When the 2020 schedule was announced and it was revealed the most challenging weekend of the entire year was going to happen in my home state, automatically I knew this was going to be a true test of attrition for everyone involved. From teams at the shop to the road crew, drivers, and even the broadcasters, everyone was experiencing something new.
Two races, two days, and the most miles to run in a weekend for one race.
And then the pandemic hit, and the schedule overall took a huge hit. But, the Pocono weekend was still on the slate, and wasn’t moved. Although, the first-ever double header for NASCAR at one track now had to take place under unique circumstances, and with not one individual in the grandstands except the flagman.
But then, with how the schedule got changed, the Pocono double then became a Dover double, plus Michigan decided to play the two-fold race weekend to make up for the schedule. Sure, it wasn’t the original plan for the schedule, however it took away the uniqueness that Pocono had. This track already has the most unique setup outside of a road course, and taking that away just erased some of the luster it had.
This year, a much different story.
Using the word “normal” these days is a relative term, considering the last 17 months has been anything but. The season started with the sport’s biggest race unable to host a full crowd. Yet slowly, restrictions lifted, and tracks could announce that at certain events, they were either reopened for fans, or at full capacity. Things at the track have become more familiar in some ways, with a bit more garage access, broadcasters not being separated by patricians or having to be in separate studios at the track, if at the track at all.
We’ve went from seeing the interviewer covered in a mask, staying more than six feet from a driver, and another television crew member holding a boom microphone for said driver, just for a segment.
For Pocono, this weekend is their return to something familiar that they experienced in 2019. It is the first time in early two years that the track has seen a crowd in the stands, and it is the fans’ first time they get to experience both of their races in one weekend. NASCAR is going to enjoy having this pair of races this weekend, especially with a full crowd.
Teams have three of these double-headers under their belts now, along with some races where it was two events in one week at one track.
With the season moving at a fast pace, and with the playoffs coming ever so close, and right now with one driver with such a hot streak going he may as well be a Carolina Reaper pepper, it is going to be key for everyone to be ready to go when that green flag is in the air on Saturday, and then again on Sunday.
We have to dust off a pair of races this week, meaning two green flags, two checkered flags, and the chance that someone could walk away with a pair of wins at the end of the weekend.