Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Heluva Good! at The Glen

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Track history: Watkins Glen International hosts one of the two road course races on the Cup schedule. The Glen has had an on-again off-again history of racing. In 1957, Buck Baker put his No. 87 Chevrolet on the pole, led all 44 laps to win the first NASCAR race. It wasn't until 1964 that NASCAR returned for two years and then again dropped the track from its schedule. After the track went into disrepair it was purchased by Corning Enterprises and International Speedway Corporation. They restored the facility and reopened it in 1984. On August 9, 1986, Tim Richmond drove the No. 25 Chevrolet from the pole to the checkered flag in NASCAR's return to The Glen.

The 2.45 mile track has 11 turns with varying lengths and banking ranging from 6 to 10 degrees. The Glen is different from Infineon in California (the other NASCAR road course) in that the straightaways are longer. Drivers who can brake well going into the tight turns and can run smooth laps will have an advantage over the rest of the field. Some teams hire road course specialists in one-race deals to replace their drivers for these events. The "hired guns" have prior experience at WGI, Infineon, sports car venues and even open-wheel road courses. The Cup regulars have improved their "non-oval" driving over the past few years and are giving the specialists a run for their money.

August 10, 2009: The 2009 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen was rescheduled from Sunday to Monday due to rain. 48-Jimmie Johnson took the green as the pole-sitter, led 4 of the 90 laps and finished 12th. A huge wreck on lap 62 in Turn 9 brought out the red flag for 20 minutes. 9-Kasey Kahne bumped 77-Sam Hornish Jr. who spun in front of 31-Jeff Burton and 24-Jeff Gordon. Gordon, who hit Hornish at full-speed, said it was the hardest hit of his career. 14-Tony Stewart, who started 13th, led the most laps (34) and earned his series-leading 5th career win at WGI.

August 8, 2010: Juan Pablo Montoya won the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen from a 3rd place start. It was the No. 42 Chevrolet driver's 1st win and 9th top-10 finish in 2010. No. 99 Carl Edwards won the pole, lost the lead (to Jamie McMurray) before the end of first lap and finished 5th (led 0 laps). Drivers leading 5 or more laps: No. 1-Jamie McMurray (5 laps, finished 6th), No. 47-Marcos Ambrose (8 laps, finished 3rd) and winner Montoya led the most laps (74).

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, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. There were 46 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen in Watkins Glen, New York.

Mid-Pack picks

This week, looking at drivers outside the top 15 in championship points for mid-pack picks finally got a little easier. Our top pick is the defending winner of this event. Juan Pablo Montoya is 21st in the points and he's a 'gotta-have' at Watkins Glen International. In his first start here in 2007, he was running 6th, got hit from behind with less than 20 laps to go and finished 39th. He returned with determination and scored finishes of 4th, 6th and the 2010 victory. He has four top 10's in five starts at Infineon Raceway, including a win in 2007. In his one start in the Nationwide Series race at the Mexico City road course, he started 3rd and won the event. Over the last two years at Watkins Glen, Montoya and Marcos Ambrose are tied for the most championship points scored in 2010 and the, also, tied for the 2nd most points scored in 2009.

That leads us to our second choice of the week. In the 2007 Nationwide Series race at WGI, Marcos Ambrose finished 13th. He followed that up with three consecutive Zippo 200 victories. He won the 2010 race from the pole after leading 60 of the 82 laps. Ambrose won't be going for a four-peat at The Glen this weekend due to lack of sponsorship for the NNS race. In his first Cup start here in 2008, he drove from a 43rd place start to a 3rd place finish. In 2009, he finished runner-up to favorite Stewart. His 2010 attempt at a Cup win looked favorable if not for Montoya's dominance. Ambrose led eight laps and his 3rd place earned him a 2.7 average Cup finish at the track. He did well at Infineon Raceway in June. His 5th place finish there made it all top 6's in his last three starts at the left-coast road course.

Our next pick comes from the six or seven "hired guns" on the entry list. It's a toss-up between Ron Fellows (Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36) and Boris Said (Phoenix Racing No. 51). While Fellows has three wins here in the Nationwide Series and two in the trucks, he only has four top 15's in 13 Cup starts at WGI. Said, on the other hand, drove in seven Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car races at The Glen, winning three times in the GT class. His numbers in the three top NASCAR series are not as good as Fellows but we're leaning towards Said since he is the most fearless in the turns on road courses. In last season's event at this track, he qualified 13th and was running in the top 15 when he and Tony Stewart went for the 'same piece of real estate'. Both ended up in the garage. Give Boris a look for the tail-end of your roster (or flip a coin and maybe go with Fellows).

For our final pick, we're looking at Ambrose's teammate, AJ Allmendinger. This week he said: "I'm coming off of two race tracks that I'm not a big fan of racing at, so I'm excited to be going to The Glen. I've had pretty good finishes there in the past." That he did; he had finishes of 11th, 13th and 4th giving him a 9.3 average finish for his three WGI starts. In the 2010 edition of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen, he started the Petty No. 43 Ford 4th in the lineup, ran as high as 2nd, low as 15th, averaged a 4th place all race and finished 4th. Allmendinger also has finishes of 7th, 13th and 13th in his last three starts at Infineon Raceway. We think he's a very good pick for a possible road course top 15 on Sunday.


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



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