Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Michigan: Pure Michigan 400

Thursday, August 18, 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.

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), No. 11-Denny Hamlin (12, finished 2nd), Johnson (14, 12th), No. 14-Tony Stewart (36, 6th), winner Harvick (60 laps) and No. 16-Greg Biffle led the most (66, finished 4th).

June 19, 2011: Denny Hamlin won the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 from a 10th place start; his 17th victory in 202 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. This was the No. 11 Toyota driver's 1st victory in 2011 and his 2nd consecutive spring race victory at Michigan. Drivers leading 5 or more laps: Hamlin (8 laps), No. 22-(pole-sitter) Kurt Busch (9 laps, finished 11th), No. 17-Matt Kenseth (17, finished 2nd), No. 99-Carl Edwards (3o, finished 5th), No. 18-Kyle Busch (59, finished 3rd) and No. 16-Greg Biffle led the most (68 laps, finished 15th).

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 46 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Mid-Pack picks

We liked Brian Vickers in the June race at MIS and he came through with a 10th place finish. Not only did he earn Red Bull Racing their first team win in the Sprint Cup Series with his victory at Michigan (August 2009), Vickers also scored top-10 finishes in his last six starts at the 2-mile oval. He's a pretty good qualifier at the track as well. In his last four starts here, he started from the pole in three races and was 4th in the lineup in June. Vickers entered five Nationwide Series races at MIS. His last three were top three starts (including a pole) and those races resulted in 6th, 2nd and 2nd finishes. It's no wonder Vickers considers MIS "his favorite track".

This week we're looking at two drivers with one win each and a good chance to creep into the top 20 in points. This would give them a shot at the wild-card spot in the Chase. First is last week's winner at The Glen, Marcos Ambrose, 22nd in the standings. He said it best himself this week: "We just came off of our first Cup Series win and we've got great momentum heading into this weekend. We did well there earlier in the year and I feel like we've got a chance to run in the top 10 and contend for another win." His best two finishes (both 15th place) came in the 2010 events. Ambrose is also running the Nationwide Series race in Montreal on Saturday. Fellow Tasmanian Owen Kelly will practice and qualify his NNS entry while Ambrose concentrates on his Michigan ride.

The other possible wild-card driver with one win is David Ragan. He's 23rd in the points and has an average finish of 17.8 for nine starts at Michigan. Ragan finished 11th in the 2010 race and 20th this past June. The team is bringing the same car this weekend that sat on the pole at Indy. Racing at team owner Jack Roush's "home track" (also near Ford's home town) and being close to getting back into the top 20 in points are big incentives for Ragan to do well this weekend. We don't expect a top 5 but a top 15 is a possibility for the No. 6 on Sunday.

Prior to the June 2011 race, David Reutimann had an average finish of 15th place for his previous five starts at the Irish Hills facility. He looked to maintain that average in June after starting on the outside pole. That was before the No. 00 developed fuel pump issues. He finished the race a disappointing 20 laps down in 35th. Reutimann took a wicked hit last week on the final lap at Watkins Glen but he says he's "already moved on from Monday's wreck." He also said "a place like Michigan favors us a little bit more than normal." We're taking him at his word and tagging him at the end of our roster.

Here's a "bonus" pick. Brad Keselowski is in the top 15 in points so we won't talk about him. If you don't like any of our other picks, look at the "injured" driver, 14th in the standings and known as the current NASCAR "Ironman".


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


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