Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Michigan: Heluva Good! 400

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Track history: Built in 1968 by Lawrence H. LoPatin, a Detroit land developer, at a cost of about $6 million, Michigan International Speedway is a 2-mile asphalt D-shaped oval located on 1400 acres in the Irish Hills of southeastern Michigan. Charles Moneypenny, designer of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, designed the Michigan oval as well. It has 18-degree banking in turns and 12-degree banking in the tri-oval, which is part of the 3,600-foot frontstretch. The 2,242-foot backstretch is banked five degrees. After LoPatin overextended himself and filed bankruptcy, Roger Penske took over ownership of Michigan International Speedway in 1973 and invested millions in improving the facility.

In 1999, Penske teamed up with International Speedway Corporation to jointly own the speedway. MIS seated 25,000 fans when it opened. Every few years grandstands were added bringing it up to its current capacity of 137,243 seats. The track was resurfaced in 1977, 1986 and again in 1995. In 2004, Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) walls were added to the track.

In June 2010, MIS unveiled its new suite/media center building along pit road, which features state-of-the-art accommodations for its suite customers and visiting media members.

Since the corners are so long, drivers are in the gas hard all throughout the race. This may contribute to the engine failures seen in past races at MIS. It's not unusual to see cars racing 3 or 4 and sometimes 5-wide on the long straightaways.

June 15, 1969: Donnie Allison clocked a 160.135 mph lap in the No. 27 Banjo Matthews Ford to start up front for the 1969 Motor State 500. He blew an engine 115 laps into the 250 lap event. Cale Yarborough started the famous Wood Brothers No. 21 Mercury Cyclone fourth in the field of 38 cars and went on to win the event. He beat David Pearson's No. 17 Ford by five car lengths and earned a $17,625 payday.

June 13, 2010: Kurt Busch qualified the No. 2 Dodge on the pole for the 200-lap 2010 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400. He led 60 laps and finished 3rd. Denny Hamlin started 7th and ran strong for most of the race. On the lap 92 restart, while in the lead, his No. 11 Toyota couldn't get started. It was thought to be air in the fuel line. He recovered, led the most laps (123), and went on to win his 5th race (2nd consecutive... he won Pocono the prior week) of 2010.

August 15, 2010: Kevin Harvick won the CARFAX 400 from an 8th place start. It was the No. 29 Chevrolet driver's 3rd victory in 2010 and his 1st at Michigan. Harvick clinched a spot in the 2010 Chase with this win. No. 9-Kasey Kahne started on the pole but was passed on the first lap by No. 48-Jimmie Johnson. Kahne never led a lap and finished 14th. Drivers leading 5 or more laps: No. 56-Martin Truex Jr. (5 laps, finished 8th), 11-Denny Hamlin (12, finished 2nd), Johnson (14, 12th), 14-Tony Stewart (36, 6th), winner Harvick (60 laps) and 16-Greg Biffle led the most (66, finished 4th).

Fantasy games 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 Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Mid-Pack picks

In 14 NSCS starts at Michigan, Kasey Kahne averaged a 15.1 finish. In the last three races, with finishes of 11th, 2nd and 14th here, he bettered that average (9th place). Kahne was the June 2006 winner which he accomplished from the pole. He is also the most recent pole-sitter (August 2010). NASCAR Statistics ranks him 5th in their Green Flag Passes category (887 cars) with loop data category over the past six years. He scored the 4th most championship points at Michigan in the two 2010 races. We think another top-15 can be expected from Kahne on Sunday.

Brian Vickers missed the two 2010 races at one of his favorite tracks due to recovering from his blood-clot condition. At his last trip to Michigan in August 2009, he won from the pole, giving Red Bull Racing its first ever Sprint Cup victory. That pole, by the way, was his third consecutive P1 start at MIS. In 12 starts at this track, he's averaged a 10.5 start and a 15.2 finish. Vickers has not finished any worse than 9th in his last five starts at the 2-mile track. Last week he got caught speeding twice in the pits at Pocono, went down a lap, got it back and finished 22nd. If he concentrates on speeding just on the track, look for another top-10 on Sunday from the No. 83.

NASCAR Statistics ranks Joey Logano 5th in their Quality Passes category. He passed 167 cars over the last four races while running in the top 15. Logano finished 7th, 10th and 10th in his last three Cup starts at the Irish Hills track. In the Nationwide Series, he finished 7th in 2008 and 6th in 2010. Logano is coming off an 11th place at Pocono Raceway. We think this is one of the best tracks to put the No. 20 Toyota on your team.

Alright, let's go for broke this week with a full list of Toyotas. No. 56 Toyota driver, Martin Truex Jr., has an average finish of 16.5 in 10 starts at MIS. Last year, he crossed the finish line 17th in June and 8th in August. He spent 88 percent of the laps (176 of 200) in the top 15 and led 5 circuits in the August race. Truex likes racing here: "the speed—it's fun to run that fast and slide around. It's like running a big old dirt track." He was one of the big "movers" last week after finishing 10th from a 31st place start at Pocono. Round out your roster with Truex (or one of the other Camrys) for Sunday's Brooklyn, Michigan event.


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



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