Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Quaker State 400

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Track history: Located in Sparta, Kentucky, and constructed on 850 acres of land, Kentucky Speedway is a 1.5-mile tri-oval with 14-degree banking in the turns and a 1,600-foot backstretch. The tri-oval is 57-feet wide and includes a 12-foot apron. The facility also features a paved quarter-mile track.

On July 10, 1998 an investor group broke ground for the speedway.  The first NASCAR Camping World (Craftsman) Truck Series Kroger 225 was held on June 17, 2000. Greg Biffle was the series first winner. Tim Steele won the July 2, 2000 inaugural ARCA Series Kentucky ARCA 150. The open-wheel IndyCar series made their first start at the speedway on August 27, 2000 with the victory going to Buddy Lazier. The NASCAR Nationwide Series made its debut at the track on June 16, 2001. Kevin Harvick earned the distinction of being the first NNS winner at the 1.5 mile tri-oval. In the second NNS trip to the Sparta track (June 16, 2002), Todd Bodine beat Greg Biffle to the finish by .036 seconds in the closest series finish in track history.

At end of 2008, Kentucky Speedway joined Atlanta, Bristol, Infineon, Las Vegas, Charlotte, New Hampshire and Texas as the eighth member of the Bruton Smith owned Speedway Motorsports Inc. Starting in early 2009, SMI invested $13.5 million on an enhancement project which included expanded parking, 200 infield campsites, improved track access roads, a new entrance area and a restroom/bathhouse facility.

SMI filed a lawsuit in July 2005 against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., alleging the companies violated federal antitrust laws by illegally restricting the awarding of Cup races. On August 10, 2010, Bruton Smith announced that Kentucky Speedway would hold an inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 400-mile event on July 9, 2011.

July 9, 2011: Kyle Busch won the Quaker State 400 from the pole. It was the No. 18 Toyota driver's third victory and 11th top-ten finish in 2011. With this win in the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway, Busch took over the lead in the 2011 NSCS point standings. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 11 Denny Hamlin five laps, finished 11th; No. 00 David Reutimann seven laps, finished second; No. 22 Kurt Busch 41 laps, finished ninth; No. 2 Brad Keselowski 79 laps, finished seventh and Race-winner Busch led the most laps (125 of the 267 event).

June 30, 2012: Brad Keselowski won the Quaker State 400, his third victory and seventh top-10 finish in 2012. The No. 2 Dodge driver started eighth and scored his first victory and second top-ten finish in two races at Kentucky Speedway.  Drivers leading five or more laps: Pole-sitter No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 21 laps, finished sixth; No. 11 Denny Hamlin 58 laps, finished third; Race-winner Keselowski led 68 laps and No. 18 Kyle Busch led the most laps (118 of 267) and finished in 10th place.

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 Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski. There were 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 in Sparta, Kentucky.

Mid-Pack picks
Denny Hamlin is running out of time to recover his season and make the Chase but the next few tracks have been good for him in the past. He logged Sprint Cup finishes of 11th and third at the Sparta track. In three Nationwide Series races here, he started fifth, pole and sixth; finished 15th, third and 33rd (engine), respectively. Hamlin knows he needs to win races but he also needs to break into the top-20 in points (currently 25th) to be considered for a 'wild-card' entry into the Chase. Look for the No. 11 Toyota Camry driver to do his best to make that happen this weekend. 

Marcos Ambrose has some decent history at Kentucky Speedway. In his lone truck series start (2006), he scored his first series pole and finished 19th. In his two Nationwide Series starts (both from top-10 in the lineup), he finished 11th and sixth. Ambrose qualified 12th and finished 20th in the 2011 Cup race but improved to a 13th place finish in 2012. He said: "Our goal this weekend is to be in contention, but also be in a position to win the race. We look at what we did at Charlotte during the 600 when we finished 10th. We were in contention." Consider the No. 9 Ford Fusion driver for a possible top 20 or better this Saturday night.

At Kentucky Speedway, Kurt Busch's Sprint Cup average finish for two starts is a 14.0. In the Nationwide Series, he finished second in the first race in 2012 and was running in third in the second 2012 race when a rear-gear failure took him out. Last week, Busch got a speeding penalty at Sonoma Raceway, WHILE SERVING a past-through penalty for a speeding penalty! He still managed to recover from that double-penalty and finished fourth. If he would stop beating himself, he will bring home a win for the team. The No. 78 Chevrolet SS driver has been in contention a most tracks in the last few races. Find a spot on your roster for Busch this week.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will carry yellow rookie stripes on his bumper this week while making his first Sprint Cup start at the Kentucky 1.5-mile track. His Nationwide Series record here is very respectable. He has an average start of 4.2 in four races, earning three top-10 finishes and one 17th place. Prior to moving up to the NNS, Stenhouse made two ARCA Racing Series starts at the Sparta track; won the first, finished in 13th place in the other. Considering this is the first race at the bumpy track with the Gen-6 car, most drivers will be 'rookies' this weekend. This should put the No. 17 Ford Fusion driver on equal ground with the rest of the competitors. 



Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at RotoWorld.com.
Email :Anthony Ballantoni



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