Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Bristol:Irwin Tools Night Race

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Track history: Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) was built after Larry Carrier and Carl Moore saw a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960. They wanted to build a smaller version of CMS in Tennessee and decided on a half-mile oval. Work began on a former dairy farm in 1960 and a year later the speedway was born with 22 degree banking in the turns. 18,000 fans attended the first NASCAR race at BMS in 1961. The track was reshaped in 1969 with the turns banked at 36 degrees. After the reshaping it became a 0.533-mile oval.

In August of 1992 the track was resurfaced from the original asphalt to become the first speedway to host a NASCAR Cup event on a concrete surface. In March 2007, right after the Food City 500, a multimillion-dollar project of removing and replacing the concrete racing surface, asphalt apron, pit road and all the retaining walls around the track was started. Conditions do not change during a race because concrete isn't as sensitive to weather changes like an asphalt paved track. Since the straightaways are only 650 feet long on the 0.533-mile oval, the drivers are constantly braking, turning and accelerating which makes for a demanding race. The key to passing at Bristol is to be at the bottom in the turns and getting a good run off the corners. That's why shocks, springs and brakes are critical in the race setup.

July 30, 1961: Fred Lorenzen started the No. 28 Holman-Moody 1961 Ford on the pole for the Volunteer 500, the first Bristol Cup race. He made it through 175 laps of the 500 lap event before losing the rear end and finished 33rd. Jack Smith, who started 12th in his own No. 46 Pontiac, led the most laps (243) and earned $3,025 for the inaugural BMS victory.

August 21, 2010: The Irwin Tools Night Race started with Jimmie Johnson sitting on the pole. It looked like another JJ show with the No. 48 leading 169 of the first 171 laps, but on lap 262, Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42) hooked the No. 48 and Johnson would spend a lot of time in the garage for repairs. He finished in 35th, about 75 laps down to the leaders. Kyle Busch took the No. 18 Toyota to the front on lap 172, led a race-high 283 laps, and made NASCAR history. He became the first driver to sweep the three major NASCAR touring series events in the same weekend. In the Nationwide Series race, he led 116 of 250 laps en route to victory in the Food City 250. He also won the Camping World Series O'Reilly 200 after leading 116 of the 206 lap event. This was also his 3rd consecutive truck win at BMS.

March 20, 2011: Kyle Busch won the Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City. It was his fifth win in 13 Cup races at Bristol. It was also the No. 18 Toyota driver's fifth consecutive NASCAR national series win (Cup, NNS, and trucks) at Bristol. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: Pole-sitter No. 99 Carl Edwards (18 laps, finished 2nd), No. 39 Ryan Newman (26 laps, 10th), No.27 Paul Menard (35 laps, 5th), No. 29 Kevin Harvick (37 laps, 6th), No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. (63 laps, 17th), winner Busch (153 laps) and No. 48 Jimmie Johnson led the most (164, finished 3rd).

Your fantasy game 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, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race in Bristol, Tennessee.

Mid-Pack picks

Bristol Motor Speedway is another track where Jamie McMurray is considered a "charger". He's ranked second in NASCAR's loop data category for Green Flag passes. Over the last 13 races here McMurray has passed 642 cars under green flag racing. He's also scored the second-most championship points (behind track favorite Kyle Busch) in the last two Bristol Cup races. Another good reason to look at Jamie Mac is the fact he brings the car home. Of all the drivers entered this weekend with at least 15 Bristol starts he's the only one who finished all of his races.

In only five Cup starts at Thunder Valley, Marcos Ambrose earned the third highest rank in the loop data "Quality Passes" category. He passed cars 130 times while running in the top 15. In his first race on this difficult track (the 2009 Food City 500), he qualified 13th, ran as high as 2nd, drove the last 50 laps on 7 cylinders and still managed a 10th place finish. He carries a decent 16.2 average finish at BMS including a 15th this past March. Over the last couple of weeks, Ambrose won at Watkins Glen, won the Nationwide Series race in Montreal last Saturday and was running in the top 10 most of Sunday's Cup race at Michigan until a pit stop just before at G-W-C finish shuffled the field (finished 27th). This is a good week to put Ambrose on your team.

In 11 starts at Bristol, Martin Truex Jr. has an unimpressive 22.4 mid-pack average finish. In his last three starts here he had finishes of 12th, 17th and 17th which is a big improvement (15.3). In fact, this week he vowed to "close the deal this time". This was based on his leading 63 laps in the first of half of the March race. He said this week he plans to "dominate the closing laps" instead. He already found victory lane at the Tennessee track where he won a Nationwide Series race in 2004. Give the determined No. 56 driver a look this week.

David Reutimann has had his problems over the last three races at Bristol. He started 10th in the March 2010 race, was running 3rd and dropped a cylinder after about 113 laps (credited with 38th). Last August, he was suffering from a stomach bug but still managed to pull through with a 2nd place finish to Kyle Busch. This past March, he got collected in "someone else's wreck" on lap 28. He finished that race in 30th (7 laps down). He finished in the top 11 in five of his six Nationwide Series starts at Bristol. He drove a truck in three Bristol races; earned one pole award and two top 15's. Reutimann is a decent pick for a possible top 15 on Saturday night.


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



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