Pocono's Time Has Come and Gone

Eric HobbsCorrespondent IJune 7, 2009

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 08:  The finish line awaits Kasey Kahne driver of the #9 Budwiser Dodge at the entry to victory lane after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 500 on June 8, 2008 at Pocono International Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Since Richard Petty won the first race at Pocono Raceway in August of 1974, many quality racetracks have been thrown by the wayside.

Rockingham is off the schedule, North Wilkesboro sits empty, and Darlington has just one race left. All provided great racing and were unique tracks. 

With great tracks like those being taken off the schedule, it's a bit of a mystery how Pocono Raceway still manages two Sprint Cup dates. Sure, the track is one-of-a-kind, but each corner is copied off another track.

Given the length of the straightaways (the front stretch is the longest in all of NASCAR) and the different corners, combined with the overall flatness of the turns and wideness of the track, Pocono lends itself to spread out fields and bad racing.

In the 62 Sprint Cup races run at Pocono coming into the 2009 season, just 19 have been won by someone starting outside the top 10. In ARCA, just two of the 20 races have been won by someone starting 11th or worse, and every single driver who won a CART race at Pocono started inside the top 10 (although that's par for the course for CART).

Because the track is so long and features such different corners, few teams are able to dial the car in well enough to race with anyone. Most cars just make laps and hang on until the next pit stop and hope for the best.

Normally, a wide track where multiple grooves are run is referred to as a "driver's track". Michigan is an example, as the top three cars could be using completely different lines through the corners, all equally fast. This makes for good racing.

The difference is that Michigan has turns banked at 18 degrees, while Pocono's turns are banked at 14, eight, and six degrees, respectively. Drivers are worried about slowing the car down enough to make it through the corner and can't focus on catching cars in front of them.

Given the poor racing the track provides, the modest crowd capacity of 76,812, and its location in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, its a wonder the track maintains a Sprint Cup date, much less two of them.

There are rumors that the track owners simply buy the races, paying NASCAR money under the table to keep their track on the schedule. While that will likely never be proven, it would make sense, especially with that clown Brian France running the show.

Whatever the reason for Pocono Raceway's two exhibitions of accelerated pace laps per season, a track where the winner has come from the front row 21 out of 62 races needs to be altered or removed in favor of tracks with quality racing, where all drivers have a chance to win.