NASCAR At Pocono: Sprint Cup Series Heads To Repaved Tricky Triangle

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 12: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, performs a burnt out to celebrate winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway on June 12, 2011 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR heads to the Pocono Raceway with a new 400-mile race distance and a brand new track surface. Jeff Gordon won last June at the Tricky Triangle.

Usually, there's no way around it. One sees that the next race weekend is at the Pocono Raceway, and their natural reaction is "Oh no!"

Or, rather, "Poc-oh-no!"

The hopelessly long 500-mile marathons at the hopelessly long - and flat - 2.5-mile triangle have at least provided some race fans the opportunity to catch up on the Sunday afternoon naps they've been missing out on since the season opened at Daytona. For the rest of us, the die-hards that watch every lap of every race, the first two-thirds of a Pocono race were like torture. When Jeff Gordon finally took the victory lane in last year's Pocono 500, you could hear the audible "Thank God!" bellowing throughout NASCAR Nation.

Things have changed for this weekend's Pocono 400, though.

First off, yes I did say the Pocono 400. The track has shaved a hundred miles off its races for this season, finally caving to the cries of those of us who think Sunday should be spent watching a race, not dozing. The race is now similar to the high-stakes Brickyard 400 in late July, with the same number of laps (160) on a track with the same 2.5-mile length as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In addition to the shorter race, however, things will also be a bit faster this weekend. The track has undergone a complete repave, its first since 1995, and new pavement usually lends itself to faster speeds. A pair of test sessions Wednesday and Thursday, standard practice for new or repaved race tracks, will provide a good indication of what to expect this weekend.

Whether the race turns into another snooze fest or not, fans will at least want to tune in to see how things go. If you still decide to take your regular Pocono nap, be sure to set your alarm a bit early or you will wind up missing the checkered flag.

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