Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pocono Pavement Proves A Mixed Blessing

Pocono debuted its new pavement for Cup cars and it held up well. The Igdalskys never sweated over the repaved speedway and their faith was rewarded with a 400-mile race that produced a surprising winner and, despite the mini-epidemic of cautions that most tracks have not had in 2012, was fairly smooth.

If anything the action was noticeably less aggressive than one might have expected, especially after the opening lap melee and Dale Junior's risky three-wide pass on a mid-race restart. Pocono in 2009 and 2010 saw some of the most aggressive racing in NASCAR with numerous bouts of five-abreast racing up front (highlighted by a spirited Jeff Gordon-Juan Montoya-Denny Hamlin slugfest in 2010) and numerous wild crashes. That this Pocono 400 didn't quite reach that level of aggression was something of a letdown.

It helped illustrate that shorter races aren't better races. Pocono's 500s were among the sport's most competitive non-plate races; shortening the race didn't lead to harder racing; if anything one will find some views that an extra 50 to 100 miles would have made for a more exciting finish by alloweing Mark Martin (astonishingly winless at Pocono) some more opportunity to grab that win.

In all the new pavement was a success, and one hopes come August drivers start fighting harder up front.

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