By admin | June 3, 2010
By Richard Allen
This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania for the Gillette Fusion 500 at the Pocono Raceway. It used to be that a NASCAR trip to Pocono gave fans and competitors alike the chance to experience something different and intriguing. Now, this is just another race among a series of similar races.
Because of the 2.5 mile facilityâ€™s unusual shape, teams often used to experiment with unique ways of getting their car around the track faster than everybody else. Now, NASCAR has taken the ability to experiment away.
This track has three straights of varying lengths, two of which being among the longest on which these cars will compete all year. Because of that a few drivers began to shift gears to try and gain an advantage. Eventually, all teams started playing with transmissions and gear ratios that would allow drivers to shift multiple times per lap.
In-car cameras would allow fans to see exactly where the shift points were for each driver. It would be clearly evident that one driver gained an advantage in one particular section of the track while others might be better somewhere else.
Now, NASCAR mandates gear ratios in such a way that shifting is no longer part of the equation. Everybody is essentially the same.
The track also has three turns, each of which is different from the others in banking and radius. Again, just as with gears, teams would play around with set ups to try and outwit their competitors.
Some preferred to set their cars up to handle turn one best. In exchange, those drivers would have an advantage there but would have to give up something at the other end of the speedway. Some preferred setting their cars up to best handle turns two and three so they would experience the opposite of those who worked best in turn one.
Also, a few years ago some teams began really getting bold with the angles of camber they built into the front end of the cars. Camber refers to the angle of lean in or out the tires have in relation to the track surface. Those who figured out the right package bested the competition. Those who did not had flat tire after flat tire.
Now, NASCAR mandates the shocks, springs and camber angles on every car. Everybody is essentially the same.
So with all that said, this race has been made into a competition between cars that look exactly alike(except for those convincing stickers for headlights and taillights) with essentially the same set ups spread out all over an enormous track for far too long.
Just like every other 500 mile race on the circuit(except for the Daytona 500, Coke 600 and Southern 500) this race should have about 20% of the distance shaved off so that some of the riding around time can be avoided and drivers, fans and everyone else can get on to that inevitable late race caution and dash to the finish.
This used to be a fun race to watch with all sorts of intrigue. Now, itâ€™s just a long ride in the beautiful countryside of eastern Pennsylvania.
Pocono used to be a track that allowed for creativity and experimentation. For that Matter, NASCAR used to be a sport that allowed for creativity and experimentation. Now, itâ€™s just a contest of sameness.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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