Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Michigan

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Track history: Built in 1968 by Lawrence H. LoPatin, a Detroit land developer, at a cost of about $6 million, Michigan International Speedway is a 2-mile asphalt D-shaped oval located on 1400 acres in the Irish Hills of southeastern Michigan. Charles Moneypenny, designer of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, designed the Michigan oval as well. It has 18-degree banking in turns and 12-degree banking in the tri-oval, which is part of the 3,600-foot frontstretch. The 2,242-foot backstretch is banked five degrees. After LoPatin got overextended financially and filed bankruptcy, Roger Penske took over ownership of Michigan International Speedway in 1973 and invested millions in improving the facility.

In 1999, Penske teamed up with International Speedway Corporation to jointly own the speedway.

In 2004, SAFER walls were added to the track.

In June 2010, MIS unveiled its new suite/media center building along pit road, which features state-of-the-art accommodations for its suite customers and visiting media members.

Since the corners are so long, drivers are in the gas hard all throughout the race. This may contribute to the engine failures seen in past races at MIS. It's not unusual to see cars racing three or four and sometimes five-wide on the long straightaways.

The track was resurfaced in 1977, 1986, 1995 and once again after the 2011 season. For the second weekend in a row, the Cup drivers will be racing on a track that was repaved during the off season. According to drivers who participated in the Goodyear tire test here in April 2012, the track drives very similar to the way it did before the repave. It may take a little time before the groove widens out to a point where they will be able to run five-wide.

Today (June 14), NASCAR allowed the teams a full-day (2 session) test on the new surface. In the morning session, 39 of the 41 cars out on track ran faster laps than the track record qualifying lap of 194.232 mph, set by Ryan Newman in 2005. In the afternoon, all 43 cars on track topped that record, with Tony Stewart clocking the quickest lap of the day, a 201.896 mph lap, in the No. 14 Chevrolet.

Active drivers who made their Cup series debut at Michigan:
Carl Edwards on August 22, 2004 and Landon Cassill on June 13, 2010.

June 15, 1969:
Donnie Allison clocked a 160.135 mph lap in the No. 27 Banjo Matthews Ford to start up front for the 1969 Motor State 500. He blew an engine 115 laps into the 250 lap event. Cale Yarborough started the famous Wood Brothers No. 21 Mercury Cyclone fourth in the field of 38 cars and went on to win the event. He beat David Pearson’s No. 17 Ford by five car lengths and earned a $17,625 payday.

June 19, 2011:
Denny Hamlin won the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 from a tenth place start; his 17th victory in 202 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. This was the No. 11 Toyota driver's first victory in 2011 and his second consecutive spring race victory at Michigan. Drivers leading five or more laps: Hamlin (eight laps), pole-sitter No. 22 Kurt Busch (nine laps, finished 11th), No. 17 Matt Kenseth (17 laps, finished second), No. 99 Carl Edwards (30 laps, finished fifth), No. 18 Kyle Busch (59 laps, finished third) and No. 16 Greg Biffle led the most (68 laps, finished 15th).  

August 21, 2011: Kyle Busch won the Pure Michigan 400, his 23rd victory in 245 Cup races. It was the No. 18 Toyota driver's fourth victory and 15th top-ten finish in 2011. With the victory, Busch clinched a Wild Card spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. It was his first victory and fifth top-ten finish in 14 races at Michigan. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 17 Matt Kenseth (15 laps, finished tenth), No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (18 laps, finished second), race-winner Busch (22 laps), No. 24 Jeff Gordon (60 laps, finished sixth) and pole-sitter No. 16 Greg Biffle led the most laps (86 of 203) and finished in 20th place.

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, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. There were 45 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Mid-Pack picks

Okay, we tried not to think of Jeff Gordon as a ‘mid-packer’ but with the black clouds looming over his head this season, and sitting 22nd in points, he’s finally fair game for this column. The No. 24 Chevy driver has two wins and an 11.4 average finish in 38 starts at the Irish Hills facility. He finished sixth after leading 50 laps of the 203 lap August 2011 event. He participated in the Goodyear tire test on the new pavement in April and said: “It's a very fast track but a very comfortable feeling pace. The track drives so similar to the way it did before and I believe it's going to have multiple grooves.” He likes it. Maybe the sky will clear over his head this weekend.

In 52 Sprint Cup starts at Michigan, Mark Martin owns five victories, 18 top-fives, 31 top-tens and led 911 laps. Last season, he had finishes of ninth and fourth. Over in the Nationwide Series, he has 12 MIS starts, one pole, two wins and a 5.2 average finish. Martin finished seventh in the 2011 NNS race. He started three Camping World Truck Series races (all top ten starts). He finished one in second, one in 14th and the other he lost the engine early after a second place start. Coming off a second at Pocono last weekend, we think he will be in contention this week at one of his better tracks.

In 16 NSCS starts at Michigan, Kasey Kahne averaged a 15.4 finish. With four top-15 finishes in the last five starts here, he improved that to around a 12th place average. Kahne was the June 2006 winner which he accomplished from the pole. He is also earned the August 2010 pole (finished 14th). NASCAR Statistics ranks him fifth in their Green Flag Passes category (1063 cars) with loop data category over the past seven years. He scored the fifth most championship points at Michigan in the last four races. We think another top-15 can be expected from Kahne on Sunday.

Marcos Ambrose is looking to “bring home our first top-ten finish at the two-mile track in the Quicken Loans 400”. He will make his eighth Cup start at MIS. His best finish (15th) came in 2010 and his best start (16th) came in August 2011. In that 2011 race, he had an average running position of 14th. He was in the top-15 as the field was pitting prior to a green-white-checker restart. Ambrose got into the wall in the pits and this turned a good run into a 27th place finish. With finishes of 10th and 13th in the last two races this season, we think Ambrose is a pretty decent choice to round out your fantasy roster this weekend.



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



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