NASCAR Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Pocono Proves That Shorter Races Are Better Races

I can’t believe Pocono had 500-mile races at one point. Do you think shorter races are better, especially when it comes to Pocono? – Brett P., Philadelphia, Pa.

If you’ve read this column all year long, you know by now that I’m all for shortening everything. Trim the race lengths, trim the entire schedule, do all the shortening.

Pocono Raceway, historically, is memorable. But is it necessarily for the pure racing? To me (a soon-to-be 25-year-old, mind you) it’s more for nasty wrecks (Bobby Allison, Steve Park, Davey Allison, Elliott Sadler, etc.) and fuel mileage races, with this weekend the most recent example. Those 500-mile lengths are too long for any race other than a crown jewel event, and Pocono shortening their events to 400 miles was a slam-dunk of an idea. 325 and 350? Even better.

You can’t tell me that the races on Saturday and Sunday (June 26-27) didn’t keep you on the edge of your seat. They had differing strategies, green flag pit stops, fuel conservation and fast cars carving their way through the pack. That doesn’t happen every week in the NASCAR Cup Series anymore. That’s what made the weekend so special.

I’m all for fuel mileage races, but I wouldn’t want to see them 10 times per year. They’re great in moderation, and Sunday was that moderation. I’m not sure if the same result would have played out if the race was 100 miles longer, but what more could you want?

I left Sunday’s race feeling more than pleased with what I saw. And it was just about at the 2.5-hour mark. No offense, but I wouldn’t want to spend an additional 45-60 minutes just to see the same thing (and that probably would have been diluted a tad due to the inherent length).

People’s time is valuable. When fans buy a ticket, they’re not only giving the track their money, but their time. Not to be cliché as hell here, but you can never get time back. Money is important (duh), but time is more so. Giving all parties involved an experience as Pocono did this weekend could be the blueprint for future events.

See also
NASCAR Mailbox: Could More Doubleheaders Be In NASCAR's Future?

Bottom line: the races themselves at Pocono were better in big part thanks to the length of them. Shortening races without compromising fans’ value is the way to go moving forward.

Has Brad Keselowski‘s attention being diverted to his impending Roush deal impacted his performance this season? – Kyle U., West Bloomfield, Mich.

On paper, one might surmise, yes.

Since Motorsport.com first reported the possibility (which has now become the worst-kept secret in the garage) on May 18, his results haven’t been great.

He ended up 19th at Circuit of the Americas, 11th at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 15th at Sonoma Raceway and 23rd at Nashville Superspeedway before a pair of top-10 finishes (10th and third) in the Pocono doubleheader.

See also
2-Headed Monster: Will Brad Keselowski’s Struggles Continue in 2021?

But let’s not kid ourselves: this has been in the works for some time now.

It’s not like Keselowski magically decided a few weeks ago, “Hey, I think I want to join Roush as a driver/owner. Let’s make this happen!”

No, this has likely been in the works for at least a few months (if not much longer) and has also been something Keselowski has wanted to pursue since closing down his Camping World Truck Series team, Brad Keselowski Racing, after the 2017 season.

He’s stated previously on the record his want to get back into team ownership, a place where he can use his big ideas and put them to the test. And, as has been discussed, Keselowski has accomplished almost everything imaginable at Penske. He brought the Captain his first Cup championship, transformed the organization in multiple series to become a perennial title contender and has himself become one of the best drivers of his generation.

So it’s time for the next challenge for Keselowski, who will attempt to resurrect Roush Fenway Racing, once a juggernaut of the Cup Series but now a mid-pack team on a weekly basis (nothing is confirmed yet, but it’s all officially announced).

In short, Kyle, the answer to your question is no. Both Keselowski and Roger Penske are class personified in motorsports, and even though both gentleman likely have come to terms with their parting of ways by season’s end, they’re also likely focused on the task at hand: going out with a bang, winning races, dethroning Hendrick Motorsports and winning another championship.

