Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Bristol: Food City 500

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Track history: Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) was built after Larry Carrier and Carl Moore saw a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960. They wanted to build a smaller version of CMS in Tennessee and decided on a half-mile oval. Work began on a former dairy farm in 1960 and a year later the speedway was born with 22 degree banking in the turns. 18,000 fans attended the first NASCAR race at BMS in 1961. The track was reshaped in 1969 with the turns banked at 36 degrees. After the reshaping it became a 0.533-mile oval.

In August of 1992 the track was resurfaced from the original asphalt to become the first speedway to host a NASCAR Cup event on a concrete surface. In March 2007, right after the Food City 500, a multimillion-dollar project of removing and replacing the concrete racing surface, asphalt apron, pit road and all the retaining walls around the track was started. Conditions do not change during a race because concrete isn't as sensitive to weather changes like an asphalt paved track.

Since the straightaways are only 650 feet long on the 0.533-mile oval, the drivers are constantly braking, turning and accelerating which makes for a demanding race. The key to passing at Bristol is to be at the bottom in the turns and getting a good run off the corners. That's why shocks, springs and brakes are critical in the race setup.

July 30, 1961: Fred Lorenzen started the No. 28 Holman-Moody 1961 Ford on the pole for the Volunteer 500, the first Bristol Cup race. He made it through 175 laps of the 500 lap event before losing the rear end and finished 33rd. Jack Smith, who started 12th in his own No. 46 Pontiac, led the most laps (243) and earned $3,025 for the inaugural BMS victory.

March 20, 2011: Kyle Busch won the Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City. It was his fifth win in 13 Cup races at Bristol. It was also the No. 18 Toyota driver’s fifth consecutive NASCAR national series win (Cup, NNS, and trucks) at Bristol. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: Pole-sitter No. 99 Carl Edwards (18 laps, finished 2nd), No. 39 Ryan Newman (26 laps, 10th), No.27 Paul Menard (35 laps, 5th), No. 29 Kevin Harvick (37 laps, 6th), No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. (63 laps, 17th), winner Busch (153 laps) and No. 48 Jimmie Johnson led the most (164, finished 3rd).

August 27, 2011: Brad Keselowski won the IRWIN Tools Night Race from an 8th place start. It was the No. 2 Toyota driver’s third victory of 2011 and his first at Bristol. Pole-sitter, No. 39 Ryan Newman, led 4 laps and finished in 8th place. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (76 laps, finished 4th), winner Keselowski (89 laps), No. 17 Matt Kenseth (110 laps, finished 6th) and No. 24 Jeff Gordon led the most laps (206) and finished 3rd.

Active drivers who made their Cup series debut at Bristol: Both AJ Allmendinger and Regan Smith made their Sprint Cup debut at this track on March 25, 2007. Smith finished 25th and Allmendinger finished 40th.

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, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. There were 46 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Food City 500 in Bristol, Tennessee.

Mid-Pack picks

Ryan Newman picked up his nickname “Rocketman” during qualifying at BMS in 2003. He set the standing track qualifying record of 128.709 mph, 14.908 seconds. He also earned a Bristol pole in 2004 and again in the night race last August. Newman won a Nationwide Series pole at Bristol in 2006 and one in 2009 for the Camping World Truck Series event. He has not won a Cup race at the .533-mile bullring, but he did score a Nationwide Series victory in 2005 and also took the checkers in the 2010 and 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Series races.  How has Rocketman backup up his starts in the Cup Series? The No. 39 driver had one 16th place and six top-tens in his last seven Bristol races. We think he’s good for another top 15 or better on Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr. had finishes of 12th, 17th, 17th and 2nd in his last four Cup starts at Bristol. He is optimistic that his 2012 success (three top-17 finishes) will continue this weekend. He said this week: “I really think we are close to getting our first win. Our car has had speed in every race so far”.  In 2011, his 2nd place finish in August to Brad Keselowski was by only .951 seconds. Truex also held off track favorite Gordon for that runner-up spot. He led 63 laps in the March 2011 race. He already has a Bristol trophy from his Nationwide Series victory in 2004. We like the No. 56 driver’s optimism for Sunday’s race.

Once known as a road-course ringer, Marcos Ambrose has built an impressive short-track record as well. In six Cup starts at the ‘World’s Fastest Half-mile’, he has a 15.2 average finish. His best was a 3rd place in August 2009. In his first Bristol start (the 2009 Food City 500), he qualified 13th, ran as high as 2nd, drove the last 50 laps on 7 cylinders and still managed a 10th place finish. Ambrose is rank at the top in NASCAR Statistics loop data “Quality Passes” category. He passed cars 183 times (almost 1/3 of his total passes for those races) while running in the top-15.  This is a good week to put the aggressive driver on your team.

Jamie McMurray is ranked second in NASCAR’s loop data category for “Green Flag Passes”. Over the last 14 races here McMurray has passed 737 cars under green flag racing. Only the track favorite Busch brothers have scored more driver points in the last four Bristol Cup races. We also like McMurray because he knows how to ‘take care of his stuff’. Of all the drivers entered this weekend with at least 15 Bristol starts he’s the only one who finished all of his races. Give some consideration this week to the No. 1 Chevy driver who scored top-11 finishes in four of the last five BMS races.



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



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