When a NASCAR race rolls into a track, many fans like to take in the entire weekend of events and call it a vacation. In a few weeks we will see campers start to show up at Bristol a week before the race in order to take in everything that is going on at or near the track.
All of this is what makes up the total NASCAR experience and it is different at each stop on the schedule. Daytona has its seasonopening Speedweeks that offers the race fan two consecutive weekends of racing with plenty of action sandwiched in between.
Charlotte also has two consecutive weekends of racing in May, and while there is not as much on-track action as is at Daytona, the city and surrounding area make sure there is plenty to do if a race fan and his family want to spend the week in the North Carolina city.
Pocono will never be mistaken for the racing hotbed of Daytona or Charlotte, but for the fans living in that area, the two yearly stops on the Sprint Cup schedule are every bit as important. Having attended a race at Pocono, I know it is located in one of the most beautiful areas in the country but as far as racing goes, the show is definitely confined to the track. There are no shops to tour or hall of fames to see, and the entire weekend revolves around what takes place at the track.
Just like at any other track, rain showing up on the weather radar during a race weekend can ruin the many hours of planning and preparation race fans put in before ever starting their own car to head to the track. One day of rain is bad enough, but when Friday’s qualifying is a wash, only to be followed by a long Sunday in which no drivers even crawl behind the wheel, it can make for one totally lost weekend.
Qualifying day at the track can be one of the best days of the weekend for a fan. It gives them the chance to visit the many vendors and at the same time get their first taste of racing as the cars practice, leading up to actually laying down a timed lap. Qualifying also sets the favorites for the weekend and when the starting order has to be set by points instead of lap times, it seems that not only the fans but the entire sport is cheated out of one of the best days of the weekend.
Some will say that qualifying should be made up sometime during the following day, but tracks plan their weekend schedule months in advance with very little wiggle room for trying to reschedule qualifying. Setting the starting field by the points may or may not be the best way as it doesn’t give everybody the same chance to make the field, but it does reward those that have showed the most consistency up to that point. Luckily at Pocono, there were only 43 set to qualify which permitted every car to make the show even though they didn’t get to turn a lap on Friday.
Of course even with a rainedout qualifying day, there is still race day to anticipate. This is the highlight of the weekend and when you arrive at the track with your wipers on, you can’t help but get that sick feeling in your stomach. I once sat in a van at Talladega all day on a Sunday to see a parade lap and then stayed over on Monday only to see a repeat of what took place the previous day. I was out a day’s work and a very long frustrating ride home but found myself parked in the same spot on the day when it was rescheduled a month or so later.
Many of the tickets that fans planned to use on Sunday at Pocono will end up as very pricey souvenirs. While NASCAR controls every aspect of the sport with an iron fist, it doesn’t have any say over what Mother Nature is bringing to table during a weekend. I have sat through a snowstorm at Bristol, was in the garage at Lowe’s Motors Speedway during an All- Star weekend when a corner of it was knocked off by lightning, and got the best sunburn of my life in February at Daytona.
Racing on Monday will never be as exciting as seeing the checkered flag wave on Sunday or Saturday night, but I have learned over the many years that I have followed the sport that it’s just part of it. It doesn’t make it any better but I bet you were like me and did everything you could to be in front of a TV or by a radio when the green flag finally did wave at Pocono!
Race Preview — Event: Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen. Track: Watkins Glen International (2.45-mile road course, 11 turns). Date: Aug. 9, 2:15 p.m. TV: ESPN. Radio: MRN. Defending champion: Kyle Busch.