Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Daytona II

Thursday, July 05, 2012


Track history: Groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway was Nov. 25, 1957. The soil underneath the banked corners was dug from the infield of the track and the hole filled with water. It is now known as Lake Lloyd.

The 480 acre facility is considered the "World Center of Racing" hosting the famous Daytona 500 race in February. Banking in turns on the 2.5-mile track is 31 degrees. Banking in the tri-oval is 18 degrees and 3 degrees on the backstretch. The frontstretch is 3,800 feet and the backstretch is 3,400 feet.

In addition to the tower suites, there are 168,000 grandstand seats.

Lights were installed in the spring of 1998. However, the race was delayed until October that year due to thick smoke from wildfires. The second Daytona race has been held under lights ever since.

For only the second time in its history, Daytona International Speedway was repaved in 2010.

Active drivers who made their Cup series debut at Daytona:
Geoff Bodine 2-18-79, Robby Gordon 2-17-91, Tony Stewart 2-14-99, Scott Pruett 2-20-00, Jason Leffler 2-18-01, Casey Mears 2-16-03, Brendan Gaughan 2-15-04, Kasey Kahne 2-15-04, Scott Riggs 2-15-04, Brian Keselowski 2-20-11, Steve Wallace 2-20-11 and Danica Patrick 2-26-12.

First Daytona Cup races-1959: The first Daytona Cup race was the February 1959 Daytona 500 won by Lee Petty. The first summer Cup event was the 1959 Firecracker 250 held on July 4th. Fireball Roberts put the Jim Stephens owned No. 3 Pontiac on the pole, led 84 of the 100 lap race and beat the rest of the 34 car field. He earned $7,050 for crossing the line 57 seconds ahead of runner-up Joe Weatherly’s No. 12 Ford Thunderbird.

July 2, 2011: David Ragan won the Coke Zero 400 from fifth place in the lineup. It was the No. 6 Ford driver's fifth top-ten finish in 2011 and his fourth top-ten finish in ten races at Daytona.  Drivers leading ten or more laps: No. 18 Kyle Busch (11 laps, finished fifth), No. 17 Matt Kenseth (14 laps, finished second), Pole-sitter No. 5 Mark Martin (15 laps, finished 33rd), Winner-Ragan (15 laps), No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. (16 laps, wrecked-35th), No. 29 Kevin Harvick (16 laps, finished seventh), No. 4 Kasey Kahne (19 laps, finished fourth) and No. 39 Ryan Newman led the most laps (25 of 170) and finished 23rd.

February 27, 2012: The 2012 season-opening Daytona 500 was postponed from Sunday to Monday due to rain. Matt Kenseth won the 500 from fourth in the lineup. It was the No. 17 Ford driver's second victory and 12th top-ten finish in 25 races at Daytona.  Pole-sitter No. 99 Carl Edwards was passed on the first lap by teammate No. 16 Greg Biffle. Edwards never led a lap and finished eighth. Drivers leading ten or more laps: No. 31 Jeff Burton (24 laps, finished fifth), Biffle (44 laps, finished third), winner Kenseth (50 laps) and No. 11 Denny Hamlin led the most laps (57 of 202) and finished fourth.

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, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. There were 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Mid-Pack picks
Some experts, including crew chief Donnie Wingo at Wood Brothers Racing, say the Fords will be tough to beat at Daytona. We’re going the other way with all ‘Bowtie’ picks this week.

The first Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon’s No. 24, is on a mission this week. Gordon needs a win to secure a berth in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Daytona is as good as any place for him to make that happen. He started the season in the hole with a blown engine in the Daytona 500 and much has been written about his unlucky season so far. The six-time winner at DIS had finishes of third and sixth in the last two July races at this track. Look for Gordon to try his best to sip his Pepsi Max in the Coke Zero victory circle on Saturday night.

Kurt Busch has not won a points-paying race at Daytona but he has finished runner-up three times in the Daytona 500. NASCAR Statistics show him third in their Laps in the Top 15 category. He spent 62% of the last 15 Daytona races running in the top 15. He also led 223 laps (third best) and made 1,927 Quality Passes in those races. In 23 Cup starts, he carries an average finish of 17.3. Busch will be driving Phoenix Racing’s No. 1 Nationwide Series entry on Friday night as well. Find a spot for the No. 51 Chevy this weekend.

It has been a dozen years since Jeff Burton won the 2000 Coke Zero 400 but we feel he still has the potential for a top 15 or better at Daytona. He scored 16th or better finishes in four of the last six Daytona starts, including a fifth this past February. He logged a tenth place finish in May at Talladega, the other restrictor-plate track. Burton’s car of choice this week is the same chassis he drove in the Dega race. It was also the same chassis teammate Kevin Harvick drove to a top-five finish at Talladega in 2011 and a top-ten in last season’s Coke Zero 400. It’s looking favorable for the No. 31 Chevrolet driver for Saturday night.

Our final pick from the GM camp is Jamie McMurray and his No. 1 Chevrolet. In his 19 Cup starts at Daytona, McMurray has earned three top-fives, including wins in the 2007 Coke Zero 400 and the 2010 Daytona 500. He ranks fourth in the number of green flag passes (3,083) in the last 15 DIS races. Coming to the finish during the second green-white-checkered finish in this race last season, McMurray was running in the top ten but was collected in a multi-car wreck (finished 22nd). Watch for him to hook up with teammate and drafting partner, Juan Pablo Montoya, to be among the contenders at the end of this week’s event.



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


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