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NASCAR New Hampshire 2016: Preview, lineup, starting grid for New England 300

NASCAR heads to New England for the second race of its Chase playoffs.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Pole-sitter Carl Edwards doesn't need a win Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN), but it would certainly alleviate any pressure heading into the first elimination race of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup.

With the exception of Martin Truex Jr., who won the playoff opener last week at Chicagoland Speedway, the remaining 15 Chase drivers know they can assure themselves a spot in the quarterfinal round by winning the Bad Boy Off Road 300, therefore not have to concern themselves where they finish next weekend at Dover International Speedway, a track nicknamed the "Monster" for its well-founded reputation for chewing up cars.

Edwards knows what potential trouble awaits at Dover. He was contending for the win in the spring race when contact with Kyle Larson sent him crashing with 40 laps remaining. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver went from thinking of performing his celebratory backflip to having to undergo a medical evaluation.

"Chicago was frustrating and I was real upset about it for about a day," said Edwards, who finished 15th. "If we have a bad day here, I'm going to be real upset about it for about three or four days. Then, if you have a bad day at Dover, you're going to be upset for the rest of the year."

Even if a win isn't obtainable, for some drivers a good finish Sunday would go a long way to solidifying their playoff advancement. Joey Logano is fully cognizant that a runner-up at New Hampshire like the one he had at Chicagoland will make Dover entirely manageable.

"If something happens, something happens and we'll approach Dover in a different way," Logano said. "But, right now, let's go out here and if we can win the race, let's win the race. If not, let's try to top-five it and that will give us a good sense of security heading into Dover."

"The pressure is probably the same as what it was in Chicago. We just have to do what we know how to do."

The emphasis on wanting to avoid being on the bubble entering an elimination event is attributed to why the middle race of each three-race segment has often proven to be the most tumultuous since NASCAR unveiled the knockout Chase format prior to the 2014 season.

That several Chase drivers had substandard finishes at Chicagoland only heightens the significance of needing a good result on Sunday. In addition to Edwards, others who underwhelmed a week ago include: Jimmie Johnson (finished 12th), Kurt Busch (13th), Austin Dillon (14th), Tony Stewart (16th), Kyle Larson (18th), and Kevin Harvick (20th).

"We will be aggressive the next two weeks. As aggressive as we can, aggressively smart," Dillon said. "I think two top-10 finishes will give us a great shot to move to the next round. That is what we want to do so we can regroup. I feel like we've got a good shot the next two weeks."

Dillon's optimism was stunted some after a wreck in Friday practice heavily damaged his primary No. 3 car, requiring a move to a backup Chevrolet for the remainder of the weekend.

In all likelihood Dillon will need either to find some speed or have an unusual set of circumstances unfold where he's the beneficiary to avoid going into Dover facing a must-win scenario.

"We'll try to figure it out as a team," he said. "And we'll work hard as a team and won't give up."


Position Driver Make Speed
1 Carl Edwards Toyota 135.453
2 Martin Truex, Jr. Toyota 135.212
3 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 134.896
4 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 134.858
5 Denny Hamlin Toyota 134.796
6 Kyle Larson Chevrolet 134.682
7 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 134.477
8 Matt Kenseth Toyota 134.363
9 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet 134.221
10 Chase Elliott Chevrolet 133.901
11 Brad Keselowski Ford 133.694
12 Kyle Busch Toyota 133.445
13 Kurt Busch Chevrolet 134.359
14 Paul Menard Chevrolet 134.354
15 Joey Logano Ford 134.184
16 Ryan Blaney Ford 134.108
17 A.J. Allmendinger Chevrolet 134.032
18 Alex Bowman Chevrolet 133.750
19 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 133.717
20 Michael McDowell Chevrolet 133.133
21 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Ford 133.031
22 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 132.980
23 David Ragan Toyota 132.776
24 Danica Patrick Chevrolet 131.815
25 Brian Scott Ford 132.966
26 Aric Almirola Ford 132.887
27 Trevor Bayne Ford 132.688
28 Chris Buescher Ford 132.618
29 Austin Dillon Chevrolet 132.595
30 Regan Smith Chevrolet 132.586
31 Casey Mears Chevrolet 132.485
32 Greg Biffle Ford 132.177
33 Matt DiBenedetto Toyota 131.952
34 Landon Cassill Ford 131.624
35 Michael Annett Chevrolet 131.528
36 Cole Whitt Chevrolet 131.510
37 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 131.031
38 Reed Sorenson Toyota 130.693
39 Josh Wise Chevrolet 129.503
40 Jeffrey Earnhardt Ford 127.701