Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Charlotte

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Track history: Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner built the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1959. On June 19, 1960, the first World 600 was held at the Concord, NC track. Over the years, thousands of grandstand seats and luxury suites were added. In 1984, Charlotte added 40 condominiums above turn one, and 12 more in 1991, offering year-round living at a modern racing facility. In 1992, at a cost of $1.7 million, a 1,200-fixture MUSCO lighting system was added. This system uses mirrors to simulate daylight without glare or light poles. Charlotte became the first superspeedway to hold a night-time auto race. A $1 million 20,000 square-foot Cup garage was opened in 1994. Besides the 1.5-mile quad oval, Charlotte has a 2.25-mile road course, a karting layout in the infield, a quarter-mile and fifth-mile layouts as well. Across the U.S. 29, a .4 mile dirt track opened in 2000 and the four-lane zMax Dragway opened in 2008.

In 2011, CMS unveiled the world’s largest video screen. It measures 80 by 200 foot and weighs 165,000 pounds.

June 19, 1960: After driving the John Hines owned No. 22 Pontiac to a 133.904 mph qualifying lap, Fireball Roberts started on the pole for the first NASCAR Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the 1960 World 600. After leading the first 191 laps of the 400 lap event, Roberts crashed and placed 35th. Joe Lee Johnson, in Paul McDuffie’s No. 89 Chevrolet, started 20th and won the race in front of 35,462 fans. The average race speed for that event was 107.735 mph.

May 29, 2011: Kevin Harvick won the Coca-Cola 600 from a 28th place start. It was the No. 29 Chevrolet driver’s 3rd victory of 2011 and his 1st at Charlotte. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 9-Marcos Ambrose (18 laps, finished 6th), 24-Jeff Gordon (19, 20th), 11-Denny Hamlin (24, 10th), 4-Kasey Kahne (28, 22nd), 16-Greg Biffle (50, 13th), 18-Kyle Busch (55, 32nd), 99-Carl Edwards (61, 16th) and 17-Matt Kenseth led the most (103 laps) and finished 14th. Pole-sitter, 2-Brad Keselowski led 7 laps and finished 19th. Winner, Harvick, only led two laps.

October 15, 2011: Matt Kenseth won the Bank of America 500 from a 2nd place start. It was the No. 17 Ford driver’s 3rd victory in 2011 and his 2nd at Charlotte. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: Kenseth (46 laps), No. 16 Greg Biffle (68 laps, finished 15th), Pole-sitter No. 14 Tony Stewart (94 laps, finished 8th) and No. 18 Kyle Busch led the most laps (111 of 334, finished 25th).

Active drivers who made their Cup series debut at Charlotte:
Michael Waltrip on 5/26/85, Elliott Sadler on 5/24/98, Dale Earnhardt Jr. on 5/30/99, Jimmie Johnson on 10/7/01, Brian Vickers on 10/11/03, David Reutimann on 10/15/05 and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on May 11, 2011. 

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 Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.  There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 in Concord, North Carolina.

Mid-Pack picks
We looked at last week’s non-points races at Charlotte for our top mid-pack pick for the Coca-Cola 600. AJ Allmendinger scored the pole for the Sprint Showdown, had a tire go down right after the green flag dropped, got his laps back and finished 2nd to Dale Earnhardt Jr. This was necessary since only the top two finishers of the 40-lap preliminary race transferred to the All-Star Race. Allmendinger led a few NASCAR Statistics loop data categories in the All-Star Race. He was the best ‘Closer’; with 9 laps to go he went from 16th place to finish 11th. He made the most ‘Green Flag Passes’ (47). Of those, 44 were ‘Quality Passes’ (while running in the top 15); also a race best. With finishes of 5th and 7th at Charlotte in 2011, we think the No. 22 Dodge pilot will continue where he left off last weekend. 

Marcos Ambrose was another player in the All-Star Race last week. Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Ambrose were the only three that spent the entire 5-segment 90 lap event running in the top 15 (no ‘sand-baggers’ there!). In fact, Ambrose’s average running position of 6th place for the entire 90 laps was the best of all drivers entered in the event. He said this week: “Our intermediate track program is really solid, and I have been excelling at tracks like Charlotte, Texas and Vegas the past year, so that's definitely an encouragement going into this weekend.”  In 2011, he had finishes of 6th and 5th at Charlotte, 6th and 11th at Fort Worth and 4th at Las Vegas. Ambrose is coming off a 14th at Talladega and a 9th at Darlington. This could be another good week for the No. 9 Ford driver.

In his 18 previous 600-milers at Charlotte, Jeff Burton has two wins (1999 and 2001), three top-fives and six top-ten finishes. Overall, in his 36 career Cup starts here, he has three wins, 15 top-tens and an average 15.4 finish.  His last Charlotte win came in October 2008. Since then, Burton has struggled here in four of the last five starts (only one top-15). He almost turned that around in the 2011 Coke 600.  He qualified 5th, led some laps, spent 67% of the race in the top 15 and averaged a 13th place for the entire race. With only a lap or two to go, while running in the top 5, he was spun out by another driver and finished 21st. We think the No. 31 Chevrolet driver should be looked at for a 4th or 5th spot in deep leagues.

Jamie McMurray has two wins (October 2002, October 2010), five top-fives, eight top-tens and has led 238 laps in 19 Sprint Cup starts at CMS. He also finished in the runner-up position in the May 2010 Coca-Cola 600 by a mere 0.737 seconds behind winner Kurt Busch. McMurray followed up that season with forgettable 2011 Charlotte runs. Before mid-race, while leading the Coca-Cola 600, he blew the engine in the No. 1 Chevy (credited with a 37th place finish) and was never a factor in the October race (started and finished in 27th). Why are we picking him? Aside from his 34th place finish after wrecking at Darlington two weeks ago, McMurray had a string of four straight top 14 finishes. Give him a look for another possible top 15 on Sunday night.

Bonus pick: He’s not a favorite this season, he’s not in the top 15 in points (24th), and we can’t seem to classify him as a ‘mid-packer’. With 5 wins, 8 poles and an average finish of 15.9 in 38 Charlotte starts, find room on your roster for Jeff Gordon.



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



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