Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Pocono: Good Sam RV 500

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Track history: Pocono Raceway is a very demanding track not only on the drivers, but on the equipment as well. It is a 2.5-mile triangular oval with different length straight-aways and different banking in the three turns. The front stretch is 3,740 feet where the cars are going 200 mph into a tight 14-degree banked first turn. The backstretch is 3,055 feet leading into an 8 degree sweeping turn 2. The short straight is 1,780 feet running into a tight 6 degree turn 3. The track has been described as "the superspeedway that drives like a road course". The facility was built in 1968 as a three-quarter mile raceway and was expanded to its current 2.5-mile configuration in the early 1970's.

August 4, 1974: The first 500-mile NASCAR race, the Purolator 500, was held on August 4, 1974. With a 144.122 mph lap in the Bud Moore No. 15 Ford, Buddy Baker qualified on the pole to lead the 35-car field. He led 11 laps and finished 2nd. Richard Petty started his No. 43 STP Dodge 3rd on the grid, led 152 laps and took the win in the rain-shortened (480 miles) inaugural event.

August 1, 2010: Greg Biffle won the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, his 15th victory in 279 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. It was the No. 16 Ford driver's first victory and 12th top-10 finish in 2010. Biffle broke a 64-race winless streak. No. 14-Tony Stewart, the pole-sitter, led 2 laps and finished in 2nd place. Drivers leading 5 or more laps: No. 42-Juan Pablo Montoya (5 laps, finished 16th), 77-Sam Hornish Jr. (9, finished 11th), 11-Denny Hamlin (19, 5th), winner Biffle (28 laps), 24-Jeff Gordon (39, 6th) and 48-Jimmie Johnson led the most laps (96) and finished 10th.

June 12, 2011: Jeff Gordon won the 5-hour Energy 500, his 84th victory in 631 Cup races. It was the No. 24 Chevrolet driver's 2nd victory and 5th top-10 finish in 2011. It was his 5th victory and 26th top-10 finish in 37 races at Pocono Raceway. Drivers leading 5 or more laps: No. 22-Kurt Busch, the pole-sitter (37 laps, finished 2nd), No. 42-Juan Pablo Montoya (38 laps, finished 7th), winner Gordon (39 laps) and No. 11-Denny Hamlin led the most laps (76) and finished 19th. Four-time Pocono winner Hamlin was the car to beat until he got a flat and lost his brakes on lap 163 of 200.

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 Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson. There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's Good Sam RV Insurance 500 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

Mid-Pack picks

This will be Mark Martin's 50th Cup start at the Long Pond track where he has a very respectable 8.9 average start and an 11.2 average finish. Along the way, he's earned 3 poles, 33 top tens and 19 top fives. Martin also finished 40 of those races on the lead lap. His two most recent finishes were a 7th in this race last August and an 18th in June. Turner Motorsports feels Martin is a good enough driver to pilot their No. 32 Chevrolet Silverado in this weekend's Camping World Truck Series race. This will be his first trip around Pocono in a truck but those laps on Saturday will definitely give the No. 5 Chevy driver an edge on Sunday.

According to NASCAR's loop data statistics for Pocono, Jeff Burton is the series best Closer. Over the past 13 races at the "Tricky Triangle" he has improved his position 64 spots over the last 10 percent of the race. He's also 10th-best in the Quality Pass category for passing 1,045 cars under green-flag conditions. Burton picked up top tens in three of his last five Pocono starts. In 35 starts here, he has a consistent 16th place finishing average and has led 104 laps. Give the No. 31 a look to maintain that average finish on Sunday.

Brian Vickers considers Pocono one of his strongest tracks, 'statistically speaking'. In 13 starts, his four top-five and five top-ten finishes are statistically strong. He's started inside the top 10 in eight of those races. That accounts for his 10.9 average start and 14.9 average finish. More statistically speaking; NASCAR's loop data for the last 13 races shows Vickers 5th in Laps Led (158) and 9th in Quality Passes (passed 492 cars under green). Remember, he missed the two 2010 races due to his medical condition so he would probably be ranked higher in those categories. He's a good choice for a fourth or fifth driver this week.

Martin Truex Jr. fits our criteria of a top 15 possibility at Pocono Raceway. In 11 starts, that's his average finish (15.6). He beat that average in his last two races here with finishes of 9th last August and 10th this past June. He had to charge through the field since he started both of those races deep in the lineup (28th and 31st). In the June 5-Hour Energy 500, he made 123 green flag passes to earn that top ten finish. Truex has only led 4 laps in those 11 races so we don't expect to see him in victory lane but a top 15 is a 'definite maybe'.


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



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