Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Chicagoland: GEICO 400

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Track history: For several years, NASCAR planned to build a track in the Chicago area. A preliminary plan was formed in late1995 between NASCAR’s Bill France, Jr. and Tony George, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  After several unsuccessful attempts to find a suitable location for the new venue, Dale Coyne, owner of the newly built (1998) Route 66 Raceway contacted France and George with a new idea. They formed Raceway Associates and planned a superspeedway adjacent to Coyne’s highly successful drag racing facility. Their intent was to build the Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5-mile oval racetrack, to host NASCAR and IRL events. Construction began in August 1999 and the racetrack hosted its first Cup event in 2001.
 

The difference between this track and the other 1.5-mile D-shaped ovals at Las Vegas, Kansas, Texas and Charlotte, is that the backstretch is slightly curved rather than a straightaway. This gives the drivers a feeling of turning left the entire race.
 

Beginning with the 2011 season, the lone race at the Joliet track was moved from July to become the first race in the 10-event 'post-season' Chase to the Sprint Cup.

July 15, 2001: Teammates Todd Bodine and Jimmy Spencer shared the front row in a pair of Travis Carter Kmart Fords for the start of the Tropicana 400. Bodine’s No. 66 qualified on the pole with a speed of 183.717 mph. He led 6 laps and finished 14th. Spencer finished 5th after leading 50 laps in the No. 26. Kevin Harvick, driver of the Richard Childress No. 29 Goodwrench Chevrolet, started 6th in the lineup, led 113 of the 267 lap event, and scored his 2nd Cup career victory in only his 17th start.

July 10, 2010: David Reutimann won the Lifelock.com 400 from 7th place in the lineup. It was the No. 00 Toyota driver's first victory in 2010 and first top-10 finish in four starts at Chicagoland. Drivers leading at least 10 laps in the 267 lap race: No. 24-Jeff Gordon (47 laps, finished 3rd), winner Reutimann (52 laps) and No. 1-Jamie McMurray (pole-sitter) (72 laps, finished 5th). No. 48-Jimmie Johnson, who started 2nd, led the most laps (92) and finished a lap down in 25th after a couple of incidents during the race.

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 Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.  There were 48 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's GEICO 400 in Joliet, Illinois.

Mid-Pack picks

With an average finish of 8.8 in five starts at Chicagoland Speedway, you have to look at Brian Vickers as a top mid-pack choice. He lined-up in the first three rows for four of those races including the pole in 2009. He qualified 8th, 8th and 2nd for his last three Nationwide Series starts and backed that up with finishes of 3rd, 4th and 3rd. If he can keep his distance from the No. 9 (Ambrose) this weekend, you can expect another strong run from the No. 83 Toyota Camry. 

David Reutimann has four Cup starts at the Joliet track. Besides being the defending winner of this event, he finished 12th in 2009 and 14th in 2008. He scored the 3rd highest number of driver points in those three races (behind favorites Gordon and Stewart). He also has five starts here in the Nationwide Series. The last three ended in top tens including a 5th from the pole in 2008. Give the double-zero a look for a top 15 or better in the Windy City.

Kasey Kahne's first four Cup starts at Chicagoland averaged a 33rd place finish. His last three resulted in 15th, 3rd and 6th (an 8th place average). In fact, only track favorite Gordon scored more points in the last two Cup races at the Illinois track than Kahne. He had similar results in the Nationwide Series at this track. He averaged a 27th place in his first couple of races and improved that average to a 14th place for his last four starts. This could be another weekend for a single-digit finish for the No. 4 car.

Okay, let's make this a Toyota sweep this week. Martin Truex Jr. has five Cup starts at Chicagoland of which four resulted in top 16 finishes. He has three Nationwide Series starts here with all three results in the top 16. At this track, he's rated 2nd in NASCAR Statistics loop data “Quality Passes” (passing while running in the top 15) category. Over the last six races (he drove in only 5), 53% of his 318 green flag passes were Quality Passes. In the July 2010 race, all 34 green flag passes were QP's. Give the No. 56 a look for another top 16 or better on Sunday.



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



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