NASCAR at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Starting lineup breakdown

Kurt Busch captured his third pole of the season on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR Cup Series drivers have seen traction adhesive put down in tracks in so many different areas, they appear to just accept it as part of an element they will have to deal with at tracks such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The PJ1 put on New Hampshire's 1-mile flat oval is 12 feet wide in the lower groove as well as another 12-foot-wide strip outside the middle groove (but not totally up against the wall).

The plan is to reapply it overnight, probably again after track activity Saturday and possibly before the race Sunday, depending on weather.

The application of the traction compound can make things tricky, New Hampshire pole-sitter Kurt Busch said.

"They'll tell you they didn't reapply it and then there's more when you go out there on the track, so you can't take anybody's word for what NASCAR said or the track said, and Goodyear was confused one weekend on if they were going to even apply the extra traction from the PJ1 -- so a lot of movers and shakers again with a lot of puzzle pieces and so that's where you just roll with it," Busch said.

"Whatever the track is going to give you for grip, you have to predict it and then as the track and the race unfolds, that stuff wears out so you don't have that same grip level at Lap 300 as you do in qualifying."

NASCAR is working on being more communicative. They recently moved Jerry Kaproth, who headed the Air Titan drying program, into a new role where he works with the tracks on surface preparations, which includes where to put the adhesive.

NASCAR sends emails to crew chiefs Thursday with the plan for the weekend and then daily updates. It also is collecting friction data through the race weekend and sharing that with crew chiefs and Goodyear.

"Communication has gotten better between NASCAR, the teams and the drivers," said Ryan Blaney, who will start fifth. "When they first started this deal putting it down, they wouldn't tell us at all and we'd show up, it's really dark, it's got the sticky stuff on it."

The drivers don't expect the compound to remain the same throughout the race. Blaney said it really starts to wear off with about 75-80 laps remaining and the car has to be better in areas without the grip.

"I noticed at the end of last race, it's still there, but it's not much advantage, so you have to make sure your car handles out of it just as much as you do on it," Denny Hamlin said.

"So we're going to need to move around. You can't just really on the grip that the race track is giving you for speed. You have to have speed outside of those two black streaks."

Some weeks, it seems all the talk about placement of the traction compound is a major issue. Not so much this weekend at New Hampshire.

"These tracks that are really one-lane based, it could really do wonders and I really like the direction that the track's and NASCAR have gone on it applying it and they've done a good job of being more consistent with where they put it from year to year," Hamlin said.

Here's the breakdown for the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 on Sunday:

1. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford): This is Busch's third pole of the year. He was seventh at Texas and third at Michigan in his other two pole-winning runs this year. He has six races where he has led at least 20 laps but still seeks his first 2018 win.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota): Truex won the ESPY for best driver Wednesday, and he deserves it: His 16 wins since the start of the 2016 season is the most of any driver in the series. He has never won at NHMS, where he has five top-5s in 24 career starts.

3. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota): He won at New Hampshire in September and has led 974 laps at the track, where he has three victories. Yeah, he's good here.

4. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota): Hamlin is the defending champion of the July race at New Hampshire. Like his teammate, he has three victories at the track. Maybe even more impressive: He has started in the top five in seven of the past nine races (including Sunday).

5. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12 Ford): Blaney had his best New Hampshire finish when he placed ninth in September. He looks good this weekend.

6. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford): He won here in July 2014 and has three top-5s and five top-10s in the seven races since then. However, he led no laps at NHMS in 2017 and only three in 2016.

7. Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota): He had to slash the mullet for some photo shoots, but that hasn't hurt him on the track. Don't count him out Sunday: He was sixth in the race in September.

8. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet): Bowman has had decent showings at the track, starting top-20 in both his races when he filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016 as well as a 14th-place finish in the September 2016 race.

9. Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota): This is his first top-10 starting spot at New Hampshire, but it's no surprise -- he finished sixth and eighth in the 2017 races.

10. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet): Don't count on this place to be the one where he earns that first Cup win -- he has finishes of 13th, 11th and 11th in his past three NHMS starts.

11. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet): Byron won the 2016 truck race at New Hampshire as he led 161 laps of the event. He finished third in the 2017 Xfinity race. He obviously got comfortable with this track quickly.

12. Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford): Menard has never finished in the top 10 in his 22 career Cup starts at New Hampshire. That streak could end Sunday.

13. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford): Almirola has had two good runs (a fifth and a sixth) among his 15 Cup starts at NHMS, where he has an average finish of 21.3.

14. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford): Don't fret over this starting spot for Harvick. His average starting position at New Hampshire is 12.9.

15. Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford): Bowyer has won twice at New Hampshire, but the last one came in 2010. He posted a pair of seventh-place finishes at the track in 2017.

16. AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet): Allmendinger has finished anywhere from 12th to 22nd in his past 13 NHMS starts.

17. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet): Dillon won a truck race at the track in 2015, but Cup has been a struggle as he has a career-best of eighth (his only top-10).

18. Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet): Newman has three career wins at the track. Coincidence or not, he also started 18th last September, a race where he finished 13th.

19. Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford): For this Connecticut kid, starting this far back is disappointing, but it's better than last September when he never got a chance to qualify because of tech issues.

20. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet): It is startling to see Larson start this far back considering he finished second in both 2017 races at NHMS and started second last September.

21. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet): You're tempted to dismiss this as Johnson being a poor qualifier, but this is his worst starting spot in his past 10 Cup starts at NHMS.

22. Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet): McMurray has finishes of 19th, 17th and 16th in his past three NHMS races. I wouldn't be surprised if he finishes in that same range Sunday.

23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford): Stenhouse has two career top-10s in 10 NHMS starts, so he might get TV time only if Kyle Busch is lapping him.

24. Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37 Chevrolet): Seeking his first top-20 at New Hampshire, this might be around where he finishes Sunday.

25. Ty Dillon (Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet): He didn't qualify well as a rookie at New Hampshire, where he finished 16th and 22nd last year.

26. Kasey Kahne (Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Chevrolet): This is Kahne's worst starting spot at New Hampshire in his past 22 starts.

27. Bubba Wallace (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet): He finished second in a truck and eighth in an Xfinity car at New Hampshire, so there's a chance he could improve on this starting spot.

28. Matt DiBenedetto (Go Fas Racing No. 32 Ford): This is tied for his best starting spot in his past nine Cup starts.

29. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford): In the five Cup races he has run to completion at New Hampshire, he has finished better than he started in two of them.

30. David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford): The Front Row cars starting side-by-side in the same row would be cooler if they were a little closer to the front.

31. Matt Kenseth (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford): Something tells me he didn't get back in the seat of a race car to start 31st.

32. Ross Chastain (Premium Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet): It could be a long day for Chastain at a track that hasn't treated him well on the Xfinity side.

33. Corey LaJoie (TriStar Motorsports No. 72 Chevrolet): He started 33rd last September, too. He finished 27th.

34. Landon Cassill (StarCom Racing No. 00 Chevrolet): This track has been a struggle for Cassill, who has only one finish better than 25th in 15 starts.

35. Kyle Weatherman (StarCom Racing No. 99 Chevrolet): Weatherman makes his second career Cup start.

36. B.J. McLeod (Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet): This is McLeod's sixth start in the past nine races.

37. Blake Jones (BK Racing No. 23 Toyota): Jones has run a handful of Xfinity races and struggled in the opening day of practice in the Cup car as he prepares for his Cup debut.