When the NASCAR schedule first comes out, there are always a few races that get circled on the calendar and are considered must-see television. There are also a handful of races that may be used as background noise for a Sunday afternoon nap.
For every side-by-side finish at Talladega, there is a runaway victory in Pocono. And for every bump-and-run in Martinsville, there is a debris caution at Loudon.
Unfortunately, not all race tracks on the NASCAR circuit provide non-stop action and door-to-door finishes. In fact, some tracks could be considered downright boring.
With that in mind, I am going to take a look at the five tracks on the NASCAR schedule that would have to be considered the least exciting. The tracks are listed in no particular order of excitement.
Pocono Raceway is not known for its side-by-side racing.
"The Tricky Triangle," as Pocono Raceway is affectionately known as, has been hosting Sprint Cup Series races since 1974. Starting in 1982, the track has hosted two events per season.
Pocono is known for its three distinct turns and long flat straightaways. This 2.5 mile superspeedway has considerably less banking and much sharper turns than other tracks of similar size.
Typically, the most exciting parts of a race at Pocono are the restarts. It is not uncommon to see cars go four- or five-wide down the front stretch. After that first lap or two under the green flag, the field starts to spread out, and the action becomes minimal.
Since the turn of the century, only four times in the 27 Pocono races have there been at least 25 lead changes, and in seven of the last eight events held on the speedway, there have been fewer than 20.
Side-by-side racing is not commonplace at Pocono. It seems that NASCAR has realized that this is one of their least exciting tracks. Beginning in 2012, both races were shortened to 400 miles from its traditional 500.
For all of its history and tradition, Indianapolis typically lacks drama and excitement.
There may be no track more famous or rich with history than Indianapolis, but that doesn't mean the racing is always exciting. Since 1994, the Sprint Cup Series has been making an annual trip to the hallowed Brickyard.
Much like Pocono, Indianapolis is a flat, sharp-turned 2.5-mile track that puts a strong emphasis on track position. Only four times in the 19 Sprint Cup races at the track has the winner started outside of the top-15.
At the Brickyard, it is not uncommon to see a driver open up a large lead once he gets out front with clean air. Only three times have there been more than 20 lead changes over the course of a 160-lap race.
In the last seven races in Indianapolis, 36 of the 47 caution flags have been for competition cautions, debris or single car spins. That equates to less than two cautions per race for multi-car incidents—or loosely translated, a lack of side-by-side action.
Indianapolis was the sight of arguably the worst race in NASCAR history. In 2008, the tire that was brought to the track had so much trouble holding up against the rough surface of the track, a caution had to be thrown every 10 to 15 laps so teams could replace their heavily blistered and worn tires.
While different than a typical oval track, the road courses still provide a lot of single-file racing.
To avoid being repetitive, I will lump the road courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen together. Some people find the road courses to be incredibly dull because of their lack of action. I, on the other hand, enjoy them because of their uniqueness, but can admit that the action can be limited.
Combined, there have been 55 races between the two venues. Not once has there been more than 14 lead changes in a single event. To break it down even further, in 25 races at Sonoma, only three times has there been more than 10 lead changes.
The road courses are tracks that offer at least 10 different turns, and yet, in only three or four of them can a driver realistically pass another car. This leads to a lot of single-file running all throughout the field.
Road-course races typically lack last-lap drama that NASCAR fans love to see. Since 2008, only three times in the 11 road races run has there been a pass for the lead within the last 20 laps of the race.
If nothing else, I suppose it is somewhat exciting to see the cars go up and down hills, making right-hand turns and driving over the speed bumps.
The Magic Mile typically fails to deliver many memorable moments.
The Magic Mile of New Hampshire is a flat one-mile oval. The problem with this track is that it is a one-groove race track with minimal opportunities to make passes.
Much like the cookie-cutter mile-and-a-half tracks that make up the majority of the Sprint Cup schedule, New Hampshire can quite often produce a conveyor belt type feeling, where you see most cars running the same line, and no one able to make a pass.
Back in 2000, after the tragic deaths of Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin, NASCAR used restrictor plates at NHMS to try and slow the speeds down. The end result saw Jeff Burton win by leading all 300 laps in the race.
The one good thing that Loudon has going for it is that, in the last 10 races at the track, there have been 10 different winners. This kind of parity always helps add an element of excitement that may otherwise be lacking.
If nothing else, at least the race in Kentucky is a night race.
It may be unfair to call Kentucky unexciting, based on the fact that only two Sprint Cup Series races have been run there. However, those two races each lacked any memorable action.
In total there were 37 lead changes between the two races, but half of those came either under caution or during green-flag pit stops. Only 18 lead changes over two races were a result of on-track passes.
Even when you look at the Nationwide Series races at Kentucky, there is a lack of excitement. In 13 races there has only been one that featured more than 15 lead changes, and eight times the winning driver started from the front row.
The good news for Kentucky is that with so few races having been run there, one or two great races in a row totally changes the perception of the track.