Stewart has to be considered a favorite to win the New Hampshire race this time around. Busch won both New Hampshire races last year. And the year before that, Jimmie Johnson won both New Hampshire races. Stewart’s New Hampshire victory in July was part of his summer surge, when he won five races between June 26 and Aug. 14 and took over the points lead. He remembers having a car at New Hampshire that needed time to get traction on long runs, but also was able to pass cars early in the race. “But in the middle and latter stages of the race, the guys got their cars better and it got to where our car really wasn’t that strong,” Stewart said. “And for six or seven laps, it would take that long for it to get a lot of grip and lock down. But early in the race we could get by guys until they got their cars better. As the day went on, we had a lot of good track position and that helped us.” Those gaps in performance allowed the Busch boys to catch Stewart at New Hampshire. “So it was in that six- or seven-lap window where we just didn’t have as much grip as we needed,” Stewart said. “But once our tires came in, we were able to track Kurt down after that last restart and get by.” Kurt Busch actually is in better position in this Chase than he was last year. Not only is Busch fifth in points – opposed to seventh last year – he also has his four Roush Racing teammates in the Chase. Penske Racing South teammates Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman are the only other drivers who can say that. Not that Wallace and Newman have acted much like teammates at all this year. The other three Chase contenders are racing solo. Stewart’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte missed the Chase. Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates, including four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon, missed the Chase. Jeremy Mayfield, in. His Evernham Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, out. Still, one is better than none. Just ask Teresa Earnhardt, Richard Childress and Robert Yates. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, Mayfield sits seventh in the Chase, the same spot from which Kurt Busch started his championship run. Tim Haddock covers motor sports for the Daily News. His column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at (818) 713-2715 or [email protected] NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES Sylvania 300 Site: Loudon, N.H. Schedule: Saturday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 9:10 a.m.); Sunday, race (TNT, 9:30 a.m.). Track: New Hampshire International Speedway (oval, 1.058 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns). Race distance: 317.4 miles, 300 laps. Next race: MBNA 400, Sept. 25, Dover, Del. On the Net: www.nascar.com NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS SERIES Sylvania 200 Site: Loudon, N.H. Schedule: Saturday, qualifying, 7:05 a.m., race (Speed Channel, noon). Track: New Hampshire International Speedway (oval, 1.058 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns). Race distance: 211.6 miles, 200 laps. Next race: Las Vegas 350, Sept. 24. NHRA NHRA Nationals Site: Reading, Pa. Schedule: Friday, qualifying, 11 a.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 8 a.m (ESPN2, 1 p.m.); Sunday, eliminations, 8 a.m. (ESPN2, 1 p.m.) Track: Maple Grove Raceway. Next event: O’Reilly Fall Nationals, Sept. 25, Ennis, Texas. On the Net: www.nhra.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! If Tony Stewart can repeat his performance in the July race at New Hampshire International Speedway, he may be able to see the forest through the Busches. The forest in this case being the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series championship. And the Busches being the brothers, Kurt and Kyle, who seemed to be Stewart’s biggest challengers when the Cup drivers visited New Hampshire during the summer. “It seemed like Kyle Busch was able to stay with us longer on every restart,” said Stewart, who won the July race at New Hampshire. “Then at the end of the day, both of the Busch (brothers) – the shrub and the bigger Busch (Kurt) – were both good enough to stay with us. Kyle was almost good enough to get by, and Kurt actually got by.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Stewart enters Sunday’s race at New Hampshire, the start of the 10-race Chase for the Championship, as the Chase leader. He has a five-point lead over Greg Biffle and a 45-point leader over Ryan Newman, the 10th-place driver in the Chase. If history is any indication, the winner of the New Hampshire race will have a marked advantage in the Chase. Last year, Kurt Busch won the New Hampshire race, vaulted from seventh to first, and went on to win his first Cup championship. The New Hampshire race was Busch’s only win in the Chase for the Championship. Busch compared taking the early lead in the Chase to a golf tournament. “If you start off and you’re 4-under or 5-under, the other guys are waffling around with a bogey and a par, they’re not going to catch you,” said Busch. “It’s up to the leader to make those mistakes. We did have a big mistake, though, at Atlanta with the motor blowing up. That took away our solid advantage. So when you have a bad race early on. it’s just that much more difficult to overcome later.” Without Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jeff Gordon in the Chase, Stewart and Kurt Busch may be the biggest stars in the NASCAR 10-race playoff.