Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: STP 400

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

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.

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.

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; Race-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.

October 21, 2012: Matt Kenseth won the Hollywood Casino 400 from a 12th place start. It was the No. 17 Ford driver's third victory in 2012 and first 14 races at Kansas Speedway. Pole-sitter No. 5 Kasey Kahne led one lap and finished in fourth place. Drivers leading 15 or more laps: No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 44 laps, finished ninth; No. 55 Mark Martin 60 laps, finished 24th; No. 43 Aric Almirola 69 laps, wrecked on lap 212 (credited with a 29th place) and Race-winner Kenseth led the most (78 of 267 laps).

Track Quick Facts
(courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Greg Biffle 10/3/10, Brad Keselowski 6/5/11, Jimmie Johnson 10/9/11, Denny Hamlin 4/22/12 and Matt Kenseth 10/21/12.
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 Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski. There were 45 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's STP 400 in Kansas City, Kansas.

Mid-Pack picks
While we still have a shot at picking him since he's 18th in the points, we're going one more time with Martin Truex Jr. at Kansas Speedway. His intermediate track program is really taking shape. Not only did he finish second last week at Fort Worth, that's the same result he had in both Kansas races in 2012. During the post-race interview last week he said he's really tired of finishing second on this type of track. Look for the No. 56 Toyota Camry driver to be chomping at the bit to go one better on Sunday.

Last week we threw him in as a bonus pick and he didn't do so well. So far, with only one top-10 in seven races, this is not a "career year" for Tony Stewart. In this column we set our sights on top-20 or better finishes and that's where we think he will finish this week. This could be a breakthrough from Stewart at a track where he has two wins. In his last six Kansas starts, he has a 7.7 average finish including a win in 2009 and fifth here last October. Seeing the No. 14 Chevrolet SS cross the finish 20th or better is not too much to expect.

Brian Vickers has the responsibility of defending Denny Hamlin's 2012 win in this event. Subbing for the recovering Hamlin again this week, Vickers will make his first start at Kansas since the fall of 2011. He scored top-20 finishes in both Cup races and an eighth place in the Nationwide Series here that season. He did well for Hamlin's team last Saturday night at Fort Worth by earning an eighth place finish. Vickers also scored eighth and 11th place finishes in his two Cup starts with the Michael Waltrip Racing ride-share team. Find room for the No. 11 Toyota Camry driver this week.

Sam Hornish Jr. (current Nationwide Series point leader) will have to make the field on speed since the No. 12 Ford team doesn't have any owner points. He finished ninth in the 2012 Nationwide Series race as Kansas Speedway. He also made six Cup starts at the track earning two top-20 finishes. Hornish was outstanding in the IZOD IndyCar Series at this venue. In seven starts (21 to 23 car field) he averaged a 6.9 finish including a victory and two second-place finishes. We feel confident that he will make it past qualifying and will be in the race. Consider Hornish for a spot near the end of your fantasy team.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
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