Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pocono decides people can’t handle its 500-mile races

Sprint Cup Series drivers will likely catch a break and race about 200 miles less in 2012 than they have in past years.

Pocono Raceway announced Wednesday that both races in 2012 will be just 400 miles long instead of the traditional 500-mile races.

There will surely be people throughout NASCAR land that think this is the greatest decision Pocono has ever made.

I’m not one of them.

Shortening a race to 400 miles is like adding double-file restarts, a wave-around rule for cars a lap down or even implementing a playoff format. They are all gimmicks intended to make the sport more “exciting.”

Sorry folks, people loved the sport long before all of these new rules were dreamed up. Why did they like it? Probably because they thought it was exciting to watch cars race as fast as they can all afternoon.

The reason people show up to a race isn’t to see how the points standings will look at the end of the day or whether the race finished in a certain amount of time. They go to see racing. All of the other sideshows are cute, but they are called race fans for a reason. They enjoy watching racing.

So, now they will race 400 miles twice a year at Pocono. Now the track is even more meaningless than it was before. Part of what makes Pocono special is that it tests the drivers, teams and cars like no other track on the schedule. Sure, road courses and short tracks are tough, but those races are at most 300 miles.

It doesn’t make sense for fans of any sport to want their events to be shorter. We hear the same complaints about baseball. “It takes too long.” Well, what do you want? Do fans not go to a game to enjoy an afternoon or evening at the event? What else do they possibly have planned that day that makes them want the event to finish 30 minutes sooner?

Attending these events is something special. One would think a fan would want their event to last as long as possible, even though it seems some people show up just to see how soon they can leave to "beat the traffic." What’s wrong with spending more time watching what you came to see?

Ok, enough with the rhetorical questions. Having a 400-mile race at Pocono is not a good idea. Ed Randall, the former governor of the Pennsylvania, which ironically is where Pocono Raceway is located, might say this is just another example of the “wussification of America.”

People will say they think it makes the drivers race harder throughout the race. Honestly, they race pretty darn hard most of the time. Sunday’s race wouldn’t have been any more exciting if it had finished on lap 160. If anything, it would’ve been less exciting. Kurt Busch would’ve won by a larger margin than Brad Keselowski beat Kyle Busch.

People will still complain the racing is boring at Pocono whether the race is 400 or 500 miles long.

Unfortunately, this is part of our culture. Now there will be just 10 races that are 500 miles long next year, including a stretch of 12 races during the summer without a 500-mile race.

Sorry folks, 400 miles at Pocono won’t be any more exciting than the 500-mile races at that track. The only thing that changes is a shorter time to enjoy races that happen just one day out of a week.

NASCAR racing isn’t like sitting in church listening to a pastor preach a sermon that lasts three times longer than necessary. We aren’t forced to watch NASCAR races, but we choose to because we like it. If somebody likes something, they generally want more of it, not less.

In this case, we got less.

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