Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Hollywood Casino 400

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Track history: In 1996, International Speedway Corporation began exploring the Midwest region of the country to find a suitable spot to build a NASCAR race track. After deciding on the Kansas City area, construction began in the Spring of 1999 on the Kansas Speedway.

When the 1.5 mile tri-oval track was completed, it had 15 degree banking in the turns, 10.4 degrees in the 2,721 foot frontstretch and 5 degrees in the 2,207 foot backstretch. There were 75,000 seats at that time. Currently there are over 82,000 grandstand seats and plans are to increase that to a total of 150,000.

NASCAR’s Cup, Nationwide (Busch) and Camping World (Craftsman) Truck Series committed to run events at the new facility beginning in 2001. The Indy Racing League joined NASCAR with a planned 2001 event as well.  Four stock car racing schools (Richard Petty Driving Experience, Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure and 2 others) and one open-wheel school (Mario Andretti Racing School) were offered at the Kansas Speedway.

A dozen cars were taken out of the 2001 race in wrecks due to blown tires or blown engines.  Passing was a problem since the new track only had one groove at the bottom and this was the case in 2002 as well. Second and third grooves came into play after those two races and since then, drivers were able to do some side-by-side racing.

On June 5, 2011, the inaugural Spring race at Kansas Speedway was run. It was the first year that NASCAR held two races on the Sprint Cup Series schedule at this venue.

Right after the April 22, 2012 STP 400, the speedway began removing the track's oval racing surface to repave it with variable banking. Also, the plan was to construct a new road race course through the infield to bring in Grand-Am races. All of this had to be completed before the October 2012 race weekend.

Drivers will be allowed to test the new track configuration mid-week before qualifying for the 2012 Hollywood Casino 400.

September 30, 2001: After driving the No. 01 Cingular Wireless Dodge to a 176.499 mph qualifying lap, Jason Leffler started on the pole for the first NASCAR Cup race, the Protection One 400. The No. 01 was one of the dozen cars involved in wrecks mentioned above and Leffler placed 28th. Rusty Wallace led a race-high 117 laps and brought the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford home in fourth place. Jeff Gordon, in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, started second and won the race. The average race speed for that event was 110.576 mph.

October 9, 2011: Jimmie Johnson won the Hollywood Casino 400 from a 19th place start.  It was the No. 48 Chevrolet driver’s second victory in 2011 and first in 11 starts at Kansas Speedway. Drivers leading 15 or more of the 272 lap event: Pole-sitter No. 16 Greg Biffle 23 laps, finished eighth; No. 17 Matt Kenseth 26 laps, finished fourth and winner Johnson led the most (197 laps).

April 22, 2012: Denny Hamlin won the STP 400 from a fourth place start. It was the No. 11 Toyota driver's second victory in 2012 and first victory in nine races at Kansas Speedway. Drivers leading 5 of more laps: No. 12 Sam Hornish Jr. 7 laps, finished 19th; winner Denny Hamlin 32 laps; Pole-sitter No. 22 AJ Allmendinger 44 lap, finished 32nd and No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps (173 of 267) and finished second.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners:
Tony Stewart 10/4/09, Greg Biffle 10/3/10, Brad Keselowski 6/5/11, Jimmie Johnson 10/9/11 and Denny Hamlin 4/22/12.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Denny Hamlin 10/9/05 and Austin Dillon 10/9/11.
First Cup pole: Jason Leffler 9/30/01.
First Cup win: None so far.

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 20 finish as track favorites Greg BiffleDenny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski. There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 in Kansas City, Kansas.

As noted above, this is a brand new Kansas Speedway and all drivers will be searching for the best groove on the new surface. Most of the past track notes can be thrown away since they’re now dealing with a smooth variable banked track. Some of the comments from drivers testing at the track this week indicate that the track will change a lot once rubber builds up during the week. With that in mind, take any comments about past performance with a grain of salt. Everybody’s a rookie this week.

Mid-Pack picks
Aric Almirola had one Cup start at Kansas before the repave this past April and finished in 23rd place. Looking at his run last week at Charlotte, he shows some promise for Sunday’s race. He spent the whole night running in the top 15 and finished 12th. Almirola logged a seventh in the 2010 Camping World Truck race and a 12th in the 2011 Nationwide Series race at the Kansas City facility.  He’s also bringing a fast Ford to the show this week. It’s the same chassis that he drove in the 600-miler at Charlotte in May. He scored his first Cup career pole and finished 16th in that No. 43 Ford.

In 13 starts at Kansas, Mark Martin has one win (2005), one pole (2009), five top 10’s and an average 14.6 finish. He couldn’t ‘finish the deal’ here in April. Martin started the STP 400 fifth in the line-up, averaged a 10th place running position, ran in the top 15 for 243 laps but blew the engine with about 10 laps to the finish (credited with a 33rd place). This place owes him one. Over his last six Sprint Cup starts this season, this part-time veteran scored a 10th at Atlanta, third at Richmond, 14th in Chicago, a third in Dover and, last week, a sixth at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Need we say more? Find a spot for the No. 56 Toyota.

Paul Menard’s first three Kansas Cup races averaged out to a 28th place finish. His last four starts at the track improved to a 14.2 average finish. Over in the Nationwide Series, his last four finishes here were all top 10's including a fourth last November. Menard is pulling double-duty this week in both series so the extra laps on the new surface on Saturday will be a definite advantage in the Cup race.  Look for the No. 27 Chevrolet to finish somewhere in the top 20 on Sunday.

Joey Logano has a different ride lined up for 2013, isn’t feeling the 2012 Chase pressure and has nothing to lose. That’s probably why he has racked up eight Nationwide Series wins this season (three of his last four races) and has top 10 finishes in four of the last five 2012 Sprint Cup races. He’s having fun. Like Menard, Logano is entered in both races this weekend. He already has a pole and two victories in four Nationwide Series starts at Kansas Speedway. The No. 20 Toyota driver crossed the finish in 15th place at the ‘old’ Kansas track in the April 2012. Consider Logano this week to round out your fantasy roster.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
Email :Anthony Ballantoni

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