Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Camping World RV Sales 500

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Track history: Talladega Superspeedway was built in 1969 in an old soybean field near Anniston, Alabama. Track builders Bill France, Sr. and Bill Ward wanted it to be the biggest and fastest superspeedway on the Cup circuit. It is, without a doubt, the fastest racetrack in the world. Bill Elliott qualified at over 212 mph in 1987 at the 2.66-mile facility, which led to NASCAR's decision to slow down the cars here and at Daytona because speeds were getting unsafe. Both tracks use restrictor plates to limit the horsepower of the cars. Speeds on the straights (4,000 foot backstretch and 4,300 foot frontstretch) still exceed 200 mph.
The track is a high-banked tri-oval that is four lanes wide, with 33 degree banking at the ends and 18-degree banking in the tri-oval. For this reason, Talladega has a lot of 3-wide racing and it's not unusual to see the whole field running together at top speed the same as they did when the green flag dropped at the beginning of the race. The drivers run wide open all the way around the track, never lifting except to avoid getting caught up in the big wrecks, which are common in restrictor plate racing.

Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: David Ragan 5/5/13, Matt Kenseth 10/7/12, Brad Keselowski 5/6/12, Clint Bowyer 10/23/11 and Jimmie Johnson.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Dennis Setzer 4/26/98, Jamie McMurray 10/6/02, Eric McClure 4/25/04, Jacques Villeneuve 10/7/07 and Robert Richardson 11/1/09.
First Cup pole: Stacy Compton 4/22/01, David Gilliland 10/8/06, Travis Kvapil 10/5/08 and Juan Pablo Montoya 4/26/09.
First Cup win:  Ken Schrader 7/31/88, Brian Vickers 10/8/06 and Brad Keselowski 4/26/09.

September 14, 1969: After driving the No. 71 K & K Insurance ‘69 Dodge to a 196.386 mph qualifying lap, Bobby Isaac started on the pole for the first NASCAR Cup race, the 1969 Talladega 500. It was the first of five consecutive Talladega poles for Isaac. After leading 13 laps, Isaac finished fourth. Richard Brickhouse, in the No. 99 Nichols Engineering ‘69 Dodge, started ninth and won the race. The average race speed for that event was 153.778 mph.
October 7, 2012: Matt Kenseth (17 Ford) won the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500. This was his second victory of 2012 and his first victory and eighth top-10 finish in 26 races at Talladega. Pole-sitter No. 5 Kasey Kahne led nine laps and finished 12th. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 13 Casey Mears 10 laps, was involved in a 25-car last lap wreck, finished 26th; No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 11 laps, finished 17th; No. 29 Kevin Harvick 12 laps, finished 11th; No. 16 Greg Biffle 16 laps, finished sixth; No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 18 laps, involved in last lap wreck finished 20th; Race-winner Kenseth led 33 laps and No. 1 Jamie McMurray led the most laps (38 of 189), wrecked with three to go and was credited with a 34th place finish.
May 5, 2013: David Ragan (34 Ford) won the Aaron's 499, his second victory in 228 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. This was his first victory and first top-10 finish in 2013 and his first victory and sixth top-10 finish in 13 races at Talladega. Ragan started 19th and led four laps. Drivers leading five or more of the 192 laps: No. 47 Bobby Labonte five laps, finished 20th; No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. five laps, finished seventh; No. 99 Carl Edwards five laps, finished third; No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 16 laps, finished fifth and No. 20 Matt Kenseth led the most laps (142) and finished eighth.

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, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.  There were 44 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500 in Anniston, Alabama.

Mid-Pack picks
This should be the best weekend to add No. 34 Ford driver David Ragan to your team. Not only is he the most recent winner at Talladega (May 2013) but his worst finish in his last three starts at the Alabama superspeedway is a seventh place. Dega has become Ragan's best track on the Cup Series schedule. He carries a 14.7 average finish in 13 starts at the track; second-best (Brad Keselowski's 12.6 is best) of all current drivers making at least five starts. He finished eight in his first trip to Talladega in a 2005 ARCA Re/Max race. In 2006, he ran a truck race; started second, finished seventh. He also scored his first career Nationwide Series victory at the track and holds a 7.7 average finish here in that series. Expect some of the same from Ragan on Sunday.

It's good to be the boss! You get to pick and choose the tracks you want to race on when your turn comes up in the ride-share No. 55 Toyota. Michael Waltrip prefers the plate tracks. In 54 previous Sprint Cup starts at Dega, he has one win, eight top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. He led 32 races at the track for a total of 233 laps. Waltrip has three victories at the other plate track in Daytona Beach. His two most recent races were both top fives; a fourth in the Talladega Aaron's 499 this past May and a fifth in the July Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. We don't expect the 'part-time' driver to win on Sunday, but you never know. In any case, if he doesn't get caught up in the Big One, look for Waltrip to bring home a top-20 or better.

In 39 Sprint Cup starts at Talladega, Jeff Burton has averaged an 18.3 finish, led laps in the last 11 races and has finished in the top 10 in three of the most recent four events at the track. In one of those three (October 2011), during a green-white-checker finish, he drag-raced with then-teammate Clint Bowyer to the line. He "settled" for second by 0.018 seconds after racing for almost three and a half hours. In the October 2012 race, Burton survived a multi-car wreck on the final turn of the race and brought the damaged No. 31 Chevrolet across the line in 10th place. This past May it was out of his hands. He was caught up in 'someone else's wreck' in the Big One on lap 43 and struggled to the finish five laps down in 28th place. We think Burton is still capable of coming through with another good finish on Sunday.

Aric Almirola's restrictor-plate racing history includes 13 NASCAR starts at the 2.66-mile Alabama track. In seven Sprint Cup starts, his best finish of 10th was logged this past spring in the Aaron's 499. The No. 43 team has prepared and unloaded the exact same Ford chassis for his use this weekend. Almirola also posted top 20 finishes in the last five of those seven Cup races. In addition, he has two Nationwide and four Camping World Truck series starts at the track and scored his best finish of second in the truck races in 2009 and 2010. Almirola should be considered for a fourth or fifth driver in your lineup for Sunday's 'wild card' event.



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



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