And you won’t find a driver in the Pocono garage that isn’t happy about that.
It just seemed like this is a track that we got strung out and it was just a bit too long,” Clint Bowyer said Friday. “Hopefully, a shorter race will create some excitement within that and we can put on a good show for the fans.”
Sunday’s Pocono 400 will be an intriguing race for two reasons: A new racing surface that has caused speeds to soar beyond 210 mph on the long straightaways; and the 100-mile shorter distance.
Jeff Gordon, the winningest driver at the track with five wins, says it was the perfect time to shorten one of NASCAR’s longest races.
“It’s going to be nice to be less than 500 miles,” Gordon said. “Especially this weekend because the RPMs that we are turning, the amount of shifting that we are doing, the pace that we are running, it would be hard to pull 500 miles out of it this weekend at that kind of speed.
“I think 400 miles is going to make for a little bit more entertaining race.”
The 2.5-mile triangular track with 3,000-foot straightaways, tight turns and little banking is a challenging track for NASCAR’s top drivers and teams. A 500-mile race that typically took nearly four hours to run made it one of the sport’s most grueling events.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. even thinks that 400 miles—or 160 laps—still is too long.
“Four hundred miles is still a really long time,” he said. “This is a track that is very long and just lends itself to feeling like it takes forever to get around it.
“The race itself is going to still feel like a full event to me. I don’t think it is going to feel like a short event in no way to me personally.”
The 400-mile distance could lead to some interesting strategy. With it being difficult to pass on the new surface and with a hard, durable tire, pit strategy could be key.
Earnhardt said it could still turn into a fuel-mileage race, with drivers stretching their fuel to the last drop.
“A couple of guys at the end of the race will probably be coming to the checkered with questions about whether they can actually make it on fuel or not,” Earnhardt said.
Bowyer, however, said the shorter distance could prevent the race from being all about fuel mileage.
"I think it could shake that up for the better,” Bowyer said. “This track, it's been a fuel-mileage race in the past, and a little bit shorter race could shake that up.”
Source: Sporting News.com