Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: 400

Thursday, August 01, 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: Jimmie Johnson 6/9/13, Jeff Gordon 8/5/12, Joey Logano 6/10/12, Brad Keselowski 8/7/11 and Jeff Gordon 6/12/11.
First Cup start 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.

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.

June 9, 2013: Jimmie Johnson won the Party in the Poconos 400 Presented by Walmart from the pole for his 63rd victory in 413 Cup races. This was the No. 48 Chevrolet SS driver's third victory in 2013 and third in 23 races at Pocono. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 99 Carl Edwards 9 laps, finished 18th; No. 39 Ryan Newman 19 laps, finished fifth and race-winner Johnson led the most laps (128 of 160).

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 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s 400 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

Mid-Pack picks

In 53 Cup starts at the Tricky Triangle, Mark Martin has yet to score a win but he does own seven second-place finishes at this track. In the most recent (June 2012), he was leading with three to go when he was passed by Joey Logano. Logano beat Martin to the finish by a mere .997 seconds. His 20 top fives at Pocono is more than any other driver entered this week. Okay, he has 12 more starts than any of them, but his 11.2 average finish is still fifth-best. The top-four are the track favorites. Martin’s finishing average here says the No. 55 Toyota driver has a good shot at finally clicking off that W, but we feel he's good for, at worst, a top 20 on Sunday.

Speaking of the guy who beat Martin to the finish in June 2012, we're looking at Joey Logano again at the Long Pond track. We picked him this past June and he pulled thru with a 10th place finish. Sandwiched between the win and the 10th place, he also scored a 13th place in the August 2013 400-miler. Even though he's 18th in the points (due to problems at Daytona and Loudon in July), Logano has nine top-10 finishes so far this season. That's on pace to be a season high for the No. 22 Ford Fusion driver. His best was 16 top-10s in 2010. Coming off an eighth-place last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we think this would be a good week to put Logano on your fantasy roster.

According to NASCAR's loop data statistics for Pocono, Jeff Burton is the series best Closer. Over the past 17 races at the track he has improved his position 55 spots over the last 10 percent of the race. He's also fifth-best in the Green Flag pass category for passing 1,374 times. His average finish was a 14.9 in those 17 events. Burton’s worst finish in his last 15 starts at Pocono was a 22nd place. The rest were all 20th or better. In 39 starts here, he has a consistent 16th place finishing average. Give the No. 31 Chevrolet SS a look to maintain that average finish in Sunday's race.

Our final pick this week is Juan Pablo Montoya who has an average finish of 18.3 for 13 Cup starts at Pocono. His first four races at the track were all outside the top 15. Since his start in the first 2009 event he seems to have figured out the Tricky Triangle. With the exception of this race in 2011 (a 32nd-place after a late-race wreck) Montoya had top 20 results. His best was a runner-up in August 2009. In the August 2012 race, he started on the pole, had a 15th place average running position and finished 20th. This past June, he had a 13th place average running position (spent about 67% of the race in the top-15) and finished 14th. Find a spot on your team for the No. 42 Chevrolet this week.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
Email :Anthony Ballantoni

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