Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Atlanta: The AdvoCare 500

Friday, September 02, 2011


Track history: Fireball Roberts earned just $10,130 for winning the 1960Dixie 300, the first race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS). The purse for all the drivers totaled $39,000. Opened in July 1960, AMS was one of the best of the new superspeedways being built all over at the time. This 1.54-mile oval is the fastest track the Cup guys compete on and is the one they fear the most. Since it is not a "restrictor plate" track and speeds top 200 mph at the end of the backstretch, drivers know if they find the wall here, they will definitely know it. The good thing about not having restrictor plates is the cars will be spread out and wrecks like the "Big One" wrecks at Daytona andTalladega aren’t usually a concern at Atlanta. Bruton Smith purchased theSpeedway in 1990 and has spent over $100 million improving the facility, including the nine-story structure that houses the corporate offices of AMS as well as 46 luxury condos. Recent additions also include a road course and over 53,000 more seats giving AMS a total capacity of 124,000 seats. In 1997, at a cost of $30 million, the start/finish line was moved from the south side of the track to the north side, and the configuration of the Hampton, Ga. facility changed from a 1.522- mile oval to a 1.54-mile quad-oval similar to Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedways. After 50 years of hosting two Cup Series events, AMS dropped the spring race for the 2011 season.Speedwayowner Bruton Smith kept the September race on the schedule. According to Smith, he would like to again have a second event in the future “But not in March”.

July 31, 1960: Fireball Roberts started on the pole for the 1960 Dixie 300 in the John Hines owned No. 22 car. Roberts led 28 laps in the 1960 Pontiac, including the last one, to win the first Cup race held at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  A 22-year old Richard Petty drove the soon-to-be famous No. 43 Petty Plymouth to a 20th place finish in that race as well.

March 7, 2010: Dale Earnhardt Jr. captured the pole for the 2010 Kobalt Tools 500. 12-Kurt Busch passed the No. 88 at the drop of the green flag. Earnhardt never led a lap and finished 15th. This was the race where 99-Carl Edwards and 12-Brad Keselowski did battle until lap 323 when Edwards tagged the 12 and sent it into the wall. Keselowski went airborne and onto his roof ending his chance at a top 5 finish. Edwards was parked for the remainder of the race and both drivers received NASCAR probation as a result. 9-Kasey Kahne led the most laps (144 of 341) and finished 4th. The leader of the first lap, and a total of 129 laps, Kurt Busch, came away the winner. It was his second consecutive victory in theAtlanta spring races.

September 5, 2010: Tony Stewart won the Emory Healthcare 500 from a 5th place start. It was the No. 14 Chevrolet driver’s 1st victory in 2010 and 3rd at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Drivers leading 5 or more laps: No. 48- Jimmie Johnson (8 laps, finished 3rd), No. 39-Ryan Newman (9 laps, finished 8th), No. 2-Kurt Busch (10 laps, finished 6th), No. 9-Kasey Kahne (16 laps, finished 32nd), No. 99-Carl Edwards (32 laps, finished 2nd), No. 11-Denny Hamlin (pole-sitter) (74 laps, blew engine, credited with a 43rd place) and winner, Stewart led the most laps (176 of 325).

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, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.  There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500 in Hampton, Georgia.

Mid-Pack picks

Juan Pablo Montoya’s last three starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway resulted in finishes of 3rd, 3rd and 9th. He led 31 laps in the September 2009 race.  In those three races he qualified in the top-10 two times, completed all 991 of the laps run and scored more championship points than any other driver. Montoya is ranked No. 1 in NASCAR Media’s ‘Quality Passes’ (passing while running in the top 15) category. In 8 races, 45% of his passes (363 times) were QP’s. He seems to have figured out this venue.

In 33 starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Burton has career-best finishes of 4th place in five races, including last September’s event. He doesn’t qualify well (a 25.2 average) but he has a decent 16.8 average finish. Over the last 12 races at AMS, NASCAR’s loop data shows Burton was 10th-best in running in the top 15. He also averaged a 14.2 finish in those races and, while we don’t expect him to be battling for the lead on Sunday, we do think he’s going to maintain that average finish.

The last time Brian Vickers raced at Atlanta was in March 2010 (he finished 7th). He missed the September 2010 race due to his medical condition. In 2009, he posted finishes of 5th and 7th.  Vickers is 2nd in the ‘Green Flag Passes’ loop data category. He’s passed cars 794 times under green flag conditions during the last 12 AMS races. We’re suggesting the No. 83 driver as a good choice for a fourth or fifth driver in Sunday’s race.

This weekend, Jamie McMurray is pulling Atlanta double-duty with a start in JR Motorsports No. 7 in the Nationwide Series race as well as his regular No. 1 Chevy Cup ride. He’s the defending race winner of the Great Clips 300; his 2nd NNS victory at this track. Back to the Cup Series; McMurray finished 15th in last Labor Day Weekend’s event. He’s ranked higher than Vickers in the ‘Green Flag Passes’ category for the last 12 races. He passed more cars (806 times) under green flag conditions than any other driver. McMurray is coming off a strong race at Bristol where he started 6th and finished 5th. Give the ‘Golden Arches’ car a look for another top 15 this weekend.



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



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