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Raceday: Your guide to the Camping World 301

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013

Three things to watch

1 . Brad Keselowski has dropped from ninth to 13th in points and could desperately use a strong finish. He got the weekend off well winning the pole.

2. Jimmie Johnson has won two of the past five races and has been fast all weekend but will start from the rear after his No. 48 Chevrolet failed post-qualifying inspection on Friday.

3 . Jeff Burton has four wins at New Hampshire – the most among all drivers – and starts in the Top 10 for just the first time this season.

Observations

• Kurt Busch finds himself in a unique situation. He isn’t sure he wants to return to Furniture Row Racing next season and is exploring his options to perhaps return to a top-level multi-car organization. Yet at least part of his ability to make the move will be based on his performance this season and he’s currently right on the line of making the Chase – which would be a first for FRR. He is trying to focus on the present and do whatever it takes to ensure a chance at the championship. Yet, how long can he delay in exploring options with other teams for next season? And can he effectively do both at the same time?

• There have been a lot of complaints that too many media and fans have already whittled down the serious contenders for this year’s championship to Jimmie Johnson and one or two others. But that’s for good reason. Outside of Tony Stewart’s title in 2011 title, no driver has shown themselves to be more competitive in the Chase than they were in the regular season. Could 2013 be another exception to the rule? Yes. Is it likely? No.

• There have been 10 different winners in the last 10 Cup races at New Hampshire but last year’s winners could definitely use a repeat performance. Kasey Kahne who won here last July and Denny Hamlin who won in September are both currently outside the Top 10 in points, which guarantees a Chase berth.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer

Notes

No panic from Keselowski: While reigning Cup series champion Brad Keselowski has dropped out of the Top 10 in points with eight races remaining before the 2013 Chase field is set he insisted there is no sense of panic on his Penske Racing team.

“There is a sense of urgency but not a sense of panic. I think there is a strong difference between the two,” said Keselowski, who will start from the pole on Sunday. “We are eager to get going, we are hungry and feel like we can do it but I don’t feel as sense of panic.

“There are still two months of racing essentially to get into the Chase. We have fast race cars and if we do our part we don’t need any help.”

Keselowski is 13th in the series standings but only 11 points out of the Top 10, which are guaranteed a spot in the Chase.

Patrick takes the blame: Danica Patrick took the blame for the start of the last-lap wreck exiting Turn 4 in last weekend’s race at Daytona and said she apologized to driver David Gilliland, who she hit to start the incident.

“I was just not aware enough of my surroundings, not aware enough that we were turning down the track in the tri-oval that much,” Patrick said. “It gets a little bit harder to judge exactly where you are when you’re going through the tri-oval as opposed to just down the straightaway.”

Allmendinger to run Grand-Am race: A.J. Allmendinger, who has been running a variety of NASCAR and IndyCar series events this season, will drive for Michael Shank Racing in the Brickyard Grand Prix Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series July 26 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Allmendinger will share driving duties in the No. 6 Ford-Riley with Firestone Indy Lights veteran Gustavo Yacaman in the 3-hour sports car race on the 13-turn, 2.534-mile road course at IMS.

Race facts

Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.

Track type: 1.058-mile, mostly flat, paved oval

Race distance: 301 laps, 318.46 miles

Weather: Partly cloudy and high in the upper 80s.

TV: Coverage begins at noon on TNT. Green flag is 1:16 p.m. ET

Radio: Performance Racing Network

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