Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Party in Poconos 400

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Track history: Pocono Raceway is a very demanding track not only on the drivers, but on the equipment as well. It is a 2.5-mile triangular oval with different length straight-aways and different banking in the three turns. The front stretch is 3,740 feet where the cars are going 200 mph into a tight 14-degree banked first turn. The backstretch is 3,055 feet leading into an 8 degree sweeping turn 2. The short straight is 1,780 feet running into a tight 6 degree turn 3. The track has been described as "the superspeedway that drives like a road course". The facility was built in 1968 as a three-quarter mile raceway and was expanded to its current 2.5-mile configuration in the early 1970's.

In the fall of 2010, improvements to the facility included extended SAFER barriers and over 6,000 feet of new catch fences. After the 2011 season, the entire track’s surface was removed and repaved in time for the 2012 season. The last time Pocono was repaved was in 1995. Pit road was also improved, made wider, asphalt pit stalls were replaced with a concrete surface and a new outer pit wall was installed.

Starting in 2012, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono are scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012 all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races were 500 miles at Pocono Raceway.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Jeff Gordon 8/5/12, Joey Logano 6/10/12, Brad Keselowski 8/7/11, Jeff Gordon 6/12/11 and Greg Biffle 8/1/10.
First Cup here (Active drivers): Stephen Leicht 7/23/06, Chad McCumbee 6/10/07 and Jason White 8/7/11.
First Cup pole: Casey Mears 8/1/04.
First Cup win: Denny Hamlin 6/11/06.

August 4, 1974: The first 500-mile NASCAR race, the Purolator 500, was held on August 4, 1974.  With a 144.122 mph lap in the Bud Moore No. 15 Ford, Buddy Baker qualified on the pole to lead the 35-car field. He led 11 laps and finished second. Richard Petty started his No. 43 STP Dodge third on the grid, led 152 laps and took the win in the rain-shortened (480 miles) inaugural event.

June 10, 2012: Joey Logano won the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR, his second victory in 125 Cup races. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota started on the pole, and at 22 years, 17 days old, he became the youngest series winner at Pocono. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 17 Matt Kenseth 11 laps, finished seventh; No. 1 Jamie McMurray 14 laps, finished 10th; No. 16 Greg Biffle 19 laps, finished 24th; No. 11 Denny Hamlin 21 laps, finished fifth; No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 36 laps, finished eighth and Race-winner Logano led the most laps (49 of 160).

August 5, 2012: Jeff Gordon won the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400, his 86th victory in 674 NSCS races. Gordon is third on the all-time series wins list. This is the No. 24 Chevrolet driver's first victory in 2012 and his sixth victory in 40 races at Pocono Raceway. He took sole possession of first on the all-time Pocono wins list. Drivers leading five or more laps: Pole-sitter No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya seven laps, finished 20th; No. 2 Brad Keselowski eight laps, finished fourth; Race-winner Gordon led eight laps; No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 17 laps, finished 32nd and No. 48 Jimmie Johnson led the most laps (44 of 98 run) and finished 14th.

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 Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. There were 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Party in the Poconos 400 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

Mid-Pack picks

In 23 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono Raceway, Kurt Busch collected two wins, nine top-fives, 12 top-10s and one pole. His 449 laps led is fourth-best behind three of the track favorites. He has an 11.3 average start coupled with a 16.1 average finish at the track.  This will be his first start at the "Tricky Triangle" with his Denver-based one-car team. While all of his successful runs at Pocono were made during his time with the Roush and Penske teams, we think the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet driver will be a contender this week. With top-15s in five of the last six Cup races this season, including a third at Charlotte, it's just a matter of time before Busch will be pulling into victory lane.

This will be Mark Martin's 53rd Cup start at the Long Pond track where he has a very respectable 9.3 average start and an 11.1 average finish. Along the way, he's earned three poles, 34 top-10s and his 20 top-fives are the most of any driver. Martin also finished 43 of those races on the lead lap. He has finished second at the Pennsylvania track seven times including the near victory in June 2012. In that 400-mile race, Martin took the lead with seven to go, Joey Logano regained it with three to go and beat Martin by 0.997 seconds to the checkers. Martin came back and finished 12th in the rain-shortened August 2012 event. This week he said he doesn't have a 'bucket list' but if he did, a win a Pocono (one of only five tracks where he hasn't collected one) would be at the top of the list. Find a spot for the No. 55 Toyota Camry on your team this week.

Speaking of the defending winner of this race, Joey Logano took some time figuring out the Tricky Triangle. He averaged a 21st place finish in his first six races. In his last two, he won from the pole and finished 13th in August 2012. Logano has been pulling the Sprint Cup/Nationwide Series double-duty recently. On the positive side, in the last two weeks, he finished the Charlotte Cup race in fifth and the NNS race in third; the Dover Cup race in seventh and won the NNS race. On the negative side, he's pulling double-duty this weekend but the Nationwide race is at Iowa Speedway. This could cause some logistic problems and could take away from his performance on Sunday. We still think the No. 22 Ford Fusion driver will be somewhere near the front in Sprint Cup event.

Okay, it has been 12 Sprint Cup races at Pocono (June 2007) since Ryan Newman sat on the pole. It has been 19 races (July 2003) since he visited the Long Pond victory lane. But it has also been 16 races (June 2005) since Newman finished outside of the top 18 at the track. In those 16 races, his 2,287 laps running in the top-15 is second-best to track favorite Johnson. NASCAR Statistics also shows him at the top of the chart in their Quality Passes category. He passed 750 cars in those 16 races while running in the top-15. Over the last seven races this season, Newman wrecked twice and finished in the top-15 in the other five starts. Round out your fantasy roster with the No. 39 Chevrolet SS and hope he makes it six out of eight.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
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