Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: GEICO 400

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Track history: For several years, NASCAR planned to build a track in the Chicago area. A preliminary plan was formed in late1995 between NASCAR’s Bill France, Jr. and Tony George, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  After several unsuccessful attempts to find a suitable location for the new venue, Dale Coyne, owner of the newly built (1998) Route 66 Raceway contacted France and George with a new idea. They formed Raceway Associates and planned a superspeedway adjacent to Coyne’s highly successful drag racing facility. Their intent was to build the Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5-mile oval racetrack, to host NASCAR and IRL events. Construction began in August 1999 and the racetrack hosted its first Cup event in 2001. 

The difference between this track and the other 1.5-mile D-shaped ovals at Las Vegas, Kansas, Texas and Charlotte, is that the backstretch is slightly curved rather than a straightaway. This gives the drivers a feeling of turning left the entire race.

Beginning with the 2011 season, the lone race at the Joliet track was moved from July to become the first race in the 10-event 'post-season' Chase to the Sprint Cup.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Brad Keselowski 9/16/12, Tony Stewart 9/19/11, David Reutimann 7/10/10, Mark Martin 7/11/09 and Kyle Busch 7/12/08.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Johnny Sauter 7/13/03, David Stremme 7/10/05 and Josh Wise 9/19/11.
First Cup pole: No drivers.
First Cup win: No drivers.
July 15, 2001: Teammates Todd Bodine and Jimmy Spencer shared the front row in a pair of Travis Carter Kmart Fords for the start of the Tropicana 400. Bodine’s No. 66 qualified on the pole with a speed of 183.717 mph. He led six laps and finished 14th. Spencer finished fifth after leading 50 laps in the No. 26. Kevin Harvick, driver of the Richard Childress No. 29 Goodwrench Chevrolet, started sixth in the lineup, led 113 of the 267 lap event, and scored his second Cup career victory in only his 17th start.
September 18, 2011: Tony Stewart (14 Chevrolet) won the GEICO 400 from 26th place in the lineup. It was his first victory and 12th top-10 finish in 2011. It was his third victory and ninth top-10 finish in 11 races at Chicagoland Speedway. Drivers leading at least 10 laps in the 267 lap race: No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. 14 laps, finished 18th; No. 39 Ryan Newman 18 laps, finished eighth; Race-winner Stewart led 35 laps; No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 39 laps, finished tenth; No. 99 Carl Edwards 39 laps, finished fourth; Pole-sitter No. 17 Matt Kenseth 46 laps, finished 21st and No. 22 Kurt Busch led the most laps (64) and finished sixth.
September 16, 2012: Brad Keselowski (2 Dodge) won the GEICO 400, his eighth victory in 116 Sprint Cup races. It was his fourth victory and 16th top-10 finish in 2012. This was his first victory and second top-10 finish in four races at Chicagoland Speedway. Drivers leading at least 5 laps in the 267 lap race: No. 15 Clint Bowyer six laps, finished 10th; Race-winner Keselowski led 76 laps and Pole-sitter No. 48 Jimmie Johnson led the most laps (172) and finished second.

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, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.  There were 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday's GEICO 400 in Joliet, Illinois.

Mid-Pack picks
This has been a rough week for Martin Truex Jr. (56 Toyota); in the Chase (barely) and then out due to penalties after Richmond's race last Saturday night. Now, at 17th in the points, we get to look at him for the race in Joliet. In seven Sprint Cup starts at Chicagoland, Truex finished inside the top 18 in six races and the other was a DNF due to a blown engine. His last three resulted in a 12.7 average finish. He is rated third in NASCAR's loop data for Green Flag passes (484 cars). Of those, 222 were Quality Passes (while running inthe top-15, fifth-best). In the July 2012 race, all 34 passes were QP's. The Chase pressure is off. Now he has nothing to lose. Give Truex some consideration this weekend.

Truex's teammate, Brian Vickers (55 Toyota), was also part of the Michael Waltrip Racing company penalties at Richmond International Raceway. With an average start of 5.8 (including a 2009 pole) and an average finish of 9.5 in six Chicago starts, he has to be a candidate for your roster this week. He has the best starting average of all drivers and only Johnson and Stewart have better average finishes at the track. In the Nationwide Series, Vickers started eighth or better in the lineup for his last four Chicagoland starts. He backed that up with four consecutive top-five finishes including a fifth this past July.  

Mark Martin is among the 10 drivers who participated in all 12 Sprint Cup races held at Chicagoland. In 2009, he led a race-high 195 laps on his way to becoming one of nine different drivers to have won at the track. Tony Stewart is among those nine. He has three wins here; one in the his own No. 14 Chevrolet. So, the No. 14 team knows how to get it done in Joliet. Martin continues to sub on that team for Stewart while he recoups from the broken leg. Actually, it doesn't matter what car Martin drives; he averaged a 12.6 finish at the track for five different team owners and three different car makers. The veteran is a safe pick for a top 20 or better this week.

Juan Pablo Montoya has six Sprint Cup starts at Chicagoland. He has an average starting position of 20.8, an average finishing position of 16.0 and has completed 99.9% of the possible laps at the mile-and-a-half speedway. It has been announced that he won't be returning to the No. 42 Chevrolet in 2014 but it does not seem to have affected the performance of the team. Montoya has finished 16th or better in the last five races; averaging an 8.4 finish. Last week at Richmond, Montoya started 12th, overcame handling issues, a missing lugnut and two  penalties (start at tail-end, and a pass thru) and still managed a 16th place finish. We think you can count on the No. 42 as a fourth or fifth driver on your fantasy roster in Joliet.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
Email :Anthony Ballantoni

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