Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Mid-Pack: Sylvania 300

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Track history: New Hampshire International Speedway (original name), the first superspeedway started in the U.S. since 1969, broke ground on August 13, 1989 and was ready for racing the next year. It is a 1.058-mile asphalt oval with 12-degree banking in the turns. The 1,500-foot frontstretch and backstretch are banked two degrees. The seating for 55,000 fans in the grandstands on opening day has been increased to its current 95,000 capacity.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series held its first race, the Budweiser 300, on July 15, 1990. Tommy Ellis drove the No. 99 Goo Goo Clusters Buick to the victory in that event. For the next three years, the Nationwide Series was joined by CART and IRL at the Loudon track. The speedway hosted its first NASCAR Cup race in July 1993.
In the mid-to-late 1990’s, several improvements were made at the facility. A 1.6 mile road course was added for motorcycles and sports cars. Four helipads, an expanded Corporate Hospitality area, VIP suites, an additional 52 bay garage and more grandstands were built. More parking and a five-lane access road were constructed.
In early 2008, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. acquired the track and officially changed the name to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Brian Vickers 7/14/13, Denny Hamlin 9/23/12, Kasey Kahne 7/15/12, Tony Stewart 9/25/11 and Ryan Newman 7/17/11.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Jeff Burton 7/11/93, Joe Nemechek 7/11/93, Joey Logano 9/14/08, Kelly Bires 7/15/12 and Mike Olsen 9/23/12.
First Cup pole: Patrick Carpentier 6/29/08 and Brad Keselowski 9/19/10.
First Cup win: Joe Nemechek 9/19/99, Robby Gordon 11/23/01, Ryan Newman 9/15/02, Clint Bowyer 9/16/07 and Joey Logano 6/27/09.
July 11, 1993: After driving the No. 6 Valvoline Ford to a 126.871 mph qualifying lap, Mark Martin started on the pole for the first Loudon NASCAR Cup race, the Slick 50 300. He led 29 of the 300 laps and finished second. Rusty Wallace started the No. 2 Miller Genuine Draft Pontiac 33rd in the lineup, got to the front to lead 106 laps and earned the victory.
September 23, 2012: Denny Hamlin (11 Toyota) won the Sylvania 300, his 22nd victory in 251 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. This was his fifth victory and 14th top-10 finish in 2012. It was his second victory and 10th top-10 finish in 14 races at Loudon. Drivers leading five or more laps: No. 55 Brian Vickers five laps, finished ninth; Pole-sitter No. 24 Jeff Gordon seven laps, finished third; No. 14 Tony Stewart 38 laps, finished seventh; No. 18 Kyle Busch 48 laps, finished 28th and Race-winner Hamlin led the most laps (193 of 300).
July 14, 2013: Nationwide Series regular Brian Vickers (55 Toyota) won the Camping World RV Sales 301, his third victory in 271 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. It is his first victory and fourth top-10 in 16 Sprint Cup races at Loudon. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: Pole-sitter No. 2 Brad Keselowski 14 laps, finished fourth; Race-winner Vickers led 16 laps; No. 20 Matt Kenseth 33 laps, finished ninth; No. 18 Kyle Busch 53 laps, finished second; No. 14 Tony Stewart 84 laps, finished 26th and No. 78 Kurt Busch led the most laps (102 of 302) and finished 31st.

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, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski. There were 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 in Loudon, New Hampshire.
Mid-Pack picks
Our top pick from drivers outside the top top-15 in points has to be the most recent winner at Loudon. Brian Vickers won the Camping World RV Sales 301 here in July. He also finished 15th and ninth in his two 2012 NHMS starts in the ride-shared No. 55 Toyota. He had to start the September 2012 race from the rear due to an engine change. He didn't lead a lot of laps (about 2%) in those three race but he did spend over 50% of those laps running in the top 15. We don't expect another victory from the team this week but you should bank on a top-20 (more likely a top-15) from Vickers on Sunday afternoon.

You might tend to avoid Denny Hamlin because of the way he has been running this season. If you've run out of choice picks in your game and need a decent fill-in, he could be your man. In the last six races in the Granite State, only favorite Jeff Gordon has scored more driver points than Hamlin. In the July 2013 race at Loudon, he had a lug-nut problem in the pits and then had tire issues on the track, resulting a 21st place finish. How did he do in his two starts here in 2012? He started the July race in third, led 150 laps and finished in second place. In the 2012 edition of the Sylvania 300, Hamlin started deep in the field (32nd). He was in the top-20 by lap 15, into the lead before lap 100 and never looked back. As noted above, he led 193 of the 300 lap race including the final one. He may not lead half the laps again on Sunday but he could be a valuable addition to your fantasy roster as a third or fourth driver. 

We liked Jeff Burton in July (finished third) and we still like him this week for the same reasons. He made his Cup debut at Loudon in 1993; is one of only four drivers entered this week who have started all 37 NSCS races at the track and Burton leads the series with four NHMS victories. During his most recent win (2000), he led all 300 laps. No driver has led 100% of any Cup race at any track since. More recently, his worst Loudon finish in the last eight races was a 21st place. The other races resulted in a 16th place or better. Yeah, the No. 31 Chevrolet driver has a decent shot at a top-20 on Sunday.

Five times in NASCAR's major divisions, the Truex family has scored wins at Loudon. Martin Truex Jr. won the 2000 and 2003 K&N Pro Series East races and the 2005 Nationwide Series race. Martin Truex Sr. won the 1994 East race and Martin Jr.’s younger brother Ryan repeated that feat in 2010. Truex Jr. would like to add a Cup win to the 'Truex Tradition'. That being said, we're more likely looking at a top-20. That's where he finished in his last six Cup starts at the track. There's no Chase pressure for him (any more!). He had finishes of third, seventh and 18th in his last three Cup races. Consider the No. 55 Toyota for a spot on your team this week.

Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at
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