Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Kentucky Speedway

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Track history: Located in Sparta, Kentucky, and constructed on 850 acres of land, Kentucky Speedway is a 1.5-mile tri-oval with 14-degree banking in the turns and a 1,600-foot backstretch. The tri-oval is 57-feet wide and includes a 12-foot apron. The facility also features a paved quarter-mile track.

On July 10, 1998 an investor group broke ground for the speedway.  The first NASCAR Camping World (Craftsman) Truck Series Kroger 225 was held on June 17, 2000. Greg Biffle was the series first winner. Tim Steele won the July 2, 2000 inaugural ARCA Series Kentucky ARCA 150. The open-wheel IndyCar series made their first start at the speedway on August 27, 2000 with the victory going to Buddy Lazier. The NASCAR Nationwide Series made its debut at the track on June 16, 2001. Kevin Harvick earned the distinction of being the first NNS winner at the 1.5 mile tri-oval. In the second NNS trip to the Sparta track (June 16, 2002), Todd Bodine beat Greg Biffle to the finish by .036 seconds in the closest series finish in track history.

At end of 2008, Kentucky Speedway joined Atlanta, Bristol, Infineon, Las Vegas, Charlotte, New Hampshire and Texas as the eighth member of the Bruton Smith owned Speedway Motorsports Inc. Starting in early 2009, SMI invested $13.5 million on an enhancement project which included expanded parking, 200 infield campsites, improved track access roads, a new entrance area and a restroom/bathhouse facility.

SMI filed a lawsuit in July 2005 against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., alleging the companies violated federal antitrust laws by illegally restricting the awarding of Cup races. On August 10, 2010, Bruton Smith announced that Kentucky Speedway would hold an inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 400-mile event on July 9, 2011.

July 9, 2011: Kyle Busch won the Quaker State 400 from the pole. It was the No. 18 Toyota driver's third victory and 11th top-ten finish in 2011. With this win in the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway, Busch took over the lead in the 2011 NSCS point standings. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 11 Denny Hamlin (five laps, finished 11th), No. 00 David Reutimann (seven laps, finished second), No. 22 Kurt Busch (41 laps, finished ninth), No. 2 Brad Keselowski (79 laps, finished seventh) and race-winner Busch led the most laps (125 of the 267 event).

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, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. There were 46 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 in Sparta, Kentucky.

Mid-Pack picks

Sitting 16th in the points, this could be our last chance to pick Marcos Ambrose. He qualified 12th but finished 20th in last season’s event. In two Nationwide Series starts, he started sixth and third and finished 11th and sixth. Ambrose said: “My team and I are really strong on the intermediate tracks like Charlotte and Texas, and Kentucky is a sister track to both of those venues.” He should be counted on for a good qualifying effort. He’s looking to win his third consecutive Coors Light Pole Award this week. Consider the No. 9 Ford driver for a possible top 15 or better this Saturday night.

Another driver we’re grabbing while we can is 17th place Kasey Kahne. We know how well he handled the Coke 600 at Charlotte (winner). He also finished a not too shabby seventh at Fort Worth, eighth at Kansas and he was running in the top 15 when he was collected in the No. 20’s wreck at Michigan. In three Nationwide Series starts here, he averaged a 10.7 finish including a fourth last year in teammate, Dale Jr.’s No. 7 Chevrolet. We’re finding a slot on our roster for the No. 5 Chevy driver at the Sparta, Kentucky track.

Last season, driving for Penske Racing, Kurt Busch started third, led 41 laps and finished ninth. He also ran in the top 15 for 266 of the 267 laps. That was then, this is now. The Phoenix Racing No. 51 Chevrolet driver was emotional and showed a little humility after finishing third last week at Sonoma. That could be a sign he’s getting his head on straight and getting back to serious racing. Busch will be pulling double-duty this week, driving brother Kyle’s entry in Friday night’s Nationwide Series race. The extra 200 laps at the speedway should be helpful.

Since there isn’t much Sprint Cup history at Kentucky Speedway our last pick is a long shot. We’re looking at Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 83 Toyota, as a ‘good as any’ pick this week. He finished 23rd in the inaugural race from a 30th place start in the Phoenix Racing entry. He has a Nationwide Series start here under his belt (finished 11th). In his own words this week: “Our intermediate track program has come a long way. We finished 18th at Michigan. We finished 18th at Charlotte.” Cassill is “aiming to set a new standard” for his team this Saturday.



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



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