Monday, June 11, 2012

Another Pocono improvement needed

Stock cars have been a fixture on Pocono's unique triangular surface since 1971 when USAC's stock car series debuted there. NASCAR rolled into town in 1974, and King Richard won the inaugural Purolator 500.

Historically, the perception of many was that Pocono was often reluctant to change its ways. A few examples:
  • The track hosted only one NASCAR race from 1974 until 1981. Beginning in 1982, a second event was added to the schedule. I don't put all that on Pocono. Built as a track for Indy cars, NASCAR was a bit of a side venture until the open wheelers fractured between USAC and CART.
  • Many years of financial and operating struggles caused Pocono to lag behind other venues in fan amenities, camping spaces, media accommodations, and modernized team garage bays. From the late 1990s through the 2000s, the track finally began making improvements to these areas.
  • Fencing was not installed along the backstretch until Kasey Kahne nearly went over the wall a couple of seasons ago.

  • The track was a laggard in installing SAFER barriers along inside walls. It was forced to do so when Elliott Sadler suffered a vicious head-on crash a couple of years ago into an earthen berm fronted by an Armco barrier. Fortunately, Sadler wasn't seriously injured despite the absence of 'soft walls'.
  • NASCAR races have always been 500 miles at Pocono - despite the long hours required, boring racing, and declining fan interest and TV ratings for the 500 milers. Only in 2012 have the races been reduced to 400 miles.
Under the direction of Pocono's new president, Brandon Igdalsky, the track now seems re-focused, open to making changes and improvements where necessary, and committed to staying relevant in the near and long term.

One aspect of Pocono that is not unique and still needs improving, however, is the winner's trophy. Joey Logano won Sunday's Pocono 400 (presented by "hashtag NASCAR" as beaten into us without mercy by Adam Alexander on TNT) but was awarded with what may well be the most boring trophy of all the Cup races.

 Credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

Pocono does seem interested in making meaningful changes and making them more rapidly than in the past. Perhaps their trophies will be updated too. If or when they do, I think they should revisit their history and incorporate a bit of old school.

When the track opened in the early 1970s, Schaefer beer was a big supporter / advertiser for the track's 500 mile Indy, open-wheel races. I realize I'm biased, but I think Schaefer should return and be featured prominently on the trophy and in victory lane.

I took the liberty of helping Brandon with a re-design of the trophy. And how about this for a tagline:

Pocono: The one race to win when you're winning more than one.


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