Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Indianapolis: Brickyard 400

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Track history: Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a 2.5-mile semi-banked oval with 9-degree banking in all four turns. The lengths of the flat front and backstretches are 5/8-mile each and the short chutes are each a 1/8th-mile. The track is almost a perfect rectangle due to the confines of property that was available at the time. It was built as a test facility for the growing car industry and was paved with 3.2 million bricks in 1909. The Brickyard has hosted the Indianapolis 500 since 1911. When the track began to get worn around 1935, asphalt was applied to the rougher areas. By 1941, the main straightaway was the only bricked portion remaining. In 1961, except for the "yard of bricks" at the start/finish line, the entire track was blacktop. When NASCAR announced it was coming to Indy over a million fans applied for the 300,000 tickets to the inaugural event.

August 6, 1994: The first 400-mile NASCAR Cup race at the Brickyard was held in 1994. Rick Mast qualified on the pole with a lap of 172.414 mph in the No. 1 Skoal Racing Ford. Jeff Gordon drove the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet from 3rd in the lineup to the win with a race speed of 131.977 mph. It was the first of four Indy Cup wins for Gordon.

July 27, 2008: The 2008 Allstate 400 (aka: "Competition Caution 14") at The Brickyard was a tire problem fiasco. Due to tire issues, NASCAR called "competition cautions" almost every ten laps. The longest green flag run was 14 laps. Several cars still had tire problems bringing out more yellow flags. There were a record 52 caution laps run in this 160 lap event. At the end of the day, Jimmie Johnson held off a charge from Carl Edwards to score his second Brickyard victory.

July 25, 2010: Jamie McMurray won the Brickyard 400 from a 4th place start. It was the No. 1 Chevrolet driver's 2nd victory in 2010 and his 4th top-10 in 8 starts at IMS. Drivers leading 5 or more laps: No. 29-Kevin Harvick (5 laps, finished 2nd), No. 5-Mark Martin (10 laps, finished 11th), winner McMurray (16 laps), No. 16-Greg Biffle (38 laps, finished 3rd) and No. 42-Juan Pablo Montoya, the pole-sitter, led the most (86). Unfortunately, Montoya got loose and into the wall on lap 146 and was done for the day (credited with a 32nd place).

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, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. There were 48 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's Brickyard 400 in Speedway, Indiana.

Mid-Pack picks

In 2007, Juan Pablo Montoya became the first driver to compete in all three major events at the Indianapolis; the Indianapolis 500 (which he won in 2000), the United States Grand Prix and the Brickyard 400. In his first trip around IMS in a stock car, he started on the outside pole, ran in the top 15 for the entire 160-lap event before bringing home a second-place finish. In 2008, he was one of the drivers caught up in the tire fiasco (wrecked; credited with a 39th). He started 2nd in 2009, led all but 10 of the first 126 laps, was out front by as much as 5.5 seconds at one point but got caught speeding in the pits (managed an 11th place). As noted above, he is the defending pole-sitter of this event, led the most laps and looked to be on his way to sealing the deal before wrecking. This might be the year he can finally back up his 4.5 average start with a kiss on the bricks.

Over the last six races at IMS, NASCAR Statistics shows the driver with the best average running position (8.6) is Mark Martin. He also spent the most time running in the top 15 (814 laps - 84.8%). Martin scored the second-most championship points (behind favorite Stewart) in those races as well. Add to those statistics the fact that his worst results at Indy since 2004 were a pair of 11th place finishes and his best was a 2nd (from the pole) in 2009. This isn't 2009 when he won 5 races and finished 2nd in the points but we think Martin is still a strong contender at Indy.

Between 2003 and 2005, Jamie McMurray had Indy finishes of 3rd, 7th and 17th while driving for Chip Ganassi. At Roush Racing, he had one top 10 in his next four IMS starts. After reuniting with Ganassi (Earnhardt-Ganassi) last season he won the 2010 Daytona 500, the Charlotte race (October) as well as the 2010 Brickyard 400. His numbers this season are nowhere near his 2010 stats (only 2 top tens). We're taking a gamble on him at a track where he has been running at the finish in all eight of his career starts. He has also never finished off of the lead lap while driving for Ganassi at Indy. Look for a top 15 or better from the No. 1 Chevy on Sunday.

Jeff Burton scored top 10 finishes in three of the last four 400-mile Indy events.
For the last six races at IMS, NASCAR Statistics ranks him 7th in their Driver Rating, 5th with his average running position of 12.2, 9th in their "Laps in the Top 15" category and 4th in the percentage of laps led. Last season, he qualified 10th, ran in the top 10 for most of the race and finished 6th. He's a bit of risk this week since he goes to Indy with a new crew chief (Luke Lambert) but we think Burton's a good choice for a 4th or 5th driver on your roster.


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



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