Friday, June 8, 2012

The "New" Pocono

In my opinion, the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway is one of the best tracks on the NASCAR circuit; there's just something about the three distinct turns that catches my attention and the atmosphere that is created while at the track is unparallel to any other.  I know many NASCAR fans would be more than happy to disagree with me, but this weekend at the "Tricky Triangle" might change your mind. 
Photo Credit: Pocono Raceway 
During the off-season, Pocono Raceway was completely repaved - the first time since 1995; and if you're keeping track, that was seventeen years ago.  Speed, an unusual term to describe the "Tricky Triangle," will be the predominant word of the weekend.  Pocono Raceway isn't the same track we left off with in August of last year.  This past Wednesday, Cup teams travelled to the track early for two days of intense testing on the new surface.  The forty-one drivers testing, unsure of what to expect, were quickly blown away and excited with the speeds and lap times they were putting down.  The speeds were so quick that they were nothing compared to the previous track records - Kasey Kahne had the fastest test speed of 179.490 miles per hour. 
The repaving of the track will be the primary variable in Sunday's race, but certainly won't be the only one to come into play.  For the past thirty-seven years, the Sprint Cup Series Pocono race in June has been five hundred miles, and if you've ever tried to sit through the whole race, you know how tedious it can be.  This year, there is a major change; the race is only four hundred miles long.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it will play a major role in the drivers' and crew chiefs' strategies - when to change the tires, when to get fuel, when to be more aggressive to gain positions, and when to stay out and not pit.
Robin Pemberton has released a statement saying, "It’s been really smooth.  All in all it’s been really positive in the garage area. [The track is] definitely faster but with the amount of grip that’s here, you’ll see the grooves widen out. With the 400 mile race and the outstanding job Goodyear did with these tires, I think we’re in for an exceptional weekend.”
Time will only tell if the repaving of the track and the hundred-mile-shorter race will make Pocono more exciting and have people flocking to see the "new" track!  

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