Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Coke Zero 400

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Track history: Groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway was Nov. 25, 1957. The soil underneath the banked corners was dug from the infield of the track and the hole filled with water. It is now known as Lake Lloyd.

The 480 acre facility is considered the "World Center of Racing" hosting the famous Daytona 500 race in February. Banking in turns on the 2.5-mile track is 31 degrees. Banking in the tri-oval is 18 degrees and 3 degrees on the backstretch. The frontstretch is 3,800 feet and the backstretch is 3,400 feet.

In addition to the tower suites, there are 168,000 grandstand seats.

Lights were installed in the spring of 1998. However, the race was delayed until October that year due to thick smoke from wildfires. The second Daytona race has been held under lights ever since.

For only the second time in its history, Daytona International Speedway was repaved in 2010.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners:
Jimmie Johnson 2/24/13, Tony Stewart 7/7/12, Matt Kenseth 2/27/12, David Ragan 7/2/11 and Trevor Bayne 2/20/11.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Geoff Bodine 2/18/79, Robby Gordon 2/17/91, Tony Stewart 2/14/99, Scott Pruett 2/20/00, Casey Mears 2/16/03, Brendan Gaughan 2/15/04, Kasey Kahne 2/15/04, Scott Riggs 2/15/04, Brian Keselowski 2/20/11, Steve Wallace 2/20/11 and Danica Patrick 2/27/12.
First Cup pole: Geoff Bodine 7/4/82, Mike Skinner 2/16/97, Jimmie Johnson 2/17/02, Kevin Harvick 7/6/02, Greg Biffle 2/15/04, Paul Menard 7/5/08 and Danica Patrick 2/24/13.
First Cup win: Derrike Cope 2/18/90, John Andretti 7/5/97, Michael Waltrip 2/18/01, Greg Biffle 7/5/03, Trevor Bayne 2/20/11 and David Ragan 7/2/11.

First Daytona Cup races-1959: The first Daytona Cup race was the February 1959 Daytona 500 won by Lee Petty. The first summer Cup event was the 1959 Firecracker 250 held on July 4th. Fireball Roberts put the Jim Stephens owned No. 3 Pontiac on the pole, led 84 of the 100 lap race and beat the rest of the 34 car field. He earned $7,050 for crossing the line 57 seconds ahead of runner-up Joe Weatherly’s No. 12 Ford Thunderbird.
July 7, 2012: Tony Stewart won the Coke Zero 400, his 47th victory in 482 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. He qualified second but his time was disallowed so he had to start the race in 42nd place. This was the No. 14 Chevrolet driver's third victory and ninth top-10 finish in 2012 and his fourth victory in 28 races at Daytona. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 18 Kyle Busch 6 laps, finished 24th; Race-winner Stewart led 22 laps; No. 16 Greg Biffle 35 laps, finished 21st and Pole-sitter No. 16 Matt Kenseth led the most laps (89 of 160) and finished third.
February 24, 2013: Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500, his 61st victory in 400 NSCS races. It was the No. 48 Chevrolet SS driver's second victory and 10th top-10 finish in 23 races at Daytona International Speedway. Drivers leading five or more laps: Pole-sitter No. 10 Danica Patrick five laps, finished eighth; No. 2 Brad Keselowski 13 laps, finished fourth; Race-winner Johnson led 17 laps; No. 24 Jeff Gordon 31 laps, finished 20th; No. 11 Denny Hamlin 33 laps, finished 14th and No. 20 Matt Kenseth led 86 of the first 149 laps (of the 200 event) before his engine failed (credited with a 37th place finish).

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, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart. There were 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Mid-Pack picks
You can look at driver stats, analyze their average finishes and where they run throughout the race but the "Big One', even on the last lap going to the checkers, can throw all that out the window. Considering this, we're going with all sleepers this week.

Bobby Labonte's streak of consecutive Sprint Cup starts ended at 704 last weekend a Kentucky Speedway when the team opted to put Allmendinger in the car. Labonte is back in the No. 47 Toyota Camry this week at a track where he has six top-five, 10 top-10 finishes and has led 70 laps in 41 starts. He does his best to avoid trouble and managed to finish the last three Daytona races in 14th, 10th and 15th, respectively. Some of his comments this week sum up his style: "You may have to pick and choose your battles. You have to be conscientious." and best of all: "We've got just as good of a chance as anybody to finish first." We like his attitude.

Leading Rookie of the Year contender, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be making his third Sprint Cup start at Daytona; first in the night race. In his two Daytona 500 starts he finished 20th last season and, after suffering some damage in a multi-car wreck, he worked his way back to a 12th place finish in the 2013 event. He has six Nationwide Series career starts, earning two top-five and three top-10 finishes. The car he's driving this week is the same chassis that teammate Greg Biffle drove to a third-place finish in the 2012 Daytona 500 and led 35 laps in the Coke Zero 400 last year. Find a spot on your roster for the No. 17 Ford Fusion this week.

Next, we're looking at another ROTY contender. Danica Patrick had an exceptional performance in the season-opener at Daytona. In February, she was fastest in the season's first practice. She won the pole for the 500; first woman to win a Cup pole. She led five laps; first woman to do so under green flag conditions. Patrick ran in the top-three for most of the race with an average position of fifth-place. She was running in third on the last lap when the Big One happened. Avoiding the melee, she crossed the line in eighth-place (another Daytona 500 best for a woman). Patrick probably won't top that performance but consider the No. 10 Chevrolet SS driver to be a player again on Saturday night.

Our final sleeper this week is veteran driver Jeff Burton. He won this race way back in the summer of 2000. He scored top fives in two of his last three Daytona Sprint Cup starts including a second in this race last year. NASCAR Statistics shows Burton at the top of the chart in their Green Flag Passes category. The No. 31 Chevrolet SS driver passed 3,588 cars under green flag conditions during the last 17 races at Daytona. He also topped their Green Flag Speed category (188.739 mph) all while averaging a respectable 18.2 finish for those events. Burton is still a driver to watch for a potential top 20 or better at the superspeedway.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
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