By the numbers: The 2013 Chasers at New Hampshire

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With Chicagoland in the rearview mirror, the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend for the Sylvania 300 – the second race in NASCAR’s post-season run.

Last time out at the Magic Mile, Brian Vickers (a non-Chase contender) earned his first Sprint Cup victory in four seasons – a win that likely proved pivotal for him in landing a full-time program with Michael Waltrip Racing.

But many of the eventual 2013 Chasers also posted strong results at NHMS this past summer. Kyle Busch led this particular group with a second-place result after Tony Stewart ran out of fuel while battling Vickers for the win in a green-white-checkered finish.

The folks at NASCAR have provided some statistics on how each Chaser has fared at New Hampshire over their careers. Check out the numbers below and decide who you think will have a good run this Sunday.

MATT KENSETH (Leader — 2,063 points)
Five Top-5s, 13 Top-10s
Average Finish: 13.8 in 27 races
Average Running Position: 16.7, 20th-best

KYLE BUSCH (2nd place, -8 points)
One win, five Top-5s, seven Top-10s
Average Finish: 15.8 in 17 races
Average Running Position: 14.3, 12th-best

JIMMIE JOHNSON (3rd place, -11 points)
Three wins, eight Top-5s, 16 Top-10s
Average Finish: 9.4 in 23 races
Average Running Position: 9.9, third-best

KEVIN HARVICK (4th place, -15 points)
One win, five Top-5s, 13 Top-10s
Average Finish: 13.4 in 25 races
Average Running Position: 12.9, eighth-best

CARL EDWARDS (5th place, -23 points)
Two Top-5s, four Top-10s
Average Finish: 14.1 in 18 races
Average Running Position: 14.4, 13th-best

KURT BUSCH (6th place, -23 points)
Three wins, seven Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
Average Finish: 15.4 in 25 races
Average Running Position: 13.6, 10th-best

JEFF GORDON (7th place, -24 points)
Three wins, 16 Top-5s, 22 Top-10s
Average Finish: 10.5 in 37 races
Average Running Position: 7.3, series-best

RYAN NEWMAN (8th place, -28 points)
Three wins, six Top-5s, 15 Top-10s
Average Finish: 13.9 in 23 races
Average Running Position: 13.0, ninth-best

CLINT BOWYER (9th place, -28 points)
Two wins, four Top-5s, six Top-10s
Average Finish: 14.9 in 15 races
Average Running Position: 12.1, sixth-best

KASEY KAHNE (10th place, -31 points)
One win, three Top-5s, eight Top-10s
Average Finish: 15.9 in 19 races
Average Running Position: 14.4, 14th-best

GREG BIFFLE (11th place, -31 points)
One win, five Top-5s, eight Top-10s
Average Finish: 16.3 in 22 races
Average Running Position: 14.5, 16th-best

JOEY LOGANO (12th place, -52 points)
One win, two Top-5s, four Top-10s
Average Finish: 17.8 in 10 races
Average Running Position: 22.7, 25th-best

DALE EARNHARDT JR. (13th place, -53 points)
Seven Top-5s, 11 Top-10s
Average Finish: 16.0 in 28 races
Average Running Position: 11.7, fifth-best

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds