Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Fort Worth: AAA Texas 500

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Track history: NASCAR speedway owner Bruton Smith announced plans to build a multi-million dollar superspeedway in the Fort Worth/Dallas market late in 1994. Construction started in August 1995 on the 1.5-mile dual-banked Texas Motor Speedway. Dual-banked turns angled at 8 and 24 degrees allow NASCAR and Indy-style racing.
On the first lap of the inaugural Cup race in 1997, as the field entered Turn 1, 13 of the 43 car starting field were involved in a massive wreck. Darrell Waltrip's car was the only one to be retired after the accident. TMS did some reconstruction work in 1998, eliminating the 8-degree dual-banking, resurfaced the track, all to the tune of $4 million. They also added 4,800 seats in 1998.
In 1999, TMS spent $2.5 million on the 4/10-mile clay-surfaced dirt track to host the World of Outlaws sprint cars. 10,000 more seats were added in 1999, bringing the total capacity to 154,861. The sold-out 1999 PRIMESTAR 500 was the largest attended sporting event in Texas history. In 2000, TMS had to fix some track flaws, a dip, caused by erosion, under turn 4 and other problem areas in turns 1 and 2.
Late in 2001, TMS was in the resurfacing mode again. This time, the entire 1.5-mile speedway was repaved with a granite-based asphalt compound over a concrete base. The track had been extremely fast since it opened and after that resurfacing, the straightaway speeds approached 200 mph.

April 6, 1997: The 1997 Interstate Batteries 500 was the inaugural Cup race at TMS. Qualifying was rained-out, so the current point leader at the time, Dale Jarrett, lined up in front of the field with his No. 88 Quality Care Ford. Jarrett led 42 of the 334 lap event and finished 2nd.  Jeff Burton drove the No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford from 5th in the lineup, led 60 laps, and scored the victory. With an average race speed of 125.111 mph, due to several wrecks, it was the slowest Texas Cup race on record.

November 7, 2010: Elliott Sadler's No. 19 Stanley Ford and Greg Biffle's No. 16 American Red Cross Ford shared the front row for the AAA Texas 500. Biffle passed pole-sitter Sadler on lap 1, led a race-high 224 laps and finished 5th. Sadler never led a lap and brought his Ford home in 23rd. Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota 30th in the lineup, led 31 laps and battled Matt Kenseth (17) down to the wire. Kenseth actually passed Hamlin on the final lap but brushed the wall (finished 2nd). Hamlin took the win, which not only gave him a 2010 Texas sweep, but also earned him the 2010 points lead.

April 9, 2011: Matt Kenseth won the Samsung Mobile 500 from a 4th place start. It was the No. 17 Ford driver’s first victory of 2011, breaking his 76-race winless streak. It was Kenseth’s second victory at Texas. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 6 (pole-sitter) David Ragan (11 laps, finished 7th), No. 14 Tony Stewart (12, 12th), No. 2 Brad Keselowski (32, 18th), No. 33 Clint Bowyer (44, 2nd), No. 22 Kurt Busch (50, 10th) and winner Kenseth led the most (169 laps).

Active drivers who made their Cup series debut at Fort Worth: Brad Keselowski on 11/2/2008 and Trevor Bayne on 11/7/2010.

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, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth 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 AAA Texas 500 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mid-Pack picks

AJ Allmendinger scored top 15 finishes in three of his last four starts, including a 14th last November, at Texas Motor Speedway. He started the April TMS race 15th in the lineup and ran as high as 3rd place. After averaging a 15th place running position he finished 19th. He did not lead any laps in those four races but he did spend 592 of the 1333 laps (around 45% of the time) running in the top 15. Allmendinger is coming off a strong 11th place finish at Martinsville where he led 19 laps. We think he's a decent choice for a fourth or fifth driver on your roster for Sunday's race.

We're also looking at AJ's teammate, Marcos Ambrose, this week. In his first start here in the fall of 2008, Ambrose finished 21st. His next start ended early due to a blown engine. Over the last four Fort Worth races, his results were 15th, 17th, 12th and 6th. He scored a 10th place finish in the 2006 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at TMS. He also finished 18th and 9th in the two Texas NASCAR Nationwide Series races in 2008. NASCAR Statistics ranks him 2nd in Quality Passes. Ambrose passed 251 cars while running in the top 15 during the last six TMS races. He averaged a 7th place running position back in April and crossed the finish line in 6th place. Give the No. 9 Ford a look this weekend.

Jeff Burton, a two-time Texas winner (including the inaugural race), has finished no worse than 13th in eight out of the last nine races at the Fort Worth venue. Over his Cup career 21 races here, he holds a 24.8 starting average and a 15.9 finishing average. In 13 TMS starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, he has a 'perfect 10' (13 top tens, averaged a 6.1 finish). Burton started 12th in the April 2011 Cup race, averaged a 14th place running position, and finished 11th. He's coming off a 2nd at Talladega (by a fraction of a second) and a 6th at Martinsville. This momentum should carry over to one of his better tracks.

Compared to any other track on the Cup circuit, David Ragan holds his best qualifying average of 13.0 at Texas Motor Speedway. That includes a pole in the April 2011 Samsung Mobile 500. He earned top 17 finishes in 7 of the last 8 Cup races held at this track. His best result was a 7th in the April event this season. Ragan has a pole and 5 top ten finishes in 7 Fort Worth NASCAR Nationwide Series starts. He's pulling double-duty this weekend driving the No. 08 Texas Tech University Ford Mustang in Saturday's NNS race. Ragan scored 2 top ten finishes in 3 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at this track as well. This would be a good week to consider the No. 6  “UPS My Choice" guy for spot on your roster.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
Email :Anthony Ballantoni

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