Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Homestead-Miami: Ford 400

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Track history: NASCAR racing made its debut in the Miami area in November of 1995 with the grand opening of Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. The ultra-modern facility, located south of Miami, drew a sellout crowd of 60,000 race fans to its first event, the season finale for the 1995 NASCAR Nationwide (Busch) Series. The first Cup Series race was held in 1999.

In 2003, the 1.5 mile oval completed a $10 million major reconstruction project to increase the banking in the turns from almost flat 6-degrees to a variable 18-20 degrees. This gave the fans some exciting side-by-side racing to view during the 2003 season ending weekend. SAFER barriers were installed in front of the cement walls in the turns as part of the reconfiguration project as well.

MUSCO lighting was added to the facility after the end of the 2004 season. The 2005 season finales for all three NASCAR premier divisions debuted night racing at the speedway.

November 14, 1999: After a qualifying lap of 155.759 mph in the Tim Beverley owned No. 45 Pontiac Grand Prix, David Green started on the pole, led seven laps and finished 22nd in the 1999 Pennzoil 400. Tony Stewart put the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac 7th in the lineup, led 44 laps and came away the winner of the inaugural Cup race with an average speed of 140.335 mph (a race record on the pre-2003 track layout).

November 22, 2009: Jimmie Johnson just had to show up for the Ford 400 and finish ahead of teammate Mark Martin to earn his 4th NSCS championship. He started on the pole, put the No. 48 Chevrolet up front for 28 of the 267 lap event and finished 5th (Martin finished 12th).  Denny Hamlin had to drive the No. 11 from deep in the field (38th) to the front and took over the lead around lap 150. After leading a race-high 71 laps he scored the victory. Other top lap leaders were No. 29 Kevin Harvick (56 laps led; finished 3rd), No. 14 Tony Stewart (43; 22nd), No. 2 Kurt Busch (43; 4th) and No. 31 Jeff Burton (19; 2nd).

November 21, 2010: Carl Edwards won the Ford 400 from a 2nd place start. It was the No. 99 Ford driver's second victory of 2010. It was also Edwards' second victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Drivers leading 10 or more laps in the 267 lap race: No. 83 (pole-sitter) Kasey Kahne (10 laps, finished 6th), No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. (62 laps, finished 11th) and winner Edwards led the most (190 laps).

Active driver who made his Cup series debut at Homestead: Juan Pablo Montoya on 11/19/2006. He started 29th and finished 34th.

Fantasy games won’t allow you to pick all track favorites so Mid-Pack Attack is here to help. With only 3 points separating 1st and 2nd  in the championship standings, and, since every other driver is ‘mathematically eliminated’, every few laps in the season finale will be filled with commentary on where Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart stand “if the race should end now”. This is also a tough race to predict since teammates of the two (or fellow Chevrolet or Ford drivers) may be helping them win the title. Most of the other drivers don’t want to be the cause of Edwards or Stewart losing the Cup; and, then, there are those who just want to win the race at any cost. That being said, here are our best guesses for our last mid-pack picks of the season for Sunday’s Ford 400 in Homestead, Florida.

Mid-Pack picks

Over the last five Cup races at Homestead, Martin Truex Jr. has scored the 5th-most points of all drivers. NASCAR Statistics loop data for the last six HMS races lists him 1st in their Quality Passes category (he passed 327 times while running in the top-15), 1st in their Closer category (he improved an average 6.8 positions during the last 10 percent of the races) and 2nd in their Average Running Position category (a 9.6 average, favorite Edwards was 1st). His worst finish in the last five season-ending races was an 11th (2010). Truex is our top mid-pack pick to close out 2011.

In 12 starts at Homestead, Jeff Burton has four top-five and five top-ten finishes with his best effort of second coming in November 2009. He has two NASCAR Nationwide Series Homestead winner's trophies earned in 1998 and 2007. Burton has definitely come alive over the last month or so. He scored top-tens in three of the last four races and, if he hadn't lost the fuel gamble while leading with five to go in Fort Worth, he would have stolen the win. Burton is not a teammate of either of the title contenders and he's hungry. We think he's going for broke on Sunday.

Okay, last week we told you we picked AJ Allmendinger in only two races this season (Watkins Glen where he finished 8th and Fort Worth where he finished 10th). Well, he came through at Phoenix with a 6th, and, now we're going with him again at Homestead. He has three previous Cup starts here that resulted in 11th, 10th and 5th place finishes. That almost matches his most recent finishes this season; an 11th at Martinsville, 10th at Fort Worth and the 6th last weekend. Do you see a pattern here? Give Allmendinger a look for another strong run at the South Florida track.

Mark Martin is closing out his full-time career (again!) in Sunday's race before moving to a part-time ride for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012. He raced in eight Nationwide Series events at HMS scoring seven top-fives and a 14th. He entered two truck races at this venue; finished 8th in 2005 and won the 2007 season finale. We don't expect him to leave Hendrick Motorsports with a Sprint Cup win or a top-five, but, since his worst finish over his last six Homestead Cup races was an 18th, a top-15 is not out of the question. Round out your final 2011 fantasy roster this weekend with the No. 5 Chevrolet.



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



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