It's no secret that the two Nascar Sprint Cup races held at Pocono Raceway in early June and August have historically not been the most exciting races on the circuit.
There are a few reasons why racing at Pocono can sometimes seem lethargic, a lot of which is due to the way the track is designed. Pocono is as big as a super speedway (2.5 miles), but does not possess the usual highly-banked four turns that a super speedway does. Those turns allow for high octane racing that also allows for a lot of drafting and pack racing that enthralls fans.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Pocono, it's unique in the fact that it only has three turns and three very different turns at that. Many drivers and racing enthusiasts compare Pocono to a sort of super speedway that mimics a road course.
It's evident that much can't be done about the design of the track to improve racing entertainment, but it seems the Mattioli family has done a great thing that should bring more fan fare to Pocono this summer.
The track has now been repaved and a test session that was held last week by some of Nascar's racing stars gave the drivers, media, track officials, and fans an idea of what racing might be like come June 10th.
"I think they did an amazing job on the repave," said driver Jamie McMurray. "I think the most important thing, when we come back here for the race is, if we can get them to do something like they did at Phoenix, where they drug some tires to try to widen the groove out a little bit. There's a fairly narrow groove right now."
McMurray's worry about the narrow groove around the bottom of the racetrack is a justified one, but as more cars get on the track that problem should be nullified. As Jamie mentioned it might be a smart idea to drag tires around the track before the racers get there on June 10th. This way when it comes time for practice there is already somewhat of a wider groove for the drivers.
Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne also agreed with McMurray that Pocono did a great job repaving the track, but it's important to widen the groove come race day.
"That's the biggest thing, getting that rubber there," said Kahne. "Another big thing is just to get all the dirt and dust off the track that's out there now. We've got that on the bottom lane, we just got to keep working that up and work the entry. If we can get help with that, it will make for a really nice place."
Something that has already improved with the repaving of the track are the speeds. In the practice session drivers McMurray, Kahne, and Joey Logano were all running times that were better than the previous track record held by Kahne (172.553). The times however, may have been a little skewed due to the cool April temperatures and when June rolls around the track will be hotter which will equate for slower times.
"I don't know. It's tough to say because when the temperatures come up, when we come back here to race, it's usually a lot warmer. That will change the grip of the track," said Kahne. "As far as today goes, you know the old track record is 52.16, or 52.18, somewhere in there, and I've run a 51.50 today. I would say it's definitely going to get broke; it's just by how much. It should be a good bit."
Pocono was also not a place that drivers were always excited to come to. One of those drivers was Jamie McMurray, but with the repave McMurray has changed his tune a bit.
"I mean for me, I'm looking forward to the race. I hated this place. It was my least favorite track to come to," said McMurray. "I don't know why, I just never really cared for Pocono. After the few laps today with the speed and grip that it has, from my perspective, other than maybe Denny Hamlin who ran really well here every time, I think most guys will like this a lot more."
The comments from McMurray can only mean a sign of good things to come at Pocono. With the repave it looks like the cars will be faster and with the grip, passing could become more of a frequency. Pocono needed to do something to make the races more entertaining for the fans and it looks like mission accomplished for the Mattioli family.