Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Quicken Loans 400

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Track history: Built in 1968 by Lawrence H. LoPatin, a Detroit land developer, at a cost of about $6 million, Michigan International Speedway is a 2-mile asphalt D-shaped oval located on 1400 acres in the Irish Hills of southeastern Michigan. Charles Moneypenny, designer of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, designed the Michigan oval as well. It has 18-degree banking in turns and 12-degree banking in the tri-oval, which is part of the 3,600-foot frontstretch. The 2,242-foot backstretch is banked five degrees. After LoPatin got overextended financially and filed bankruptcy, Roger Penske took over ownership of Michigan International Speedway in 1973 and invested millions in improving the facility.

In 1999, Penske teamed up with International Speedway Corporation to jointly own the speedway.

In 2004, SAFER walls were added to the track.

In June 2010, MIS unveiled its new suite/media center building along pit road, which features state-of-the-art accommodations for its suite customers and visiting media members.

The track was resurfaced in 1977, 1986, 1995 and once again after the 2011 season.

Since the corners are so long, drivers are in the gas hard all throughout the race. This may contribute to the engine failures seen in past races at MIS. It's not unusual to see cars racing three or four and sometimes five-wide on the long straightaways.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Greg Biffle 8/19/12, Dale Earnhardt Jr. 6/17/12, Kyle Busch 8/21/11, Denny Hamlin 6/19/11 and Kevin Harvick 8/15/10.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Ted Musgrave 8/19/90, Carl Edwards 8/22/04 and Landon Cassill 6/13/10.
First Cup pole: Jeff Burton 8/18/96, J.J. Yeley 6/17/07 and Marcos Ambrose 6/17/12.
First Cup win: None.

June 15, 1969: Donnie Allison clocked a 160.135 mph lap in the No. 27 Banjo Matthews Ford to start up front for the 1969 Motor State 500. He blew an engine 115 laps into the 250 lap event. Cale Yarborough started the famous Wood Brothers No. 21 Mercury Cyclone fourth in the field of 38 cars and went on to win the event. He beat David Pearson’s No. 17 Ford by five car lengths and earned a $17,625 payday.

June 17, 2012: Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke his 143-race winless streak with the win in the Quicken Loans 400. He started the No. 88 Chevrolet 17th in the lineup and picked up his 19th victory in 450 NSCS races. This was his second victory and ninth top-10 finish in 26 races at Michigan. Drivers leading five or more laps: Pole-sitter No. 9 Marcos Ambrose 15 laps, finished ninth; No. 17 Matt Kenseth 17 laps, finished third; No. 14 Tony Stewart 18 laps, finished second; No. 16 Greg Biffle 38 laps, finished fourth and Race-winner Earnhardt led the most laps (95 of 200).

August 19, 2012: Greg Biffle won the Pure Michigan 400, his 18th victory in 353 Cup races. It was the No. 16 Ford driver’s second victory and 14th top-10 finish in 2012. It was his third victory and 12th top-10 finish in 20 races at Michigan. Pole-sitter No. 55 Mark Martin led 54 laps but wrecked on lap 64 and was credited with a 35th place finish. Other drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. 12 laps, finished 10th; No. 2 Brad Keselowski 17 laps, finished second; No. 15 Clint Bowyer 19 laps, finished seventh; No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 23 laps, engine failure (27th); No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 25 laps, finished fourth; Race-winner Biffle led 26 laps and Martin’s 54 laps were the most.

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, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. There were 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Mid-Pack picks

The June 2012 race at MIS turned out to be a 'career day' for Marcos Ambrose. Not only did he win his first Cup career pole but it was the first pole in NASCAR history with a lap faster than 200 mph on a non-plate track. The 203.341 mph lap is still the track record. He finished that race in ninth place. In August 2012, Ambrose started eighth and finished in fifth. Said Ambrose: "Michigan is an oval track that we have circled as a place where we feel confident I could get my first oval win." Granted, last season's two top-10s were preceded by seven finishes of 15th or worse (averaged 27th for those seven) but we're looking at how he has been running this season. His last three races were 19th or better and that puts him in our top-20 category. Give the No. 9 Ford driver a look as a fourth or fifth driver on your team.

Whether you want to consider this an audition race or not, AJ Allmendinger may bring some help to the JTG Daugherty No. 47 Toyota Camry this week. He will 'fill in' for Bobby Labonte in five races. Allmendinger said: ”…it worked into me driving for them at Michigan International Speedway. We're doing a total of five races together just for another opinion to help their team." AJ has 10 Cup starts at the track, averaged a 21st place finish, had a best finish of 11th (two times) and his last five starts resulted in top-20 finishes. We're looking for another possible top-20 this weekend.

Martin Truex Jr. has an average finish of 16.6 in 14 Sprint Cup starts at MIS. Only one of his last six races here ended in a finish outside the top-20. He once said he likes racing at Michigan:  "the speed—it’s fun to run that fast and slide around. It’s like running a big old dirt track.” He also knows he's running out of races to get back into Chase contention. He said this week: "I can’t wait to see how the track has aged since the winter. It should still be really fast. A top-10 is a must for us this weekend." Maybe, but a top-20 should be counted on for the No. 56 Toyota Camry.

Last week we picked Ryan Newman and he came thru with a fifth place finish at Pocono Raceway. So, why mess with success. This week he's at a track that accounts for two of his 16 Cup career wins. That was back in 2003 and 2004. That was also the timeframe when Newman earned two Nationwide Series victories at Michigan. Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009, Newman raced at MIS in eight Sprint Cup events. In the first four, his best finish was a 15th (finishing average: 23.3). In his last four, his worst finish was a 15th (averaged an 8.5). We like that! Find a spot on your roster for the No. 39 Chevrolet SS this week.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
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