Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rating the 5-Hour Energy 500: 1 Star *

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series began the second half of the regular season in the damp and cloudy Pocono Mountains with a tough day on the cars and a boring day for the fans. The first race at Pocono Raceway gets a 1 Star Rating.

Pocono is an interesting track and probably takes more criticism than it deserves, but Sunday’s race, no matter the track, had everything NASCAR haters or bandwagon fans love to complain about the sport.

This race had nothing but single-file racing and debris cautions. Plus, most of the races Jeff Gordon wins seem to be similar to Sunday's performance. When that #24 car is right and gets in clean air, he can still drive away from the field.

However, true diehard race fans may have found the tidbits of strategy and all of the mechanical issues interesting. While there wasn’t much strategy to be found, especially compared to the past couple of weeks, there were plenty of mechanical problems that aren’t seen that often in today’s NASCAR.

NASCAR instituted a gear-rule change for the weekend that made it possible for the drivers to shift between third and fourth gear at certain parts of the racetrack.

This was a nice gesture to bring back some of the aspects that made Pocono interesting and unique in the past, but it didn’t do much to help the racing and certainly took its toll on the engines and transmissions Sunday as no less than seven drivers who were in the top half of the points standings had some type of problem during the race.

It will be interesting to see what kind of improvements the teams will make on their transmissions before the Cup series returns in August. Pocono is always one of the toughest tracks on equipment, but this race had as many failures as any race in several years. Teams might prepare for the next Pocono race the way they would for a restrictor-plate race with some of the focus teams will put on the transmission if NASCAR leaves the gear rule the same.

The first race at Pocono last year had the best post-race show of the season as several drivers spoke their mind and Joey Logano dropped the “his wife wears the firesuit in the family” line on Kevin Harvick.

This time around, the only pushing and shoving came early in the race after the first caution when Harvick drove Kyle Busch all the way down the frontstretch to the point where they were driving through water and not too far away from the end of pit road.

They didn’t touch each other and NASCAR told both drivers and teams to take it easy, but Busch’s and Harvick’s probation ends next week, so maybe the emotions will start flowing more freely once again, even though Harvick’s car owner, Richard Childress, didn’t need any help last week at Kansas when he went after Busch himself and got slapped with a $150,000 fine and probation for the rest of the year.

From this point on, it looks like Childress will have to let his driver fight his own battles. For Harvick, those battles usually come around fairly regularly.

So, after one of the most uneventful races of the season the series heads to Michigan for another long fuel-mileage race.

Fuel mileage was a concern for teams at Pocono, but it is an extreme concern at Michigan. Some drivers will be told to try and save gas from the drop of the green flag, and the same will likely happen the following week at the road course in Sonoma. It’s that time of the year.


  1. NASCAR Race Control would make a hell of a grade school principal.... warn the bully AND the victim!

    I thought the race was worthy of 2 stars.... just because I didn't fall asleep..LOL

  2. I am hoping that was a preview of the rivalry racing to come at Michigan and Sonoma...that was clearly the most exciting part of the race. Although I will say it was funny to see Carl in the booth during a cup race!

    I am happy I am going to Sonoma so I miss at least one of their broadcasts!

  3. Gene - Haha, I can't wait for the probation for Harvick and Busch to end. This could be fun for the rest of the season.

    klvalus - Have a great time at Sonoma! Hope it's another race similar to those the past few years.