What to watch for The Car of Tomorrow should add more excitement, with increased passing at the flat New Hampshire oval. But even with a new ride, the usual suspects top the list of favorites at Loudon. Wins and consistency are always important factors but are more critical this season with the unforeseen adjustments and variables forced by the Car of Tomorrow.
Jeff Burton has won more Cup races in the Granite State than any driver, with four checkered flag finishes coming from 1997-2000. Recently, he has a streak of three straight top-10 finishes at New Hampshire.
Closing in on Burton's win total is Jeff Gordon, who has three career victories. Although his wins came between 1995-98, Gordon was third in last fall's event and runner-up to Kurt Busch in '04. Busch went back-to-back that year, while younger brother Kyle Busch won the July race last season.
The most recent winner, Kevin Harvick, led 196 laps during the Sylvania 300 on his way to checkers at NHIS. Prior to that victory, Harvick had three top-10 finishes in his previous four races and is likely to remain hot.
Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson both have two wins under their belts and should be considered frontrunners in New England. With two runner-ups in his last three runs, close calls have kept Stewart from joining Burton and Gordon in Loudon lore. Johnson swept in 2003 and has two top-10 and two 11th-place finishes in the six races since.
Keep an eye on... Dave Blaney -- Blaney drove to ninth- and 13th-place runs last season. No telling what running a COT on a flat track will do, so we'll stick with results.
Denny Hamlin -- This track is Martinsville on steroids, and Hamlin knows how to get around the Virginia short track. Regardless of what type of car he runs here, expect Hamlin to be a popular underdog pick.
Ryan Newman -- When he stays away from Tony Stewart he finishes well. He notched a 12th in a down year last season and won at NHIS in 2005.
Elliott Sadler -- He's been close here in the past, only to have rotten luck. He posted an impressive sixth in his new Evernham duds during the Chase last season.