Pocono Rear View Mirror


"The race clocked in just inside of 3-1/2 hours, a perfect window for those in person as well as listening on radio or watching at home." (Photo: Getty Images)


There’s no middle ground when it comes to Pocono Raceway. Either you love it or you can’t wait for the next race on the schedule to come along.

For a long while I was in that first category.

Pocono is certainly one of if not the most unique tracks on the Sprint Cup Series calendar. The 2.5-mile triangle doesn’t share much with the other venues that dot the schedule and in an era of so many tracks of similar size and shape that’s a plus. 

There’s also an old school feeling when the series rolls into the Pocono Mountains every season, which NASCAR has been doing since 1974.

There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles at Pocono Raceway but that’s part of the track’s charm. 

Thankfully track officials have made necessary upgrades particularly in the safety arena and the installation of SAFER Barriers inside the backstretch and off the tunnel turn – replacing the antiquated and dangerous steel guard rails and cement walls. 

The track’s new asphalt racing surface provided a new wrinkle to racing at Pocono with lightning fast speeds and a surprisingly competitive on track product.

But the downside of Pocono races for decades was the length of each event.

A 500-mile race at Pocono clocked in at well over four hours. More often than not that time felt worse because of long, tedious stretches of drivers “making laps” and trying to save equipment to be there for a victory challenge at the conclusion of the grind.

But after vocal complaints from fans, drivers, team owners and yes even media members, Pocono management finally gave in and shortened both Sprint Cup races to 400 miles in 2012.

And the result was an absolute success.

Sunday’s Pocono 400 was perhaps the best race held at the mammoth track in twenty years. Immediacy and intensity were on display from nearly the drop of the green flag with side-by-side racing throughout the afternoon.

Although the first half of the race was marred by a pit road timing issue that saw several drivers penalized for exceeding the speed limit, the overall race was as entertaining as I can ever remember at Pocono.

The race clocked in just inside of 3-1/2 hours, a perfect window for those in person as well as listening on radio or watching at home.

So with the first Pocono weekend of the year in the book I’ll say something I haven’t for some time.

I can’t wait to get back there in August.

  • The pit road speeding penalties that came fast and furious on Sunday were the result of NASCAR adding a 11th timing line that wasn’t there last season. Once crew chiefs figured out where the problem area was on the grid, things seemed to settle down although some drivers were still pegged for speeding late in the race. It’s still a mystery of why usually well-prepared crew chiefs appeared to be caught so off guard by the change.
  • The miseries for Kyle Busch continued with a second straight week of engine problems for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Busch’s frustration level has to be pegged pretty high these days by a series of problems that have plagued the No. 18 team since their win in Richmond.
  • Also for a second consecutive race a multi-car crash occurred right after the first green flag waved with Sunday’s sweeping up A.J. Allmendinger, Landon Cassill and Martin Truex Jr. Slick track conditions in the early going were blamed for the melee that saw Allmendinger suffer yet another miserable setback and Truex Jr. take a shot on the heels of last Sunday’s Dover misfortunes.
  • There is talk of more racing on the horizon at the newly remodeled Pocono track with the IZOD IndyCar Series and Nationwide Series both on the track’s radar. It remains to be seen if the embattled open wheel series can come to terms with a return to Pocono after nearly a four-decade absence, but after the success of the truck series a Nationwide event added to the schedule seems like a good option.

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