Pocono gets high-five for shortening races

August, 10, 2011

Pocono Raceway officials finally have realized that less is more when it comes to quality racing on the old triangle.

Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky made the announcement Wednesday that both Sprint Cup events in 2012 will be shortened from 500 miles (200 laps on the gigantic 2.5-mile track) to 400 miles (160 laps).

Can I get an "Amen!"?

I applaud Igdalsky and his staff for making this decision, a move that will improve the quality of racing on a track that hasn't always produced the best action.

Everything that happens in 500 miles will happen in 400 miles, but it will happen faster and with more urgency from all the teams competing.

Pocono Raceway owner Joseph Mattioli, a man who has done a tremendous amount for NASCAR over four decades, vowed a year ago that the races on his track would remain 500 miles as long as he was in charge.

At age 86, Mattioli retired last week, so the door was open to do the right thing. It's a different world now than when Mattioli's track started hosting Cup events in 1974.

Most professional sports organizations have taken steps in recent years to shorten their events.

In the age of instant information on the Internet and social media of texting, Twitter and Facebook, the attention span of younger sports fans has become progressively shorter. And their options for viewing sports events have become progressively larger.

The Pocono races traditionally have been some of the longest on the Cup schedule, often near, and sometimes over, four hours.

And it rarely was a scintillating four hours. The track is relatively flat with three long straightaways, causing the cars to spread out on long green-flag runs.

The final laps after a restart usually are the best. They still will be, but it won't take as long to get there and more strategic decisions will come earlier in the race.

There's still a place in NASCAR for the marathon-type event such as the Coca-Cola 600, and the prestige of a long event in the Daytona 500.

But Pocono wasn't the place for it. Less is more for Pocono. Just wait and see.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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