Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Dover: The AAA 400

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Track history: Known as the "Monster Mile", the one-mile concrete oval Dover International Speedway hosted its first Cup race in 1969. Two years later, the NASCAR races were extended to 500 miles and continued up until 1993 when its present 400-mile format was established.

Engine failures were common in the 500-mile races. Since the track has banked straightaways as well as the turns, rpm’s stay at a high level throughout the lap. Dover has 24-degree banking in the turns and 9-degree banking on the 1,076-foot frontstretch and backstretch.

The Nationwide Series joined Cup racing at Dover in 1982 giving the facility a larger weekend crowd. This, in turn, triggered grandstand expansions which continued for 16 consecutive seasons.

The Indy Racing League began running at Dover in 1998. Tony Stewart, in an open-wheel car, set a track record of over 185 mph around the 1-mile oval. Two years later, Kurt Busch won the first NASCAR Truck Series race (from the pole).

During the mid-1990’s the facility made some dramatic improvements. For the fans, after Delaware passed a law allowing them to exist at horse racing facilities, Dover Downs installed several slot machines. For the drivers, the asphalt track was ripped up and replaced by a concrete surface. This made for a faster, smoother and more competitive race.

In 2006, Dover announced plans for the “Monster Makeover,” a multi-year capital improvement project. A new skybox complex, luxury suites, additions to the media center, renovated restroom facilities, a new sound system and an expanded hospitality tent village was completed in 2007. The addition of the 46-foot 'Miles the Monster' Monument, expansion of the FanZone area and a new emergency services building were introduced in 2008. In 2009, construction was focused on pit road, including a 1,592 foot SAFER barrier, a 43rd pit stall (had only 42 prior) and all pit stalls were lengthened by 4 feet. Also, by eliminating all grass on the frontstretch and in Turn 4, the new pit wall was set closer to the apron of the track, creating a wider pit road.

Active drivers who made their Cup series debut at Dover: Bobby Labonte on June 3, 1991, Matt Kenseth on September 20, 1998, Kurt Busch on August 8, 2000 and David Ragan on September 24, 2006.

July 6, 1969: David Pearson put the Holman-Moody No. 17 Ford on the pole with a qualifying lap of 130.43 mph to lead the 32 car field for the 1969 Mason-Dixon 300. He led 26 of the 300 lap event but wrecked after 65 laps and placed 23rd. The Petty Enterprises No. 43 Ford, driven by Richard Petty, rolled off 3rd at the start, led 150 laps and finished 6 laps ahead of 2nd place, Sonny Hutchins and his No. 90 Ford. Petty earned $4,725 for the victory.

September 26, 2010: Jimmie Johnson won the AAA 400 from the pole. It was the No. 48 Chevrolet driver's 6th victory in 2010 and his 6th victory at Dover. Drivers leading 5 or more laps: No. 09-Bobby Labonte (5 laps, finished 27th), No. 18 Kyle Busch (46 laps, finished 6th), No. 43 AJ Allmendinger (143 laps, finished 10th) and winner Johnson led the most (191 laps).

May 15, 2011: Matt Kenseth won the FedEx 400 from a 24th place start in the lineup. It was the No. 17 Ford driver’s 2nd victory of 2011 and his 2nd win at Dover. Drivers leading 5 or more laps: No. 5 Mark Martin (6 laps, finished 2nd), No. 33 Clint Bowyer (29 laps, finished 6th), winner Kenseth (33 laps), No. 99 Carl Edwards (117 laps, finished 7th) and pole-sitter No. 48 Jimmie Johnson led the most laps (207) and finished 9th.

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, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. There were 45 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s AAA 400 in Dover, Delaware.

Mid-Pack Picks

In 35 Cup starts at this track, Jeff Burton has a 15.3 average finish. What has he done in his last 13 starts? He averaged an 8.5 finish, won the fall 2006 race, had worst finishes of 16th in both 2009 races, finished runner-up in the two 2010 races and earned an 11th place in the May 2011 FedEx 400. NASCAR Media's loop data shows Burton at the top of the category of Green Flag Passes for those 13 races as well. The charger from Virginia passed 589 cars while the race was under green flag conditions. This is an excellent week to consider the No. 31 Chevrolet for your team.

Another veteran to consider this week is four-time Dover winner Mark Martin. In 50 starts at the Delaware track, he has a 12th place average start and a 12th place average finish. He also had a 12th place average running position in the May 2011 race. Martin improved his average to an 8.4 for the last 13 races. Closer to the present, his most recent six starts resulted in 4th, 10th, 2nd, 15th, 12th and 2nd place finishes. He scored the 5th-most championship points of all drivers entered this weekend in those races. While he hasn't earned a victory here since 2004, you could say he has a reasonable shot at another top 15 on Sunday. 

In the May 2011 race, Martin Truex Jr. started 8th, led a lap, never fell out of the top 15, averaged an 8th place running position and finished where he started in 8th. At a track the Mayetta, New Jersey driver considers his home turf, after leading 216 laps in the 2007 race, Truex earned his one and only Sprint Cup win. He also has two Dover Nationwide Series victories in his resume. Truex is a bit of a gamble since his last four Dover starts ended in 33rd, 12th, 34th and 8th place finishes. We're looking at him since he's put together a decent string of results since Pocono (the last 8 races). He's averaged a 14th place finish in those events. Give the No. 56 driver a look to maintain that average at his favorite track.

With the future of Red Bull Racing and Brian Vickers' 2012 season up in the air, we think he's out to show potential owners and sponsors that he's still got it. He has had success at Dover in the past. Vickers has 5 Nationwide Series starts here averaging a 6.2 finish including one win (2003). His 20th place average finish in 13 Cup starts atDover isn't impressive but his last two races resulted in an 18th and a 5th. In the May race, he started 15th and got into the wall on the second lap. He dropped as low as 42nd but managed to charge back up (making 55 green flag passes) to finish 5th. Like Truex, Vickers is also a gamble, but he could make you look pretty smart in your fantasy league on Monday.



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



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