Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Wonderful Pistachios 400

Thursday, September 08, 2011


Track history: Richmond International Raceway (RIR) started out in 1946 as a 1/2-mile dirt oval. The first NASCAR Cup Series event was held there 7 years later. The track was finally paved in 1968. The facility's present configuration was constructed in September 1988. It is now a 3/4-mile 'D' shaped asphalt oval with banking of 14 degrees allowing the cars to average 125 mph laps. 

In 1991, lights were installed around the track and since then, all racing at Richmond is “under the lights.” 

RIR is almost completely surrounded by grandstand seats.  In May 2007, the new TORQUE Club and Commonwealth Grandstand opened to the public. After the September 2006 race, about 3,000 of the low-row seats were removed and the 180-foot high structure was built. This gave the Raceway a gain of almost 5,000 seats, bringing the seating capacity to 112,029. 

April 19, 1953: Buck Baker qualified the No. 87 Griffin Motors ’53 Oldsmobile on the pole for the 1953 Richmond 200 with a lap of 48.465 mph on the half-mile dirt track. He finished 3rd to race winner, Lee Petty. Petty, father of Richard Petty, won $1000 for putting his 1953 Petty Enterprises Dodge up front at the end of the 100 mile event. 

September 11, 2010: Carl Edwards was on pole for the Air Guard 400. He kept the No. 99 Ford out front for 95 laps and finished in 10th. Other lap leaders: No. 33-Clint Bowyer (33 laps, finished 6th), 31-Jeff Burton (11 laps, 13th), 48-Jimmie Johnson (7, 3rd) and 42-Juan Pablo Montoya (3, 7th). No. 11 Toyota driver, Denny Hamlin, was the class of the field with 251 laps led including the most important one as well. He was being chased at the end by teammate Kyle Busch (No. 18) but crossed the line in front by a 0.537 second margin of victory. This was Hamlin's 6th of 8 Cup victories in 2010. He went into the Chase as the top-seeded driver following this event. 

April 30, 2011: Kyle Busch won the Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400 from a 20th place start. It was the No. 18 Toyota driver’s 2nd victory in 2011 and 3rd at Richmond. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 99-Carl Edwards (11 laps, finished 5th), 56-Martin Truex Jr. (12 laps, 27th), 31-Jeff Burton (12 laps, 16th), 17-Matt Kenseth (16 laps, 21st), 33-Clint Bowyer (18 laps, 6th), pole-sitter 42-Juan Pablo Montoya (25 laps, 29th), 4-Kasey Kahne (29 laps, 3rd), 11-Denny Hamlin (38 laps, 2nd) and winner Busch led the most laps (235 of 400).  

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 Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. There were 46 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 in Richmond, Virginia.  

Mid-Pack picks 

In 34 Sprint Cup Series starts at RIR, Jeff Burton has one pole, one win (September 1998), nine top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. Burton was running at the finish in 33 of those races (a blown engine accounted for the one DNF). He holds a 14.9 starting average coupled with a 14.4 finishing average and has led 942 laps. Burton scored an 18th or better in 12 of the last 13 races and top tens in 3 of the last 6 of his starts at Richmond. He finished 16th here this past April. Give the No. 31 Chevy driver a look this week. 

In five career starts at RIR, Marcos Ambrose's best finish was a 5th in this race last September. His best start (13th) came in last year’s spring race. He has completed 1,997 of 2,000 laps attempted at the track and has an average finish of 14. Ambrose has the right attitude going into this weekend. He said: “We are going to Richmond to win this weekend. I’ve still got a chance to make the Chase, but we’ve got to have some things fall in our favor this weekend and winning will help tremendously." This is a good week to put the No. 9 on your roster.  

Mark Martin is ranked No. 1 in NASCAR Statistics loop data 'Closer' category. He gained an average of 2.8 positions in the last 10% of the most recent 13 races at Richmond. His average finish of 12.2 in 51 RIR starts is outstanding. If you limit it to the just the last 5 races at Richmond, he still comes up with a 13.6 average finish, including a 14th this past April. Besides his 1 win, 4 poles and 27 top-tens in the Cup Series, Martin has 5 wins in 25 Nationwide Series starts at the Virginia track.  

Last week at Atlanta, Kasey Kahne started on the pole and looked like he was on his way to picking up a 'wild card' slot in the Chase. That all changed when a bunched-up restart caused some front-end damage (he finished 34th). He's done alright at Richmond. He scored his first Cup Series career victory at this track (from the pole). In 15 Cup starts at RIR, he picked up six top-ten finishes, including a 3rd last April. He has also led 278 laps. While he only has a very slim chance of making the Chase (he's 84 points out of 10th, needs the win and a couple of other drivers need a bad night), we think Kahne will be doing his best to contend for the victory.



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



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