Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Bristol Night Race

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Track history: Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) was built after Larry Carrier and Carl Moore saw a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960. They wanted to build a smaller version of CMS in Tennessee and decided on a half-mile oval. Work began on a former dairy farm in 1960 and a year later the speedway was born with 22 degree banking in the turns. 18,000 fans attended the first NASCAR race at BMS in 1961. The track was reshaped in 1969 with the turns banked at 36 degrees. After the reshaping it became a 0.533-mile oval.

In August of 1992 the track was resurfaced from the original asphalt to become the first speedway to host a NASCAR Cup event on a concrete surface. In March 2007, right after the Food City 500, a multimillion-dollar project of removing and replacing the concrete racing surface, asphalt apron, pit road and all the retaining walls around the track was started. Conditions do not change during a race because concrete isn't as sensitive to weather changes like an asphalt paved track.

In 2012, between the March and August races, BMS went through a milling process to remove the progressive banking that was put in place in the 2007 resurfacing. The purpose was to eliminate the third upper groove and bring the field back down to a close racing two-groove track.

Since the straightaways are only 650 feet long on the 0.533-mile oval, the drivers are constantly braking, turning and accelerating which makes for a demanding race. The key to passing at Bristol is to be at the bottom in the turns and getting a good run off the corners. That's why race setup is critical at this track.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Kasey Kahne 3/17/13, Denny Hamlin 8/25/12, Brad Keselowski 3/18/12, Brad Keselowski 8/27/11 and Kyle Busch 3/20/11.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): AJ Allmendinger 3/25/07, Regan Smith 3/25/07 and Terry Cook 3/21/10.
First Cup pole: Steve Park 3/26/00, Jeff Green 8/25/01 and Joey Logano 3/21/10.
First Cup win: Elliott Sadler 3/25/01 and Kurt Busch 3/24/02.

July 30, 1961: Fred Lorenzen started the No. 28 Holman-Moody 1961 Ford on the pole for the Volunteer 500, the first Bristol Cup race. He made it through 175 laps of the 500 lap event before losing the rear end and finished 33rd. Jack Smith, who started 12th in his own No. 46 Pontiac, led the most laps (243) and earned $3,025 for the inaugural BMS victory.

August 25, 2012: Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota) won the Irwin Tools Night Race, from an eighth place start. It was his third victory and 12th top-10 finish in 2012 and his first victory in 14 races at Bristol. Drivers leading 25 or more laps: No. 17 Matt Kenseth 25 laps, finished 25th; Pole-sitter No. 13 Casey Mears 26 laps, finished 21st; No. 16 Greg Biffle 41 laps, finished 19th; No. 5 Kasey Kahne 42 laps, finished ninth; No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. 44 laps, finished 11th; No. 99 Carl Edwards 45 laps, finished 22nd; No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 52 laps, finished second; Race-winner Hamlin led 70 laps and No. 20 Joey Logano led the most laps (139 of 500) and finished eighth.

March 17, 2013: Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet) won the Food City 500 in Bristol from a second place start. It was his first victory and second top-10 finish in 2013. It was his first victory and eighth top-10 finish in 19 races at Bristol. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: Pole-sitter, No. 18 Kyle Busch 56 laps, finished second; No. 2 Brad Keselowski 62 laps, finished third; No. 24 Jeff Gordon 66 laps, wrecked (placed 34th); No. 20 Matt Kenseth 85 laps, wrecked (placed 35th); Race-winner Kasey Kahne led 109 laps and  No. 11 Denny Hamlin led the most laps (117 of 500).

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, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski. There were 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race in Bristol, Tennessee.

Mid-Pack picks
Paul Menard (No. 27 Chevrolet SS) has an 18.7 average finish for 12 Sprint Cup starts at Bristol Motor Speedway. Since joining RCR in 2011, he entered five races at the track and finished four in the top-10. He's coming off a fourth place finish at Michigan and hopes momentum will carry into Bristol. Menard said this week: "Qualifying is key at Bristol, because track position is very important. If we can get a good starting spot.. and stay out of trouble, we'll be in good shape on Saturday evening." He should be good in that respect; his worst start in those last five races at the Tennessee short track was from 11th place in the lineup.

With Mark Martin filling in for Tony Stewart while he recoups from a broken leg for the rest of the season, Brian Vickers takes over the No. 55 Toyota Camry full-time (except for Talladega..Waltrip will drive the car). In the 2012 Food City 500 at BMS, Vickers made the first of his eight starts in the MWR ride-share. He led 125 laps and finished fifth. In the 2012 summer night race at this track he finished in fourth place. His part-time performance last season impressed MWR enough to sign him for all the short-track events in 2013 and, this past week, MWR announced Vickers will be the sole driver of the No. 55 in 2014. We expect to see a good run from the team this Saturday night.

In 21 starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet SS) has an average start of 16.4 coupled with a 16.8 average finish. If you want a driver who brings it home in one piece, Jamie McMurray is your guy. He never had a DNF (did not finish) at this track. No other driver with at least 20 starts at the tough short track can claim that statistic. McMurray didn't accomplish that laying back at the rear of the field. He is considered a "charger" at BMS. Over the last 17 races, he is ranked second in NASCAR's loop data category for Green Flag passes. He passed 909 cars under green flag racing. McMurray has also scored the second-most championship points (behind track favorite Kyle Busch) in the last six Bristol Cup races. Give him some consideration for your roster this weekend.

We're looking for top-20 drivers here and Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 Ford Fusion) fits the bill. That's where he finished in five of his last six starts in Thunder Valley. In the other race (March 2012), he was caught up in an early wreck and finished 30th. Ambrose was involved in another multi-car wreck in the March 2013 race but still managed to collect a 19th place result. Maybe it's racing after dark, maybe just a coincidence, but he does better in the second race of the season at the track. Over the last four races at BMS, he was running in the top 15 for 23 laps of the 1000 laps run in the two day races and 900 of the 1000 laps run in the night races. We're thinking the pattern will continue under the lights on Saturday evening.



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



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