Well here we are once again, the short gap between race one and race two at Pocono has finally arrived. It’s the least amount of time one track has between it’s two races, but it certainly isn’t compared to what Pocono has planned for next year.
I wanted to wait until I heard more details of how next year’s double-header will work before I gave a better opinion, and now that some have been revealed, I’m impressed at the thought process and the driver response.
First, shortening the distance of each race by approximately 50 miles is a strong start. We all were critical of Pocono being 500 miles in length and how it was a flat out marathon and often boring. The only event that should be 500 miles on a 2.5-mile speedway is Daytona, everything else should be 400 miles at most. Pocono listened, and now they are down to that distance.
But, then I began questioning what was going to work for next year. Would they do two cars for two races? Two different qualifying sessions? Exactly how would this work?
Now, there’s a bit more clarity.
Just like the remainder of the season, the teams will be required to run one car for the entire weekend, with the same engine/transmission for the entirety of the weekend. Obviously, this means a backup car will mean to the rear of the field, or an engine swap. It will be one qualifying session prior to the first race. Although the second of the two races is set for 350 miles, the first race is still uncertain of length. But then, we all know what can happen at this track with accidents and engine woes, so then I began wondering how this will work for the second day.
Race one, just like this year, would be an impound race, but after the first race, NASCAR is being considerate and giving teams their cars back to do necessary repairs and changes.
Obviously, trying to do possibly 700 miles on one engine is going to wear out parts, so teams are given the chance to change things like valve springs, rods, and check on the transmission plus the rear gear to ensure everything is working properly. Think about this, earlier this year Charlotte hosted it’s annual 600-mile marathon that is constantly hard on equipment. Now, although spread over two days, there’s risk of doing 700 miles in race conditions, more if you think about the 80-minute practice session that teams get that weekend.
Qualifying and lineup is simple for race one, as it’s just as it is now. But, in a surprising move that was thought to not get embraced by the teams, the lineup for race two will take the lead-lap cars from race one and invert the field. Something a few years back the All-Star Race used to determine the lineup for the final segment, although this time there is really no incentive to just hang at the back.
This is a points-paying weekend, so winning will mean something, even if it means possibly starting at the back for the second race.
Originally thinking the idea would be hated, instead the drivers embraced the idea, especially if you think that the fast cars that were out front the day prior now would have to race their way through the field. It’d really showcase how strong a car they built, and the ability of the driver.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes next year, so I’m going to embrace this final 400-mile ride at the “Tricky Triangle, before next year’s double duty.