On No Pocono
June 10, 2005 | 9:40 A.M. EST
But for NASCAR, the honeymoon with the Pocono International Raceway ended a long time ago.
The tricky, triangular-shaped speedway first welcomed NASCAR racing to the Pocono mountains back in 1974. Originally built as a venue for Indy Car racing, the track quickly hitched its wagon to NASCAR through an agreement between owners the Mattioli family and Bill France, Sr.
The NASCAR founder wanted to bring his product north to expand its exposure and in Pocono and the Mattioli's, found a perfect partnership.
But like the more than 60-year-old hotels and resorts scattered throughout the area, things have changed drastically.
NASCAR's growth has taken the sport nationwide and it has simply outgrown the need to compete at Pocono twice a season. With tracks in New Hampshire and Dover, plus the New York market on the horizon, the Northeast portion of the country is covered. Making two treks a year to the isolated track is not necessary.
It also wouldn't hurt to cut down the 500-mile, four hour grinds that usually drone on forever. A shorter race, like 350 or 400 miles, would no doubt provide better action.
You can be sure NASCAR's television partners will have a say in the length of Pocono's races, and others, in the future. No network will stay with a single event for five plus hours. And neither will most watching at home, where the number of Sunday naps on the sofa will probably beat the amount of lead changes in Sunday's race.
I'm not advocating taking Pocono completely off the schedule. It is a unique track and a part of NASCAR's tradition, which as we all know has been "modernized" the last few years. But I'd love to see a single visit to the Pennsylvania mountains, especially if it meant a chance to bring back Rockingham to the schedule.
In fact, there is a lot of sentiment through the garage area for single visits to a number of tracks each year, rather than the double trips to places like Martinsville, Dover, Pocono and New Hampshire. Spreading the schedule around seems to make more sense, bringing the series to more markets and tracks every year.
Let's keep Pocono on the slate for a mid-summer visit. But going back twice within seven weeks is no honeymoon for anyone.