Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack:Toyota Owners 400

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Track history: Richmond International Raceway (RIR) started out in 1946 as a 1/2-mile dirt oval. The first NASCAR Cup Series event was held there 7 years later. The track was finally paved in 1968. The facility's present configuration was constructed in September 1988. It is now a 3/4-mile 'D' shaped asphalt oval with banking of 14 degrees allowing the cars to average 125 mph laps.

In 1991, lights were installed around the track and since then, all racing at Richmond is “under the lights.”

RIR is almost completely surrounded by grandstand seats.  In May 2007, the new TORQUE Club and Commonwealth Grandstand opened to the public. After the September 2006 race, about 3,000 of the low-row seats were removed and the 180-foot high structure was built. This gave the Raceway a gain of almost 5,000 seats, bringing the seating capacity to 112,029.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Kevin Harvick 9/10/11, Kyle Busch 4/30/11, Denny Hamlin 9/11/10, Kyle Busch 5/1/10 and Clint Bowyer 9/8/12.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Jeff Fuller 3/8/92 and Jeff Green 9/10/94.
First Cup pole: Bobby Labonte 9/11/93, Ted Musgrave 3/6/94 and Brian Vickers 5/15/04.
First Cup win: Tony Stewart 9/11/99 and Kasey Kahne 5/14/05.

April 19, 1953: Buck Baker qualified the No. 87 Griffin Motors ’53 Oldsmobile on the pole for the 1953 Richmond 200 with a lap of 48.465 mph on the half-mile dirt track. He finished third to race winner, Lee Petty. Petty, father of Richard Petty, won $1000 for putting his 1953 Petty Enterprises Dodge up front at the end of the 100 mile event.

April 28, 2012: Kyle Busch won the Capital City 400 from a fifth place start. It was the No. 18 Toyota driver’s first victory in 2012 and fourth in 15 starts at Richmond. This was his fourth consecutive win in the Spring races at Richmond International Raceway breaking a tie with Richard Petty (1971-1973). Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 29 Kevin Harvick 13 laps, finished 19th; Pole-sitter No. 55 Mark Martin 29 laps, finished eighth; winner Busch led 32 laps; No. 14 Tony Stewart 118 laps, finished third and No. 99 Carl Edwards led the most laps (206 of 400) and finished 10th.

September 8, 2012: Clint Bowyer won the Federated Auto Parts 400. It was the No. 15 Toyota driver's second victory in 2012 and his second in 14 races at Richmond International Raceway. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 39 Ryan Newman 13 laps, finished eighth; No. 14 Tony Stewart 15 laps, finished fourth; Pole-sitter No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 67 laps, finished 14th; Race-winner Bowyer 88 laps and No. 11 Denny Hamlin led the most laps (202 of 400).

Your fantasy game 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 Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon. There were 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 in Richmond, Virginia.

Mid-Pack picks
In his first two career starts at Richmond, Ryan Newman recorded consecutive second-place finishes. He carries an 11.3 average start coupled with an 11.6 average finish in 22 starts at Richmond. The 11.6 is the best average finish among all tracks for Newman. He picked up a win in the September 2003 event. Over the last eight races at RIR, his worst finishes were a 20th and a 15th; the rest were all top-10s. There's no reason the No. 39 Chevrolet driver can't continue that performance at the little track in Virginia.

We keep saying Newman’s teammate, Tony Stewart, is due for a turn-around. We’ll say it again this week. Stewart has six wins at RIR; three in Sprint Cup, two in the Camping World Truck Series and one in a Late Model stock car. The Late Model win came in 2012 in Denny Hamlin’s 75-lap charity race (which Stewart will enter again this Thursday night). In 28 Sprint Cup starts at the track, besides the three wins, Stewart has 11 top-five finishes, 19 top-10s and a 10.4 average finish. Over the last four Cup races here, he scored the second-most number of championship points of all drivers entered. Find a spot on your roster for the No. 14 Chevrolet SS this week.

Talk about experience; Mark Martin made 54 Cup Series starts at the 3/4 mile facility. While he only has one victory, Martin has maintained an 11.9 average finish including 30 Top-10s. He earned five poles; including his first start in 1981 and this race in 2012. Martin entered 25 Nationwide Series races at the track; won five of them and carried a 9.2 average finish. He drove in one Camping World Truck Series event; started fourth, finished third. With a worst finish of 10th in his last three Sprint Cup starts here, it’s pretty safe to assume that the No. 55 Toyota driver can be counted on to finish somewhere in the top-20 on Saturday night.

Jeff Burton grew up about two hours away from the Richmond track (in South Boston, VA) and considers it one of his favorites. He won a Cup race and two Nationwide Series races at RIR. We’re looking for a final top-20 pick this week and that’s where Burton finished in nine of his last 11 Richmond Sprint Cup Series starts. In this race last season, he almost made it 10 out of 11 before getting a little close to the wall on lap 310 (finished 31st after repairs). Round out your fantasy roster with the No. 31 Chevrolet SS driver at his home-state track.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
Email :Anthony Ballantoni

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