Racing at Pocono has never been what you would call one of the most anticipated stops on the schedule. The track does have the unique quality of being the only track with just three turns and the longest straightaway in the sport, but 500 miles of racing makes for a very long afternoon.
It was no different on Sunday but this time the track would play host for the first time to a new rule by NASCAR which would feature the long-awaited double file restart. We got a taste of the restarts during the all-star race in Charlotte and everybody involved in the sport agreed that it added some of excitement that the sport has been lacking.
Pocono proved to be the perfect venue to try out the new restart procedure, as the track is one of the widest in the sport and would allow for several lanes of racing once the field got past the start/finish line. The new procedure would actually give the fans a couple of races as you had those cars in the front racing for the lead while the cars a lap down would be grouped together behind the lead lap cars and those cars would be racing each other to be the first car a lap down to receive the lucky dog pass back on to the lead lap at the next caution.
Apparently the new rule will be for every track on the schedule, which should really create plenty of excitement when the series moves to the West coast in two weeks for the running of the first road course race of the season at Infineon Raceway. Lapped cars at a road course have always held up some of the lead cars anytime there was a restart and now it will be best cars racing each other trying to get the best line heading into turn one.
While the double file restarts among the leaders will add to the show at every stop on the schedule, it could be that the best show from the new rule will be reserved for the sport’s three remaining short tracks. Bristol will be the first to test out the new rule with its annual August night race, and even though the racing isn’t the slugfest that it used to be, there will still be enough cautions for the rule to get a major test. It will be great to watch as the leaders now race each other to try and get that left tire on the yellow line heading into turn one.
This may not be the only rule change that we see from NASCAR in the coming weeks and months. Apparently after its town hall meeting after the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR hinted that there might be some changes coming to the Car of Tomorrow. There has been no official word on just what changes may await the car, but there is plenty of speculation by crew chiefs and drivers on what the car needs to make the racing better.
Ever since the car has been in full time use in the series, the major complaint among the drivers is that it doesn’t want to turn in the corners. Many of the rules concerning the car were put into place to make sure that no one manufacturer would have an advantage. The common templates leave very little room for anyone to be creative with the body of the car and its high center of gravity helps to quickly wear out the right-side tires.
Some of the suggestions that are now coming out of the garage area to improve the performance of the car include reducing the amount of horsepower and giving teams the option of moving some of the weight from the right side to the left. Crew chiefs would also like some more opportunity to create downforce in their cars.
There is one last area that could help NASCAR improve the racing and that falls squarely in the hands of Goodyear. Tires will always be an issue in the sport because no matter what kind of tire Goodyear brings to the track, there will always be 43 teams trying their best to wear them out in an effort to gain more speed. A softer tire would put more of the racing back into the hands of the driver but with it comes the price of quicker tire wear while a harder tire will last longer but with that comes a car that is harder to turn.
Sure, we want better racing at each stop on the schedule but sometimes you just have to learn to enjoy the steps that it takes to get to that point and that is what we are now going through.
Race Preview — Event : LifeLock 400. Track: Michigan International Speedway (two-mile D-shaped oval, 18 degrees of banking). Date: June 14, 2:15 p.m. TV: TNT. Radio: MRN. Defending champion: Dale Earnhardt Jr.