Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: AAA 400

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Track history: Known as the "Monster Mile", the one-mile concrete oval Dover International Speedway hosted its first 300-mile Cup race in 1969. Two years later, the NASCAR races were extended to 500 miles and continued up until 1993 when its present 400-mile format was established.

Engine failures were common in the 500-mile races. Since the track has banked straightaways as well as the turns, rpm’s stay at a high level throughout the lap. Dover has 24-degree banking in the turns and 9-degree banking on the 1,076-foot frontstretch and backstretch.

The Nationwide Series joined Cup racing at Dover in 1982 giving the facility a larger weekend crowd. This, in turn, triggered grandstand expansions which continued for 16 consecutive seasons.

The Indy Racing League began running at Dover in 1998. Tony Stewart, in an open-wheel car, set a track record of over 185 mph around the 1-mile oval. Two years later, Kurt Busch won the first NASCAR Truck Series race (from the pole).

During the mid-1990’s the facility made some dramatic improvements. For the fans, after Delaware passed a law allowing them to exist at horse racing facilities, Dover Downs installed several slot machines. For the drivers, the asphalt track was ripped up and replaced by a concrete surface. This made for a faster, smoother and more competitive race.

In 2006, Dover announced plans for the “Monster Makeover,” a multi-year capital improvement project. A new skybox complex, luxury suites, additions to the media center, renovated restroom facilities, a new sound system and an expanded hospitality tent village was completed in 2007. The addition of the 46-foot 'Miles the Monster' Monument, expansion of the FanZone area and a new emergency services building were introduced in 2008. In 2009, construction was focused on pit road, including a 1,592 foot SAFER barrier, a 43rd pit stall (had only 42 prior) and all pit stalls were lengthened by 4 feet. Also, by eliminating all grass on the frontstretch and in Turn 4, the new pit wall was set closer to the apron of the track, creating a wider pit road.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners:
Jimmie Johnson 6/3/12, Kurt Busch 10/2/11, Matt Kenseth 5/15/11, Jimmie Johnson 9/26/10 and Kyle Busch 5/16/10.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Norm Benning 6/4/89, Bobby Labonte 6/3/91, Hermie Sadler 6/2/96, Matt Kenseth 9/20/98, Kurt Busch 9/24/00, Carl Long 9/24/00, Tony Raines 6/2/02 and David Ragan 9/24/06.
First Cup pole: Michael Waltrip 6/3/91 and Matt Kenseth 6/2/02
First Cup win:  Martin Truex Jr. 06/04/07.

July 6, 1969: David Pearson put the Holman-Moody No. 17 Ford on the pole with a qualifying lap of 130.43 mph to lead the 32 car field for the 1969 Mason-Dixon 300. He led 26 of the 300 lap event but wrecked after 65 laps and placed 23rd. The Petty Enterprises No. 43 Ford, driven by Richard Petty, rolled off 3rd at the start, led 150 laps and finished 6 laps ahead of 2nd place, Sonny Hutchins and his No. 90 Ford. Petty earned $4,725 for the victory.

October 2, 2011: Kurt Busch won the AAA 400 from a second place start in the lineup. It was the No. 22 Dodge driver’s second victory of 2011 and his first win at Dover in 23 starts. Pole-sitter, Martin Truex Jr., led two laps, had to pit under green for a blown tire and finished 30th. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 31 Jeff Burton eight laps,  finished 11th; No. 43 AJ Allmendinger eight  laps, finished seventh; No. 29 Kevin Harvick 10 laps, finished 10th; race-winner Busch led 90 laps; No. 99 Carl Edwards 116 laps, finished third and No. 48 Jimmie Johnson led the most laps (157) and finished second.

June 3, 2012: Jimmie Johnson won the FedEx 400 from a second place start in the lineup. It was the No. 48 Chevrolet driver’s second victory in 2012 and his seventh win in 21 races at Dover. Drivers leading five or more laps: Pole-sitter No. 55 Mark Martin 43 laps, finished 14th; No. 24 Jeff Gordon 60 laps, finished 13th and winner Johnson led the most laps (289 of 400).

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, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. There were 48 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s AAA 400 in Dover, Delaware.

Mid-Pack Picks
Aric Almirola said this week "I've been eager to get back to Dover ever since we left the first time earlier this year…there was even a point late in that race where I thought we could win.” He scored his best finish of the season (sixth place from 12th in the lineup) in that race and wants a rematch with ‘The Monster’.  Almirola earned a win at the track in his one and only K&N Pro Series East race (2008). He also drove a Camping World Truck Series entry here to a victory in 2010. This is a good week to consider the No. 43 Ford for a spot on your fantasy roster.

Another fast Ford out of Richard Petty’s shop is the No. 9 with Marcos Ambrose behind the wheel. He is looking to score his fourth consecutive top-ten finish at the Delaware track. In nine Dover starts, he has one top-five, three top-ten, four top-15 finishes and carries an 18th place average finish (7.3 for the most recent three starts).  Ambrose spent almost 95 percent of the two 2011 races running in the top 15. This past June, he had an average running position of around 17th place. He’s coming off a pair of finishes in the 20’s but the six prior races this season averaged a 10.6 finish including a win at The Glen. We think Ambrose will be back in form on the concrete oval this Sunday.

Even though 2007, 2008 and 2012 were part-time seasons for Mark Martin, he made sure Dover was on his list of venues to visit. The four-time track winner can brag about his 12.5 average finish for 52 starts at Dover. At 53 years of age, the veteran hasn’t lost his touch. In June he sat on the pole (making him the oldest Dover pole winner), led 43 laps and finished 14th. He still holds the race record of 132.719 mph (09/21/1997) which was also from the pole. Considering a 19th place was Martin’s worst finish in the last eight races here and he scored the fifth-most driver points we’re looking at a decent finish for the No. 55 Toyota this weekend.

Joey Logano took an early liking to The Monster Mile at the age of 17. He logged a second place finish in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. In May 2008, a week after his 18th birthday, Logano made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in the Dover race; started 9th and finished 6th. He has not finished outside the top 14 in his seven NNS Dover races (average 7.3) and he won the NNS event this past June. In seven Sprint Cup starts at Dover, he has a best finish of third earned in the 2010 fall race. Logano struggled at this track in 2011 (27th and 29th) but showed some promise in the June 2012 race. He qualified 11th for the lineup and finished eighth. Logano said: "I like these high-banked concrete tracks. We ran really good at Bristol a few weeks ago and led the most laps in that race." Keep an eye on the No. 20 Toyota this weekend. 

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
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