Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Talladega: Aaron's 499

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Track history: Talladega Superspeedway was built in 1969 in an old soybean field near Anniston, Alabama. Track builders Bill France, Sr. and Bill Ward wanted it to be the biggest and fastest superspeedway on the Cup circuit. It is, without a doubt, the fastest racetrack in the world. Bill Elliott qualified at over 212 mph in 1987 at the 2.66-mile facility, which led to NASCAR's decision to slow down the cars here and at Daytona because speeds were getting unsafe. Both tracks use restrictor plates to limit the horsepower of the cars. Speeds on the straights (4,000 foot backstretch and 4,300 foot frontstretch) still exceed 200 mph.

The track is a high-banked trioval that is four lanes wide, with 33 degree banking at the ends and 18-degree banking in the trioval. For this reason, Talladega has a lot of 3-wide racing and it's not unusual to see the whole field running together at top speed the same as they did when the green flag dropped at the beginning of the race. The drivers run wide open all the way around the track, never lifting except to avoid getting caught up in the big wrecks, which are common in restrictor plate racing.

September 14, 1969: After driving the No. 71 K & K Insurance '69 Dodge to a 196.386 mph qualifying lap, Bobby Isaac started on the pole for the first NASCAR Cup race, the 1969 Talladega 500. It was the first of five consecutive Talladega poles for Isaac. After leading 13 laps, Isaac finished 4th. Richard Brickhouse, in the No. 99 Nichols Engineering '69 Dodge, started 9th and won the race. The average race speed for that event was 153.778 mph.

April 25, 2010: The 2010 Aaron's 499 was a typical Dega event. Besides a couple of minor wrecks there were two "Big Ones"; a 5-car wreck on lap 183 and a 9-car pileup during the 2nd of three attempts at a Green-White-Checker finish on lap 190. Jimmie Johnson (48) started on the pole, was involved in the lap 190 wreck and was credited with a 31st place finish. On the final lap, it looked like Jamie McMurray (1) was going to score the win, but Kevin Harvick (29) edged him at the line by a margin of .011 seconds to pick up the win. This was Harvick's 1st of three 2010 victories.

October 31, 2010: Juan Pablo Montoya paced the field as the pole sitter for the 2010 Amp Energy Juice 500. His No. 42 was out front for 18 laps and finished 3rd. There were 2 medium size wrecks, one at lap 142 involving 6 cars and another on the final lap (188) taking out 5 more. The white flag had already dropped before the last wreck so the race ended under caution. Teammates, Kevin Harvick (29) and Clint Bowyer (33) were the leaders on the final lap and had to wait for NASCAR to "view the tapes" to determine who was ahead when the caution came out. The win went to Bowyer; the 4th of his career and 2nd in 2010 (Loudon – September).

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, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. There were 46 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's Aaron's 499 in Anniston, Alabama.

Mid-Pack picks

On the final lap of the 2009 edition of the Aaron's 499, Brad Keselowski got into Carl Edwards sending Edwards airborne, across Ryan Newman's hood and into the catch fence. Keselowski was the winner. Since then, he finished 8th (November 2009), was running with the lead pack last April but got caught up in the 9-car pileup during the 2nd of three G-W-C finish attempts (credited with 34th) and finished 10th here last October. Keselowski also has a Nationwide Series win at this track. Give the No. 2 a look this weekend.

David Reutimann feels optimistic this week since he had a legitimate shot at a win at Talladega last fall. In that race, he started 21st, spent 157 laps inside the top 15, led 14 laps, and had an average running position of 10th and finished 4th. He was also the driver pushing Harvick to the lead on the final lap of that race. Reutimann scored the 6th most points during both 2010 Talladega Cup races. He also wheeled a truck around the 2.66 mile superspeedway to a 6th place finish.

Jamie McMurray is not a favorite at this track, yet! That may change after this weekend. He has a win (November 2009) and a runner-up finish (April 2010) at Talladega. As mentioned above, he looked to be the winner on the last lap last fall but came up short to Harvick by .011 seconds. He also won the Daytona 500 in 2010, making it two plate race wins in a row. McMurray had some contact with another car about 2/3 of the way into the October 2010 race, went down a couple of laps for repairs and never recovered (finished 36th). Anything can happen at Talladega, but, if he keeps out of trouble, look for McMurray up in the top 15 again this Sunday.

In the last 6 Talladega Cup races, David Ragan has scored more points than any other driver. He finished 8th in his first trip to 'Dega in a 2005 ARCA Re/Max race. In 2006, he ran a truck race; started 2nd, finished 7th. He won his first career Nationwide Series race in the Aaron's 312 here in 2009. Six out eight of his Sprint Cup starts here resulted in top 17 finishes. In the fall 2008 race, he had to drop to the rear at the green because of an engine change and worked his way up to finish a Cup career best of 3rd. Ragan has an overall average finish of 16.6 at this track and that's where we expect him to finish on Sunday.


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



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