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No one has a clear claim to NHMS supremacy

Staff Report
July 08. 2014 10:50PM
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon before last weekend's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. (Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

So, who’s the king of the Magic Mile?

Jeff Burton holds the New Hampshire Motor Speedway record of four NASCAR Cup victories on the Loudon oval, but it’s been a while since he claimed a victory in the Granite State — since September of 2000, to be exact — and these days he’s racing only part-time.

Of the five drivers who have won three races at NHMS — Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and and Tony Stewart — Newman and Stewart had the most recent victories, splitting the two Sprint Cup races at Loudon in 2011. Not exactly an unchallenged claim to the crown there, either.

Of the four winners at NHMS in the past two years — Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth last year, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin in 2012 — only Hamlin was a repeat Loudon winner. Magic Mile royalty? Not quite.

So perhaps the answer to the question “Who’s the king of the Magic Mile” is, “There really isn’t one.”

That could change, however, when the Camping World RV Sales 301 takes place at NHMS Sunday afternoon. All of the aforementioned drivers are scheduled to compete in qualifying Friday afternoon, and a victory by any of them could merit monarchy.

Burton and Gordon are two of the four drivers who have competed in all 38 races to date in New Hampshire, along with Bobby Labonte and Joe Nemechek. Burton, who will be making his second start of the 2014 season this weekend, also holds the NHMS record for winning from the deepest position, his 1999 victory coming after he started 38th.

But fans of the five drivers with three Loudon victories can make a strong case their driver is the best at NHMS.

In his 38 appearances in New Hampshire, Gordon has won four poles and placed in the top five 16 times.

In 24 races at Loudon, Johnson has nine top-five finishes and 17 top-10 places, five fewer than Gordon.

Newman has a Loudon-record seven poles (Johnson has none), six top-five finishes and 15 top-10 finishes in 24 races in the Granite State. Stewart has 17 top-10 finishes, Kurt Busch 11.

The hottest driver on the circuit entering Sunday’s race is Johnson, who has won three of the last six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. He also has a streak of seven straight top-10 finishes.

Other fast facts:

• Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led (1,352) at New Hampshire.

• Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at New Hampshire without a win: 29.

• Gordon and Stewart are tied for the series lead in runner-up finishes at New Hampshire with five each.

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