Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Bristol: Jeff Byrd 500

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Track history: Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) was built after Larry Carrier and Carl Moore saw a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960. They wanted to build a smaller version of CMS in Tennessee and decided on a half-mile oval. Work began on a former dairy farm in 1960 and a year later the speedway was born with 22 degree banking in the turns. 18,000 fans attended the first NASCAR race at BMS in 1961. The track was reshaped in 1969 with the turns banked at 36 degrees. After the reshaping it became a 0.533-mile oval.

In August of 1992 the track was resurfaced from the original asphalt to become the first speedway to host a NASCAR Cup event on a concrete surface. In March 2007, right after the Food City 500, a multimillion-dollar project of removing and replacing the concrete racing surface, asphalt apron, pit road and all the retaining walls around the track was started. Conditions do not change during a race because concrete isn't as sensitive to weather changes like an asphalt paved track. Since the straightaways are only 650 feet long on the 0.533-mile oval, the drivers are constantly braking, turning and accelerating which makes for a demanding race. The key to passing at Bristol is to be at the bottom in the turns and getting a good run off the corners. That's why shocks, springs and brakes are critical in the race setup.

July 30, 1961: Fred Lorenzen started the No. 28 Holman-Moody 1961 Ford on the pole for the Volunteer 500, the first Bristol Cup race. He made it through 175 laps of the 500 lap event before losing the rear end and finished 33rd. Jack Smith, who started 12th in his own No. 46 Pontiac, led the most laps (243) and earned $3,025 for the inaugural BMS victory.

March 21, 2010: Joey Logano scored his first Cup career pole in the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota for the 2010 Food City 500. He was passed on the first lap by 2-Kurt Busch and led just 2 laps all race. Logano finished 27th, 5 laps down, after a couple of mishaps, including hitting the wall on lap 472. Light rain brought out the yellow two times. 16-Greg Biffle lost communications with his spotter and, on Lap 343, got into 6-Mark Martin triggering a 13-car pileup. 2-Kurt Busch appeared to be the runaway winner after leading 278 of the 500 lap event but it would be 48-Jimmie Johnson up front at the checkered flag.

August 21, 2010: The Irwin Tools Night Race started with Jimmie Johnson sitting on the pole. It looked like another JJ show with the No. 48 leading 169 of the first 171 laps, but on lap 262, Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42) hooked the No. 48 and Johnson would spend a lot of time in the garage for repairs. He finished in 35th, about 75 laps down to the leaders. Kyle Busch took the No. 18 Doublemint Toyota to the front on lap 172, led a race-high 283 laps, and made NASCAR history. He became the first driver to sweep the three major NASCAR touring series events in the same weekend. In the Nationwide Series race, he led 116 of 250 laps en route to victory in the Food City 250. He also won the Camping World Series O'Reilly 200 after leading 116 of the 206 lap event. This was also his 3rd consecutive truck win at BMS.

Your fantasy game won't allow you to pick all track favorites so Mid-Pack Attack is here to help. A mid-packer may not win the race but has as good a shot at a top 15 finish as track favorites Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. There were 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's Jeff Byrd 500 in Bristol, Tennessee.

Mid-Pack picks

David Reutimann qualified 10th and was running 2nd in this race last season when his Toyota dropped a cylinder. He was done on lap 113 and credited with a 38th place finish. In August he started fifth and led 25 laps before finishing second just .677 seconds behind race winner Kyle Busch despite fighting food poisoning. He's finished in the top 10 in four of his six Nationwide Series starts and scored an 11th in the August 2009 Bristol NNS event. He drove a truck in three Bristol races; earned one pole award and two top 11 finishes. Coming off a 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Reutimann is a decent pick for a possible top 15 or better this Sunday.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not anywhere near his "former self" yet but he is showing a lot of potential in 2011. He has a 2-race run of top 10's (10th at Phoenix, 8th at Vegas) going into a track where he's had some success. In 22 Cup starts at BMS, he has an impressive 11.5 average finish, including one victory (August 2004). His worst finish in his last 19 Cup starts here was an 18th. In the most recent 7 BMS Cup races, only favorites Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards have scored more driver championship points than Earnhardt. This is a good week to give the No. 88 a chance.

So far this season, Marcos Ambrose got collected in a "big one" at Daytona (credited with a 37th place), finished 16th at Phoenix and a 4th in Las Vegas. In only four Cup starts at Thunder Valley, Marcos Ambrose earned the second highest rank in the loop data "Quality Passes" category. He passed cars 118 times while running in the top 15. In this race last year, he was caught speeding twice in the pits and raced his way back up to the top 5 both times (that accounts for a bunch of those QP's). Unfortunately, he was up there near the front when 13 cars were taken out by the huge wreck noted above (March 21, 2010 race). Ambrose was scored 33rd at the end of that event. We think the former road-course ace has figured out short-track racing as well.

Talk about a rough season start. Greg Biffle, who finished 6th in the 2010 NSCS championship, has a BEST finish of 20th so far in 2011 and is 32nd in this year's points. Assuming he doesn't lose communications with his spotter (again, see March 21, 2010 race notes), Bristol is a place where he should turn that around. He has an overall 10.8 average finish in 16 Cups starts at BMS. His last three results were 4th, 4th and 8th place finishes. Only track favorite Kyle Busch scored more driver points than Biffle in those three races. He finished 6th here in a Nationwide Series car last March. Give the Biff a spot as your 4th or 5th driver this week.


Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at RotoWorld.com.
Email :Anthony Ballantoni



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