Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Talladega: Good Sam Club 500

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Track history: Talladega Superspeedway was built in 1969 in an old soybean field near Anniston, Alabama. Track builders Bill France, Sr. and Bill Ward wanted it to be the biggest and fastest superspeedway on the Cup circuit. It is, without a doubt, the fastest racetrack in the world. Bill Elliott qualified at over 212 mph in 1987 at the 2.66-mile facility, which led to NASCAR's decision to slow down the cars here and at Daytona because speeds were getting unsafe. Both tracks use restrictor plates to limit the horsepower of the cars. Speeds on the straights (4,000 foot backstretch and 4,300 foot frontstretch) still exceed 200 mph.
The track is a high-banked trioval that is four lanes wide, with 33 degree banking at the ends and 18-degree banking in the trioval. For this reason, Talladega has a lot of 3-wide racing and it's not unusual to see the whole field running together at top speed the same as they did when the green flag dropped at the beginning of the race. The drivers run wide open all the way around the track, never lifting except to avoid getting caught up in the big wrecks, which are common in restrictor plate racing.

September 14, 1969: After driving the No. 71 K & K Insurance ‘69 Dodge to a 196.386 mph qualifying lap, Bobby Isaac started on the pole for the first NASCAR Cup race, the 1969 Talladega 500. It was the first of five consecutive Talladega poles for Isaac. After leading 13 laps, Isaac finished 4th. Richard Brickhouse, in the No. 99 Nichols Engineering ‘69 Dodge, started 9th and won the race. The average race speed for that event was 153.778 mph.

October 31, 2010: Juan Pablo Montoya paced the field as the pole sitter for the 2010 Amp Energy Juice 500.  His No. 42 was out front for 18 laps and finished 3rd. There were 2 medium size wrecks, one at lap 142 involving 6 cars and another on the final lap (188) taking out 5 more. The white flag had already dropped before the last wreck so the race ended under caution. Teammates, Kevin Harvick (29) and Clint Bowyer (33) were the leaders on the final lap and had to wait for NASCAR to “view the tapes” to determine who was ahead when the caution came out. The win went to Bowyer; the 4th of his career and 2nd in 2010 (Loudon – September).

April 17, 2011: Jimmie Johnson won the Aaron’s 499 from a 2nd place start. It was the No. 48 Chevrolet driver’s 1st victory of 2011 and his 2nd at Talladega. The margin of victory of 0.002 seconds (over 2nd place Clint Bowyer) tied the closest margin of victory (Darlington - 3/16/2003) since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 4-Dale Earnhardt Jr. (11 laps, finished 4th), winner Johnson (14 laps), 22-Kurt Busch (19, 18th), 36-Dave Blaney (21, 27th) and 33-Clint Bowyer led the most (38 laps) and finished 2nd. Pole-sitter, No. 24 Jeff Gordon led 9 laps and finished 3rd.

Active driver who made his Cup series debut at Talladega: Jamie McMurray on 10/6/2002 (started 5th and finished 26th).

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, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.  There were 46 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500 in Anniston, Alabama.

Mid-Pack picks

Joey Logano finished 9th, 3rd, 36th, 5th and 10th in five Cup starts at the superspeedway. He was running near the front during the first of three green-white-checker attempts in the April 2010 race when he was involved in a 9-car 'Big One'. Okay, when he ran into the back of Ryan Newman, Logano triggered the wreck. He has three Nationwide Series starts here over the last three years and finished 3rd, 2nd and 2nd. He finished 2nd in his lone ARCA Series start at Talladega. Even with that 36th place finish, Logano's 12.6 average finish at 'Dega in the Cup Series is the best of all active drivers. He's our top mid-pack for Sunday's Good Sam Club 500.

Jamie McMurray won here in November 2009. In his next 'Dega start in April 2010, he looked to be the winner on the last lap but came up short to winner Kevin Harvick by .011 seconds. He also won the Daytona 500 in 2010, making it two plate race wins in a row.  McMurray had some contact with another car about 2/3 of the way into the October 2010 race, went down a couple of laps for repairs and never recovered (finished 36th). In the April 2011 race, he and teammate Montoya were contenders, running as tandem partners in the top 5 with about 16 laps to go, until Montoya was run into by another car. McMurray finished 21st. Anything can happen at Talladega, but, if he keeps out of trouble, look for McMurray up in the top 15 again this Sunday.

Speaking of Juan Pablo Montoya, even though this has not been a "career" season for him, we like his chances this week. He had a pair of 3rd place finishes at the Alabama track in 2010. He finished 6th and 9th in the two Daytona races this season. We mentioned above that he was a contender in April at Talladega until Ryan Newman lost it and ran into him on lap 171 of 188. Montoya was credited with a 30th place finish. While he hasn't been great this season, he does have top 15's in five of the last seven races. Give the No. 42 Chevy a look for a good run this weekend.

David Ragan finished 8th in his first trip to ‘Dega in a 2005 ARCA Re/Max race. In 2006, he ran a truck race; started 2nd, finished 7th. He won his first career Nationwide Series race in the Aaron’s 312 here in 2009. Six out of his nine Sprint Cup starts here resulted in top 17 finishes. In the fall 2008 race, he had to drop to the rear at the green because of an engine change and worked his way up to finish a Cup career best of 3rd. His lone Sprint Cup win was scored this past July. That was at the other restrictor plate track, Daytona. Ragan has an overall average finish of 17th place at Talladega and that’s where we expect him to finish on Sunday.



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


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