Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Good Sam 500

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Track history: Talladega Superspeedway was built in 1969 in an old soybean field near Anniston, Alabama. Track builders Bill France, Sr. and Bill Ward wanted it to be the biggest and fastest superspeedway on the Cup circuit. It is, without a doubt, the fastest racetrack in the world. Bill Elliott qualified at over 212 mph in 1987 at the 2.66-mile facility, which led to NASCAR's decision to slow down the cars here and at Daytona because speeds were getting unsafe. Both tracks use restrictor plates to limit the horsepower of the cars. Speeds on the straights (4,000 foot backstretch and 4,300 foot frontstretch) still exceed 200 mph.
The track is a high-banked tri-oval that is four lanes wide, with 33 degree banking at the ends and 18-degree banking in the tri-oval. For this reason, Talladega has a lot of 3-wide racing and it's not unusual to see the whole field running together at top speed the same as they did when the green flag dropped at the beginning of the race. The drivers run wide open all the way around the track, never lifting except to avoid getting caught up in the big wrecks, which are common in restrictor plate racing.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners:
Brad Keselowski 5/6/12, Clint Bowyer 10/23/11, Jimmie Johnson 4/17/11, Clint Bowyer 10/31/10 and Kevin Harvick 4/25/10.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Dennis Setzer 4/26/98, Jamie McMurray 10/6/02, Eric McClure 4/25/04, Jacques Villeneuve 10/7/07 and Robert Richardson 11/1/09.
First Cup pole: Stacy Compton 4/22/01, David Gilliland 10/8/06, Travis Kvapil 10/5/08 and Juan Pablo Montoya 4/26/09.
First Cup win:  Ken Schrader 7/31/88, Brian Vickers 10/8/06 and Brad Keselowski 4/26/09.

September 14, 1969: After driving the No. 71 K & K Insurance ‘69 Dodge to a 196.386 mph qualifying lap, Bobby Isaac started on the pole for the first NASCAR Cup race, the 1969 Talladega 500. It was the first of five consecutive Talladega poles for Isaac. After leading 13 laps, Isaac finished fourth. Richard Brickhouse, in the No. 99 Nichols Engineering ‘69 Dodge, started ninth and won the race. The average race speed for that event was 153.778 mph.

October 23, 2011: Clint Bowyer won the Good Sam Club 500 from a third place start. It was the No. 33 Chevrolet driver’s first victory of 2011 and his second in 12 races at Talladega. Bowyer passed drafting partner and teammate, Jeff Burton, on the final turn of the event. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 7 Robby Gordon 10 laps, broken rear gear, credited with 37th; No. 1 Jamie McMurray 12 laps, finished 29th; No. 29 Kevin Harvick 13 laps, finished 32nd; No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya 16 laps, finished 23rd; No. 17 Matt Kenseth 21 laps, finished 18th; winner Bowyer led 25 laps; No. 31 Jeff Burton 26 laps, finished second and No. 14 Tony Stewart led the most (30 of 188 laps) and finished seventh. Pole-sitter, No. 5 Mark Martin led two laps and finished 20th.

May 6, 2012: Brad Keselowski won the Aaron’s 499 from a 13th place start in the lineup. It was the No. 2 Dodge driver's second victory and fifth top-10 finish in 2012. It was his second win in seven races at Talladega. Drivers leading ten or more laps: No. 27 Paul Menard 10 laps, finished 17th; No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10 laps, finished ninth; winner Keselowski led 10 laps; No. 5 Kasey Kahne 11 laps, finished fourth; No. 16 Greg Biffle 15 laps, finished fifth; No. 14 Tony Stewart 16 laps, finished 24th; No. 55 Michael Waltrip 21 laps, finished 19th and No. 17 Matt Kenseth led the most laps (73 of 194) and finished third. Pole-sitter No. 24 Jeff Gordon was passed on the first lap, never led a lap, was involved in a multi-car wreck on lap 142 and was credited with a 33rd place finish.

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 Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski.  There were 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 in Anniston, Alabama.

Mid-Pack Picks

Jeff Burton’s PR report says it all. “Three of Jeff Burton’s five top-10 finishes (this season) have been at restrictor-plate race tracks.” He finished fifth in the Daytona 500, 10th at Talladega in May and runner-up in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July. He finished runner-up (by only .018 seconds) to his “drafting partner” (see the October 23, 2011 race notes above) making it four straight top-10s at plate tracks. NASCAR Statistics show Burton at the top of two categories for the last 15 Talladega races. His 5,839 ‘Green Flag Passes’ and 4,048 ‘Quality Passes’ (while running top 15) lead all drivers. If you avoided using him on your fantasy roster up until now, this would be a good week to seriously consider the No. 31 Chevrolet driver.

In 12 starts at Talladega, Paul Menard has an average start of 20.1 and a 22.1 average finishing position. Since joining Richard Childress Racing in 2011, his numbers at the Alabama track improved to a 9.6 average start and a 13.5 average finish in three races. Menard will drive the same chassis this weekend that he drove to a 17th place finish here in May, a sixth in the 2012 Daytona 500 and a 14th in Daytona’s July night 600-miler. He has led at least one lap in 8 of his 12 starts (10 in the May 2012 event). The No. 27 Chevrolet might be a good fit for a fourth or fifth driver on your team.

Joey Logano got caught up in the ‘Big One’ wrecks in the last two Talladega races but he usually does well on superspeedways. At Daytona, his last three Cup races ended in third, ninth and fourth place finishes. He scored a win there last fall in the Nationwide Series and a fifth in July 2012. Back to Alabama, Logano’s Nationwide Series numbers are tough to beat. In four NNS starts at Talladega, his average finish is second place including a victory in May 2012. He’s coming off three decent finishes; a seventh at Chicago, eighth at Loudon and a 10th at Dover. If he can dodge the mayhem at this unpredictable track, we think the No. 20 Toyota will be spending some time at the front of the lead pack.  

We’re going with part-timer Trevor Bayne as our deepest pick this week. He finished eighth and 15th in his last two Talladega Cup races. He finished 13th and sixth in his two races at this track in the Nationwide Series. Being on a part-time team, Bayne will have to qualify his way into the lineup. That shouldn’t be a problem since he leads all active drivers when it comes to qualifying at Talladega with an average starting position of 8.6. The chassis he will drive qualified second at Daytona last July and fourth at Talladega, last fall. Bayne has shown that he is a very capable ‘pusher’.  In the tandem-style racing, he has pushed his ‘dancing partners’ to the front over the last couple of Talladega races. If the timing is right, the pusher could be sitting in the top five at the end. Find a spot on your fantasy team for the Wood Brothers famous No. 21 Ford.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
Email :Anthony Ballantoni

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