freezing the Field” and “Lucky Dog” rules.
The incident started when Dale Jarrett spun off of turn four and couldn’t get his car re-fired and out of the way. NASCAR threw the caution and the field came racing around the corner at full speed back to the flag, with Jarrett still sitting in the middle of the frontstretch, perpendicular to the pit road wall, driver’s side facing the field.
Thankfully no one t-boned Jarrett, but after the race, NASCAR decided to make a new rule which banned racing back to the start finish line when the caution flag came out. Instead, at the moment of caution, NASCAR would “freeze the field”, meaning everyone would hold their position and NASCAR would determine the running order before the cars came into pit road by electronic timing and scoring.
Eliminating the racing back to the line also prohibited cars that were a lap or more down from racing the leader back to the line and possibly getting a lap back. NASCAR decided that the first driver one lap down would get a “free pass” and be allowed to pass the pace car and get his lap back after pit stops were completed and the field was getting ready to take the green flag for the ensuing restart. This rule was named the “Lucky Dog” rule, because the driver receiving the free pass was a so-called lucky dog for being in the right place at the right time when the caution came out.
Fun Fact: New Hampshire was the only track other than Daytona and Talladega to implement the use of restrictor plates in September of 2000.
Last Year’s Winner: Kasey Kahne
Most wins among active drivers: Jeff Burton (4)
Prediction: Clint Bowyer. He picked up his first career Cup win here in September 2007 and he also earned another win in the fall event in 2010. That 2010 win saw him get penalized for his rear bumper being too low in post-race inspection, which took him out of championship contention. Bowyer has been steady all season and he moved up to second in the points after Daytona, but he has yet to win. I think that changes at New Hampshire. He finished second at Martinsville and Richmond and third at Kentucky earlier this year, all relatively flat tracks, and New Hampshire is a flat track, with less than 10 degrees of banking in the corners. If Bowyer is to be considered a legitimate championship threat, then he needs to win at least one race before the Chase starts and this is one of his best chances. New Hampshire is the second track to host a race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, and whoever wins in July will have confidence going into the September event when the Chase rolls around. I think Bowyer will get win number three at NHMS, and vault himself into title contention and give himself a leg up on the competition for September after this weekend.