Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Richmond II

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Track history: Richmond started out in 1946 as a 1/2-mile dirt track named the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds. The first NASCAR Cup Series event was held there seven years later. The name changed to Virginia State Fairgrounds in 1967.  Between races in 1968, the racing surface was finally paved. The facility's present configuration was constructed in September 1988. It is now a 3/4-mile 'D' shaped asphalt oval with banking of 14 degrees allowing the cars to average 125 mph laps. The name was also changed that year to its current Richmond International Raceway.

In 1991, lights were installed around the track and since then, all racing at Richmond is “under the lights.”

RIR is almost completely surrounded by grandstand seats.  In May 2007, the new TORQUE Club and Commonwealth Grandstand opened to the public. After the September 2006 race, about 3,000 of the low-row seats were removed and the 180-foot high structure was built. This gave the Raceway a gain of almost 5,000 seats, bringing the seating capacity to 112,029.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners:
Kevin Harvick, 4/27/13, Clint Bowyer 9/8/12, Kyle Busch 4/28/12, Kevin Harvick 9/10/11 and Kyle Busch 4/30/11.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Jeff Fuller 3/8/92 and Jeff Green 9/10/94.
First Cup pole: Morgan Shepherd 2/22/81, Bobby Labonte 9/11/93, Ted Musgrave 3/6/94 and Brian Vickers 5/15/04.
First Cup win: Tony Stewart 9/11/99 and Kasey Kahne 5/14/05.

April 19, 1953: Buck Baker qualified the No. 87 Griffin Motors ’53 Oldsmobile on the pole for the 1953 Richmond 200 with a lap of 48.465 mph on the half-mile dirt track. He finished third to race winner, Lee Petty. Petty, father of Richard Petty, won $1000 for putting his 1953 Petty Enterprises Dodge up front at the end of the 100 mile event.
September 8, 2012: Clint Bowyer (15 Toyota) won the Federated Auto Parts 400. It was his second victory in 2012 and his second in 14 races at Richmond. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 39 Ryan Newman 13 laps, finished eighth; No. 14 Tony Stewart 15 laps, finished fourth; Pole-sitter No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 67 laps, finished 14th; Race-winner Bowyer 88 laps and No. 11 Denny Hamlin led the most laps (202 of 400) and finished 18th.
April 27, 2013: Kevin Harvick (29 Chevrolet) won the Toyota Owners 400. It was his first victory in 2013 and third in 25 starts at Richmond. Harvick led only three laps in the race. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 78 Kurt Busch 36 laps, finished ninth; No. 18 Kyle Busch 40 laps, finished 24th; No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya 67 laps, finished fourth; No. 15 Clint Bowyer 113 laps, finished second and Pole-sitter No. 20 Matt Kenseth led the most laps (140 of 406) and finished seventh.

Your fantasy game 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 Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth. There were 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race.

Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth have already clinched the first six spots in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup top 10. The focus on Saturday night, the last chance to make the cut, will be on the four drivers (Earnhardt Jr., Logano, Biffle and Kurt Busch) vying for the remaining four spots. Also, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski have a legitimate shot at getting into the Chase via the 11th and 12th place “wild card” entries. The rest of the field will either be trying to help teammates get into the Chase or avoid being a spoiler to those drivers. There will also be drivers going for the win without any agenda. That being said, her are our picks for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 in Richmond, Virginia.

Mid-Pack picks
In his first four starts at Richmond, Juan Pablo Montoya made a few enemies because he bulled his way around the track. He also averaged just a 32nd place finish in those attempts. Since then, he finished 20th or better in all but one of his last nine starts at the 3/4 mile track. He started on the pole in the other one (April 2011), led the first 25 laps, but was put into the wall by another driver and finished five laps down in 29th place. NASCAR Statistics has Montoya ranked fifth in their Quality Passes category. He passed 509 cars while running in the top 15 during his 13 Richmond starts. Give the No. 42 Chevrolet some consideration to match his April 2013 finish of fourth place.

We picked Mark Martin for the April 2013 race at Richmond since, at the time, in 54 Cup starts at the track, he carried an 11.9 average finish included 30 top-10s. It looked like he was on his way to maintaining that average since he qualified 10th, spent the first half of the race in the top 10 and was running as high as fourth late in the race. A wreck took out the No. 55 Toyota resulting in a 38th place finish. This week, he's continuing to fill in for Tony Stewart who is on the mend from the broken leg. Stewart's team racked up four top-10s in the last five starts at RIR. You can expect to see the veteran bringing the No. 14 Chevrolet home somewhere in the the top-20 at the end on Saturday night. 

Jeff Burton just announced he won't return to the No. 31 Chevrolet in 2014 but that doesn't mean he's done for the season. He grew up about two hours away from the track (South Boston, VA) and considers it one of his favorites. He won a Cup race and two Nationwide Series races at RIR. Burton has scored top-20 finishes in 10 of his last 12 Richmond Sprint Cup starts. His two most recent finishes at Richmond were a fifth in April and sixth last September. Overall, he holds a 15.2 average start coupled with a 14.8 average finish for his 38 Cup starts here. He was running at the finish in 37 of those races (a blown engine accounted for the one DNF). The decision not to return in 2014 was a mutual decision between Burton and team owner Richard Childress so expect the team to continue to contend this week.

AJ Allmendinger is another driver filling in for an injured regular. Bobby Labonte is nursing three broken ribs (bicycle accident) and AJ will pilot the No. 47 Toyota this week. In 12 starts at RIR, he has two top-10 finishes (best of  seventh in 2011). His average finish is 21.2. More importantly, it's an 11.2 for the last five starts. Labonte plans on returning at Chicagoland and finishing out the season but Allmendinger will be the full-time driver of this car in 2014. This is an opportunity for the team to start building communcation for next season. Find a spot on your roster for the Dinger this weekend.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
Email :Anthony Ballantoni

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