By admin | June 6, 2010
By Richard Allen
If a person had left the grandstand or tuned the television away from the Gillette Fusion 500 after 150 laps or so they would have thought they had just witnessed one of the most boring races in NASCAR history. I suspect many people did leave or tune away. And, they would have been correct in thinking they had witnessed a snoozer.
The vast majority of the race was, to be honest, horrible. Cars were spread out over the massive, oddly shaped Pocono Raceway and very few passes were made or positions exchanged. There were no real storylines and no real drama. It was hard to watch.
But as the race wound to its conclusion, not only did the excitement level pick up, it went through the roof.
NASCAR has become a very predictable soap opera seemingly every week. Drivers play a high speed, albeit boring, game of follow the leader for about three-fourths of the way. Then, a caution, or series of cautions, come out and lead to an inevitable mad dash to the finish.
The finishes are exciting, but they come at the cost of the vast majority of the event. This race was a classic example of that. NASCAR has so over mandated every little aspect of the cars that competitors are out there in essentially the same machines with the excitement at the end mostly contrived.
As I have said many times, I believe changes such as double-file restarts and multiple green/white/checkered finishes are good things as long as the current rules package stays in place. I would much prefer for NASCAR to lighten up the mandates but that is not likely to happen anytime soon so the current formula is what we have.
With all that said, back to the racing in Pocono. When a debris caution came out at lap 155, all heck proceeded to break loose. From there, a series of events would take place that will no doubt have fans talking for some time. And, NASCAR got the ESPN Sportscenter highlights they seem to crave so much.
The boredom ended and the terror set in. The initial feeling of gloom and doom had to come from crew chiefs all up and down pit road. As seems to always happen, the race at Pocono Raceway took on the look of a fuel mileage stretch. As caution after caution flew in those final stages, cars ducked on and off of pit road to take on a splash of fuel that would hopefully get them to the finish.
Calculators were smoking, nerves were frayed and two-way radios were filled with chatter between drivers and crew chiefs.
That terror was magnified when a caution flew just before leader Denny Hamlin reached the white flag(funny how it always works out that way) and set up a green/white/checkered finish with fuel reserves already stretched to the limit.
More terror was to ensue. As cars raced on the back part of the track toward the checkered flag, Kasey Kahne found himself being pushed to the grass by teammate A.J. Allmendinger. Kahne’s car slid across the track in front of a huge pack and was nailed by several cars. Numerous mangled machines were the result.
And finally, I don’t know if there was any terror involved but there were plenty of hard feelings. Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, their crews and even some family members met up on pit road to exchange a few words. The meeting was the result of an on-track run in between the two that sent Logano on a wild ride through turn three. No punches were traded but a number of threats and insults were.
Very few races have created more storylines than the Gillette Fusion 500 at the Pocono Raceway. The race proved to be a capsule of what modern day NASCAR has become, for better or worse.
Because of what NASCAR has become, there may not have been many folks around at the end to see what happened. Perhaps that caused the TNT network a good deal of terror as well.
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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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