The thought of team ownership and leaving Penske has been in Keselowski’s mind for years, even before he signed a one-year extension with the team for 2020. It was always inevitable that the 2012 champion was going to leave. The questions were at what cost and for whom?

Soon enough, we’ll officially get our answer.

This week on TikTok

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

14 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bill B

I don’t think the Pocono races being interesting can be attributed to them being shorter. More likely it was just luck. I don’t remember last year’s races being all that great. We’ll see if next year’s races produce similar results. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Pocono races need to be longer, I’m just saying I don’t think there is enough data to draw the conclusion that shorter races produce a more compelling race.

janice

i think what also helped was there weren’t any delays for weather. rain like to visit pocono when nascar is in town.

David Russell Edwards

Perhaps we saw the future of Nascar in those races. Shorter races more acceptable to the TV networks.

jobe

Young people don’t care about cars. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday is an anachronism.

And while it’s true that people in general have shorter attention spans, that’s not going to change. Everything needs to be immediate in the digital age. I’m not a young person, but if a result downloads too slowly, I get frustrated.

DoninAjax

Nobody complained about the 500 and 600 mile distances until Emperor Brian came up with his brilliant idea for the bumper cars they can’t actually make “race.” And the drivers who don’t want to “race” aren’t helping either.

David Edwards

So whose opinion carries the most weight, the attendees or the TV networks who are contributing a major portion of the funding for both the teams and the series?

DoninAjax

Longer events mean more commercials.How do TV networks fund teams?

David Russell Edwards

A portion of what they pay for the advertising rights goes to the teams. Of course Nascar and the tracks get a bigger cut.

DoninAjax

Do you think Carl Long gets the same amount as Mr. H or Reverend Joe per team?

Messenger

Racing is cyclical. The Ford teams are behind now, but whether that has anything to do with Brad’s situation is questionable at best.

Last edited 3 months ago by Messenger
Jimbo

The ratings prove otherwise

Messenger

Shorter races may indeed make for better races, although what’s true at Pocono may not be true across the board. What is clear is that cautions make for better racing on the restarts. And with fewer cautions for wrecks, the stage breaks provide the restarts that make the races interesting. Not to mention the way they provide opportunities for different fuel and tire strategies.

FS’ own Nick Tylwak even shared that opinion in Point 3 of his column this week.

5 Points To Ponder: Hendrick Vs. Gibbs Shaping Up As Heavyweight Title Fight (frontstretch.com)

So let’s look at this from a purely logical perspective: If restarts are exciting (and this goes for anywhere this is true, not just Pocono), you want to see a fair number of them. Stage breaks guarantee you at least two more per race than you’d have without them.

Ideally, we’d have a car and rules package that allows for exciting racing at any time — and maybe the new car will improve things toward that end next year. In the meantime, stages give us a few more restarts to watch every week, so they can’t be all bad, right?

Last edited 3 months ago by Messenger
Messenger

It seems that cautions and the resulting restarts are what make races interesting. That, as pointed out by FS columnist Nick Tylak, is what the stage breaks give us. They also provide for different fuel and tire strategy calls by crew chiefs as they decide whether to go for stage points or track position.

JW Farmer

Actually Davey Segal, as a fan since 1988, a shorter race sucks. I want to be able to watch the start, grill out and then see cars fall to attrition versus that stop and start competition caution/stage crap. WE HAD 500 mile races back in the days when parts were less durable so now that the cars are MORE durable, we should have them again instead of coddling to a generation of fans that are addicted to the “instant” of cellphones. Sure, the races were good but so were the 500 milers (thank J. Mayfield and Earnhardt and Gordon missing a shift in 1997 (or 96) and even the race with the Davey Allison rollover was great. I can think of others (Denny Hamlins first win or Tim Richmond). So the races should not BE shortened, the fact is, your (generalization) attention span needs to be lengthened.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com

Frontstretch