Thursday, August 13, 2009

The NASCAR Pocono and Watkins Glen Debate: 1000 miles at Pocono to rain tires on Cup cars?

In the past two weeks, NASCAR has had to postpone both the Pocono and Watkins Glen NASCAR Cup Series races due to rain and run the race on the next day (Monday), this has touched off a debate with the media and fans asking about 1000 miles at Pocono and rain tires in the Cup Series.

First, two weeks ago, the Cup Series was racing at Pocono Raceway. The weather on Sunday turned into spotty showers and as the result of so much rain in the days before, water started coming up through the cracks in the racetrack, so NASCAR was forced to postpone the race until Monday.

On a sunny Monday, NASCAR fans that not only came out to the race, but those who were watching on television, saw a good race. This NASCAR fan at one point during the race even asked, we are racing at Pocono Raceway right? Normally racing Pocono isn’t all that exciting. The 500 miles at Pocono is more like an endurance race than anything else, its long and drawn out, however in 2009, the racing has changed for the better.

Now I am not saying that the racing at Pocono is like racing at Richmond, but its getting better, fans saw passing, side-by-side racing and drivers making their way from the back of the field to the front, which is in no way easy to do.

I was surprised with Jimmie Johnson and the #48 team, I still don’t know what happened to that engine, either spark plug or something, but even after going two laps down, the #48 team stayed focused, fixed the problem and rallied back to finish 13. That is what championships are made of.

At in the end, an emotional Denny Hamlin, who just lost his grandmother battled his way to the front to win the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, his first win in 2009. Now I am not a Denny Hamlin fan, but even I was a little emotional too, I know what it feels like to lose a grandmother, I lost mine just before mother’s day weekend. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin on winning the race.

Should NASCAR be running 1,000 miles at Pocono Raceway? There are really two ways to attack this issue considering I don’t want to see NASCAR completely remove Pocono Raceway from the NASCAR schedule. First, at the very least, NASCAR should shorten both races. Like I said, 500 miles is an endurance race, 400 miles would make sense and it might be more entertaining to watch.

Second would be not only shortening the race to 400 miles, but go to just one race period. The idea of one race per racetrack (with a few exceptions) is still a good idea and in this tough economy, is an idea that is worth exploring.

After racing at Pocono Raceway, the teams had a short time to turn around and go due north to Watkins Glen International. Well, wouldn’t you know it, that short week would turn into another Sunday off once again, this time for a big storm that moved through just as the Cup Series cars were about to roll off. NASCAR decided not to have the cup cars on-track if this storm hit and I don’t blame them one bit that was the right call.

So once again the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series would find themselves running on Monday, this time for the Heluva Good! at The Glen. Road course is exciting to me, Watkins Glen is different from Sonoma, Sonoma isn’t a fast track, its more left handers then right and has more tight corners, Watkins Glen is a faster, mainly right hand turns road course that is setup in a cool way. I think the race is too short though. I like road course racing because it’s a different challenge from ovals, it’s turning left and right while shifting gears several times a lap.

On Monday, fans once again saw a good race, the race really wasn’t dominated by anyone driver. While I was watching the race at home on television, I was also following the race on Twitter and I have to say, there were a lot of people on there. The comments were on not only the race itself, but some getting upset with the ESPN coverage and no online streaming video, were is Race Buddy when you need him.

Here are some of the tweets that I wrote or replied to during the race:

“Watching the Cup Series race on TV from Watkins Glen...loving it that the announcers don't understand #47 pit strategy, it’s a 2 stop race.”

“Damn, Dale Jr. said no brakes going into turn 10, takes #43 with him into the gravel trap, what a hard hit, #43 drives away.”

“POLL: How is ESPN doing in broadcasting NASCAR not only from Watkins Glen, but in general? Personally I prefer FOX or even TNT”

@4wide “That’s a good thing that Ambrose was all over Busch, finally a driver to rattle Busch's cage.”

@mw55 “Ambrose looks like he is trying to do both, but looking more like he is trying to catch Stewart with 2 laps to go.”

“Good job Tony Stewart, he wins at Watkins Glen over a great second place effect by Marcos Ambrose. That's 1-2 in my WindTunnel 7.”

I don’t always tweet during a NASCAR race, but I wanted to not only see what others were saying about the race, but join into the conversation, it’s a cool tool that in this case gives me point of view, information from NASCAR and interactions with others. (Follow @RaceDriven on Twitter)

Anyway like I said, what race from multi-lead changes, Marcos Ambrose battling with Kyle Busch to Tony Stewart holding off a hard charging Marcos Ambrose to win at the Glen. I don’t know what it is about smoke, but him co-owning his own team has done him good and what a racer he is so far in 2009, I just have to wonder, what will he do in the chase?

Why isn’t NASCAR running rain tires in the Cup Series? You know, I don’t believe the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cup cars should be running rain tires at all. I understand that they once have not only in Japan, but at Watkins Glen years ago, but there is something with the Cup Series COT car that would make it unsafe. Right now, the drivers are having a tough enough time trying to handle these cars in the dry, I can’t even imagine what the racing would be like in the wet, I believe it would be just to dangerous.

This is an area that NASCAR needs to just walk away from, at least until NASCAR and teams find ways to deal with this COT car period. Safety is number 1 in this sport and so are the fans.