Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: At the Magic Mile

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Track history: New Hampshire International Speedway (original name), the first superspeedway started in the U.S. since 1969, broke ground on August 13, 1989 and was ready for racing the next year. It is a 1.058-mile asphalt oval with 12-degree banking in the turns. The 1,500-foot frontstretch and backstretch are banked two degrees. The seating for 55,000 fans in the grandstands on opening day has been increased to its current 95,000 capacity.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series held its first race, the Budweiser 300, on July 15, 1990. Tommy Ellis drove the No. 99 Goo Goo Clusters Buick to the victory in that event. For the next three years, the Nationwide Series was joined by CART and IRL at the Loudon track. The speedway hosted its first NASCAR Cup race in July 1993.

In the mid-to-late 1990’s, several improvements were made at the facility. A 1.6 mile road course was added for motorcycles and sports cars. Four helipads, an expanded Corporate Hospitality area, VIP suites, an additional 52 bay garage and more grandstands were built. More parking and a five-lane access road were constructed.

In early 2008, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. acquired the track and officially changed the name to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Active drivers who made their Cup series debut at Loudon, NH:
Jeff Burton 7/11/93, Joe Nemechek 7/11/93 and Joey Logano 9/14/08.

First career Cup Series victory scored at Loudon:
Joe Nemechek 9/19/99, Robby Gordon 11/23/01, Ryan Newman 9/15/02, Clint Bowyer 9/16/07 and Joey Logano 6/27/09.

July 11, 1993: After driving the No. 6 Valvoline Ford to a 126.871 mph qualifying lap, Mark Martin started on the pole for the first Loudon NASCAR Cup race, the Slick 50 300. He led 29 of the 300 laps and finished second. Rusty Wallace started the No. 2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac 33rd in the lineup, got to the front to lead 106 laps and earned the victory.

July 17, 2011: Ryan Newman won the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 from the pole. It was the No. 39 Chevrolet driver’s first victory in 2011 and his third at Loudon. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 4 Kasey Kahne (five laps, finished sixth), No. 20 Joey Logano (five laps, fourth), No. 1 Jamie McMurray (six laps, 31st), No. 24 Jeff Gordon (19 laps, 11th), No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (19 laps, fifth), No. 14 Tony Stewart (48 laps, second), No. 22 Kurt Busch (66 laps, tenth) and winner Newman led the most (119 of 301).

September 25, 2011: Tony Stewart won the Sylvania 300 from a 20th place start. It was the No. 14 Chevrolet driver’s second consecutive victory, 13th top-ten finish in 2011 and third victory at Loudon. Stewart led only the final two laps when the leader at the time, Clint Bowyer, ran out of fuel. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 4 Kasey Kahne (43 laps, finished 15th), No. 5 Mark Martin (46 laps, finished 24th), No. 33 Clint Bowyer (49 laps, out of fuel while leading, finished 26th), Pole-sitter No. 39 Ryan Newman (62 laps, finished 25th) and No. 24 Jeff Gordon led the most laps (78 of 300) 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, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. There were 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tool 301 in Loudon, New Hampshire.

Mid-Pack picks
Some call Jeff Burton ‘Mr. New Hampshire’. He made his first career Cup start here in the inaugural 1993 race and is one of four drivers who have been in all 34 races at NHMS. Since then he racked up the most track records – most wins (4), most laps led by a race winner (All 300 – Sept. 2000), least laps led by a race winner (2 –July 1999) and the track race record (Time 2:42:35, Speed 117.134 mph - July 1997). Burton, consistent with his “closing” style, has an average start of 19.4 followed up by a 13.6 finishing average at Loudon. His last five finishes here were 16th, 12th, 15th, 16th and 13th. You could say Burton is a good choice for a top-15 at New Hampshire.

Brian Vickers does not have the best of Loudon numbers but he did finished fifth here last November when he knew his ride at Red Bull was coming to an end. This season, in his part-time ride-share at MWR, his worst finish in three starts was an 18th at the tough Martinsville track. The other two finishes were top-fives. He’s probably a reasonable buy in most salary cap games. We think he will do his part in keeping the No. 55 Toyota in the top-12 in owner’s points with another good run on Sunday.

Kasey Kahne’s most recent three Cup visits to the “Magic Mile” resulted in finishes of 14th, 6th and 15th. Last year, he drove a JR Motorsports Chevrolet to a third place finish here in the Nationwide Series race. He has an average finish of seventh in four Loudon starts in that series. This weekend he was tapped to drive a Turner Motorsports Chevy in the NNS race as well as his regular No. 5 Hendricks car on Sunday. Coming off finishes of 14th at Sonoma, second at Kentucky and seventh last week at Daytona, it’s safe to say he will be a contender this weekend.

In 22 NHMS Sprint Cup starts, Kurt Busch has a 13.9 average finish, three wins, 11 top-tens and one DNF. Two of those wins were a sweep in the 2004 season. The other win, the 2008 edition of the Lenox Tools Industrial 301, started a string of seven straight top-15 (six were top-tens) finishes. He made one start in the Camping World Truck Series at this track; started fifth and led 35 of the 204 laps run en route to the win in 2000. Busch was junk here in his last start at Loudon but that was also during the time his attitude problems were coming to a head. Hopefully, the ‘new’ Kurt Busch will be back on track this weekend.



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



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