Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Sylvania 300

Thursday, September 20, 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.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners:
Kasey Kahne 7/15/12, Tony Stewart 9/25/11, Ryan Newman 7/17/11, Clint Bowyer 9/19/10 and Jimmie Johnson 6/27/10.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Jeff Burton 7/11/93, Joe Nemechek 7/11/93, Joey Logano 9/14/08 and Kelly Bires 7/15/12.
First Cup pole: Patrick Carpentier 6/29/08 and Brad Keselowski 9/19/10.
First Cup win: 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.

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.

July 15, 2012: Kasey Kahne won the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 from second in the lineup. It was the No.5 Chevrolet driver’s second victory in 2012 and his first in 17 starts at Loudon. No. 24 Jeff Gordon 5 laps, finished sixth; Winner Kahne led 66 laps; Pole-sitter No. 18 Kyle Busch led 72 laps, finished 16th and No. 11 Denny Hamlin led the most laps (150 of 301) and finished second.

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 Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart. There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 in Loudon, New Hampshire.

Mid-Pack picks
This weekend, Brian Vickers takes the seventh of his eight turns in the car he shares with Mark Martin and team-owner Michael Waltrip. The trio has kept the MWR car 14th in the owner points. Not counting Watkins Glen (blown engine before finishing the first lap), Vickers’ worst finish in 2012 was an 18th place. His numbers are not spectacular at Loudon (only two top-fives in 14 starts) but his last two starts here resulted in a 15th in July and a fifth last November. His average running position was around 13th place throughout both of those events. We think the No. 55 Toyota will finish 15th or better on Sunday.

Jeff Burton’s Cup career started here on July 11, 1993. Since then, his four wins in 35 starts at NHMS leads the series. In the September 2000 win, he earned a hard to beat record; he led all 300 laps. Burton also has the track race record for the July 1997 victory (Time 2:42:35, Speed 117.134 mph). He is second best among all drivers in ‘running at the finish’ (32 races) and in ‘lead lap finishes’ (27). His 783 laps led is third best. His 13.8 average finishing position is seventh best. Lately, Burton has finished 16th or better in five of the last six Loudon races. That’s where we think you’ll find the No. 31 Chevrolet at the end this weekend.

At the age of 17, Joey Logano entered two K&N Pro Series East races at Loudon, New Hampshire. He started on the pole in one, 6th in the other and won both races. At age 19, he became the youngest race winner in NASCAR history right here at Loudon in June 2009. Okay, he was in the right place at the right time when the rains came ending the race 27 laps short but the day before he started his first Loudon Nationwide Series race on the pole and finished 2nd.  Logano’s last three Cup finishes here were fourth, 14th and 14th. The Middletown, CT native should not have a problem driving the No. 20 Toyota to a similar finish at what he considers his home track.

After eliminating the top 15 drivers, track favorites, ‘field-fillers’ (those without a chance), ‘start-and-parkers’ and those we’ve already picked, our short list  is really short. From that list we’re going with Kurt Busch. He has a history of success at Loudon. His one attempt here in a truck ended in victory lane. Over the last 15 Loudon Cup races, his 15.2 average finish is decent (best on the short list). He scored more points than any other driver in the most recent nine of those starts. The last of his three Cup wins here was in 2008 but we think he still has the potential to be up front. Give the No. 51 Chevrolet driver a look for a spot at the tail-end of your roster this week.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
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