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July 12. 2014 7:51PM

It's all about the wins for Sprint Cup drivers racing at Loudon


07/12/14 Kevin Harvick, left, was upset with Jamie McMurray in Sprint Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, on Saturday in Loudon. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

LOUDON - JIMMIE JOHNSON boasts three.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Penske Racing teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski each own a couple. Five other Sprint Cup drivers, most notably points leader Jeff Gordon, have one apiece.

Talking Cup series wins. Talking having your ticket punched to the Chase to the Sprint Championship that commences at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 14.

The pressure is on everyone else in the Camping World RV Sales 301 this afternoon at 1 p.m. at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

There are 16 slots available in the new-look Chase.

Most, if not all, spots will go to the winner of a race or races.

Eleven drivers have won races thus far.Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer and Austin Dillon all have spots in the Chase as of this afternoon's race based on points. None of them has a win.

Nor do drivers just on the outside of the points such as Greg Biffle, defending champion Brian Vickers or Tony Stewart.

They have eight races remaining - starting today - left to get one.

"As the races wind down into the Chase, the guys that aren't in the Chase are starting to get into that panic mode to say they have to win," Logano said.

Logano has been pretty much locked into the Chase since picking up his second win of the season at Richmond on April 26 - only Harvick got win No. 2 earlier - and said the approach he and crew chief Todd Gordon have taken has been to shoot for wins and not worry about points.

"There have been multiple times that Todd and I have been talking before or during the race about the pit call and about how maybe we are running sixth and we will take a chance because we can't win from that position," Logano said. "Chances are a lot of times making that gutsy call isn't the right call, but if it is a 20 percent shot at winning and you had zero where you were, you will take that chance."

Logano, a native of Middletown, Conn., won his first Cup race here in the 2009 event.

Desperate drivers and a relatively flat track where it can be difficult to pass, can make for some wild times especially on restarts where people look to gain any ground possible.

"Restarts here will be pretty hairy," Logano said. "It is a lane and a half racetrack and it's tight and people shoot down onto the apron and try to slide job each other. Feelings get hurt here. People get mad here. That happens. When the field is so close and it is tough to pass, people will do what they have to do to make those passes. They will run into each other."

Logano starts sixth in the field today, alongside Jamie McMurray, the fifth qualifier.Kyle Busch, runnerup in both Cup events last here, set a record in qualifying - with a fast lap of 27.574 seconds for 138.130 miles per hour - and will be on the pole.

Johnson starts up front beside Busch and Denny Hamlin and Stewart are in the second row, starting third and fourth.

Eddie MacDonald of Rowley, Mass., makes his Cup debut here today.

MacDonald, who turned 34 on Monday, grew up racing around New England and especially at Lee USA Speedway, which is owned by his parents, Judy and Red.

"If we could have some good runs this weekend, it would make for a good birthday week," MacDonald said.

He finished second to Jesse Little in the K&N Pro Series East Granite State 100 on Friday night.

MacDonald is driving the No. 32 tryandrozene.com Ford co-owned by Frank Stoddard of North Haverhill and Archie St. Hilaire of Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Racing writer and author Gordon Kirby of Sunapee and Racemaker Press in Boston have recently published an impressive hard cover book jammed with stories and photos on the life and times of highly successful crew chief Jim McGee: "Jim McGee: Crew Chief of Champions."

McGee, a Boston native, won 90 races, including four Indianapolis 500s, from 1965-2006.

Recycled Percussion, the Goffstown-born group now showing in Las Vegas, is one of the featured attractions of pre-race attractions at NHMS this morning. The group's performs at the start/finish line at 10:45 a.m. ... New England Patriot wide receiver and returner Julian Edelman will lead the field to the start of the race in the NASCAR pace car. ... The Whelen Air Show, piloted by Michel Goulion of Plymouth, Mass., takes place from 11:40 to 11:52 a.m. ... Tom Wopat - better known as Luke Duke from "The Dukes of Hazzard" television series - is expected at today's race as a guest of AutoTrader.com. He's coming to cheer on Joey Logano's AutoTrader.com No. 22 Ford Fusion.

alessels@unionleader.com On Twitter: @allenlessels


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