Pocono’s tricky triangle is located in the honeymoon capital of the world. But this race was anything but a honeymoon. Frankly, it was missing something. This race lacked intensity, it lacked excitement, and it lacked intrigue. Frankly, it was boring.
[media-credit name=”Ed Coombs” align=”alignright” width=”223″][/media-credit]Pocono for years has been a lag date on the circuit. It was always known that as a rule it was going to be too hot, too long, and well boring. It did not disappoint. The race itself was totally void of excitement. The new qualifying procedure was long and drawn out. The practices were too short and misplaced.
Pocono’s seats were sparsely filled. The weather man said rain and the fog was threatening. But the weather man was not to blame for the empty seats. That responsibility fell squarely on NASCAR’s shoulders.
For several years now drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, and A.J. Allmendinger have said that Pocono needs to be shortened. The race is too long. It leads to monotony. This one was no exception.
The long, for the most part, uninterrupted 500 mile ordeal drug worse than Carl Edwards sick Kellogg’s car. Thankfully there was only one incident a single car spin by Greg Biffle that didn’t even bring out the caution. The rest of the cautions 3 of them to be exact were for debris.
The new safety improvements are top notch; the innovation of the new solar power plant admirable. But the racing at Pocono is dull. The scenery is beautiful, the people are awesome. But the competition level at the tricky triangle lacks a lot to be desired.
This is not new. It has been the case since the 90’s The keys to this race are being able to stroke and stay on the lead lap and close enough to the front for your crew chief and pit crew to put you in a position with enough gas on the last stop to win the race.
The three vastly different corners create a situation where crew chiefs may hit 2 of the 3 but there is no way to get three of three right. This creates strung out follow the lead type racing in a difficult passing scenario.
As a disciplined follower of the sport, I watched every lap. And although I was happy for Jeff Gordon’s Network, I felt at the end of the race that I had missed something. Did I doze off? Was the race not live? Was it edited? Surely I didn’t just sit for 3 hours and watch something that gave me no reaction whatsoever.
I am not a wreck monger. I dislike wrecks a great deal. I hate holding my breath until the driver exits the car or gets it back in gear and pulls away. I am not much for Fuel Mileage races either. Although figuring out fuel strategy is more entertaining than what we saw.
400 miles at Pocono is plenty. It’s plenty if you are there. It’s plenty if you are watching on TV. It’s probably plenty if you are a broadcaster trying to find a way to fill the constant lull with entertaining color commentary.
And speaking of the broadcast, I realize that it was TNT’s first of the year but Kyle Petty needs some serious help in the booth. He is basically all by himself up there. Adam Alexander although he was an acceptable Indy Car announcer is poor at best in the NASCAR booth. Wally Dallenbach is as good in the booth as he was in a Roush Ford. Not very.
The camera work was excellent. The tune in to driver’s radio communication was well done. It was timed well. It was informative. And it was not walked on. Pit Road reporters need some help. Seriously, Jeff Gordon is a four time champion and he has been in the 24 car from the very beginning of his long and illustrous career. Of all the car numbers to get wrong the one that has not changed in an entire career? Then I thought well he does have the new sponsor, and realized he was driving the DuPont Chevrolet. There is never an excuse to put the wrong driver in the wrong car on television.
The only real excitement at Pocono came in the post race inspection line, when it was determined that the 18 M&M’s Toyota of Kyle Busch was 1/16th of an inch over tolerance too low in the left front corner.
When asked, Dave Rogers said, “We were 1/16th too low on the left front. They give us a yellow area and we were a 1/16th over that. There are rules for a reason and we were out of tolerance so we broke them. We will wait and see what happens.”
This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Kyle Busch. After last weeks altercation with Richard Childress and this weeks mind games on the race track with Kevin Harvick, to have the car found to be out of compliance is simply another stone on the board that is lying on his chest. The jokes on social media ran rampant. The accusations were more so and at no time did anyone stop to ask if Kyle Busch had anything to do with building or working on the car. The answer is probably not. In this day and age the drivers drive. They do not work on the cars themselves. They have crew chiefs, car chiefs, mechanics and engineers who do that. They drive. They relay information and they are the “front man” for the effort.
Those that dislike Kyle had lots to say last week when NASCAR found him to be innocent in the altercation with Richard Childress. They are armed to the teeth with this new developement. You don’t have to be a Kyle Busch fan to feel bad for Rowdy. Between rude fans, boo’s, those that throw things in his direction, Ugly comments about his wife’s choice of shoes and wardrobe, to add this to the pile seems well at the very least unsportsmanlike. If the car was out of tolerance, it was out of tolerance. That doesn’t mean the driver is responsible. It also doesn’t mean they were intentionally cheating.
Broken parts, failed parts, wall contact, etc all could make a difference in that height. 1/16th of inch is approximately the same length of your little finger fingernail if you have medium size hands.
Now, granted the team had been warned about this problem before according to Dave Rogers. But for whatever reason they did not correct the problem or attempts to correct it failed.
Monday morning NASCAR announced that it had fined Dave Rogers, $25,000 and taken 6 points from Kyle Busch. They did not take his finishing position but the point’s deduction would be the equivalent of 25 points under the old system. The point’s deduction does not make Kyle the final car on the lead lap even. Although in a points race as tight as the one currently going on in the Sprint Cup Series those 6 points are going to be hard to make up.
But the abuse that will come from fans on message boards and twitter may be even more punishment. Kyle Busch is the man people love to hate. Ok, he brought it on himself with some of his antics. But we all tend to forget that he is now 26 years old. If we all think back to when we were kids we all did stupid things. We all did things that we wouldn’t want someone to judge us for as we matured and found out who we were and how to express it appropriately. Kyle Busch however is not given that respect or courtesy. No matter how thrilling his performances on the track are. No matter how talented he is. And he is talented people. Even his co competitors whether they like him or not do not deny his talent.
As NASCAR prepares to vote for it’s next Hall of Fame class, I would encourage everyone to take a moment and think before you speak. Read what you have just typed into Twitter and ask yourself if the formidable task of making up the 6 points that NASCAR penalized Kyle Busch is not enough punishment. Then ask yourself, if it was being said about me or my younger brother how would I feel. As NASCAR fans remember that we are the basis for how our sport is judged by new fans. With the seats half empty can we afford to lose anymore?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ * * * * ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Congratulations to Clint Bowyer on his victory at the Prelude to The Dream. It was an awesome race for an awesome cause.
Congratulations to Ron Hornaday and his Kevin Harvick Inc. team on their Camping World Truck Series Win.
Congratulations to Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team on their Sprint Cup Series victory.
That said, to all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.