Friday, June 6, 2008
Updated: June 7, 9:10 PM ET
In search of 'The Patch'
LONG POND, Pa. -- The talk at Pocono Raceway is about "The Patch."
There will be gallons of ink spilled -- not to mention Internet bandwidth used and TV airtime clogged -- writing or blathering about "The Patch" all weekend.
Apparently you won't win Sunday's Pocono 500 unless you use "The Patch," but it's not a very well-kept secret.
Every driver was asked about "The Patch" and every driver said you go faster on "The Patch." Now, reporters ask drivers these kinds of gripping questions all the time, even if the reporter already knows the answer. Other than that, reporters talk about decent local restaurants and the best shortcuts to the track we all keep hidden from the masses -- that is until some idiot newspaper editor publishes the route.
But back to "The Patch."
The Lords of Pocono (that would be the Mattioli family for those trying to keep up) had to fix a little rough spot in Turn 3 at their cool triangular track here in Pennsylvania. So a new strip of asphalt was laid down on the high line of the turn -- 3,800 feet long and 15 feet wide. By the way, it's being called "The Patch."
New asphalt makes you go faster? Has there been a study? Who knew?
A quick trip out to Turn 3 confirmed the rumors. There is a black patch of asphalt out there. A really long and narrow one. I don't know about 3,800 feet by 15 feet, but it seems reasonable. Heading back to the media center at Pocono, I started asking around about "The Patch."
I met a guy wearing a nicotine patch and he said he didn't know anything other than it doesn't work. I think he meant the patch he was wearing since he bummed a smoke. And he's not a racer, so I'm not sure why I asked him. I better be more careful or I'll get my media credential taken away.
I saw a young guy with a soul patch -- not a good look, by the way, on anyone other than beat poets and bluesmen -- but that clearly wasn't the answer. That guy also wasn't a racer, and soul patches are scarce on Sprint Cup drivers. Besides, security was starting to notice.
So it was back for the official explanation.
Scott Speed, the ex-Formula One driver now plying his trade in the Craftsman Truck Series (nice win last week, Scott) and on Saturday starting from the pole in the ARCA race here at Pocono, was asked "What's up with 'The Patch?' "
Speed looked plainly puzzled, started looking his arms up and down and patting his chest.
"No, the patch of asphalt on the track," Speed was told.
"Well, you go faster there," Speed said.
Many nodded approvingly.
Then Kasey Kahne won the pole for Sunday's race and credited "The Patch" for helping him do it.
There wasn't a single driver, from Jimmie Johnson to Mark Martin to Kyle Busch to the guy pulling the No. 96 hauler out of the garage area after J.J. Yeley failed to qualify for the race, who wasn't convinced the key to everything is "The Patch."
Maybe they should run the whole race in Turn 3.