Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Track Travels: Pocono Raceway

Pocono Raceway is the most unique track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule: three distinct turns, three distinct straightaways, and fan access to the inner-workings of a NASCAR garage beyond compare. I have attended the second race at Pocono Raceway since 2002, but decided to do things differently this year and only hit the track on Friday and Saturday. These are normally my two favorite days at the track anyway, and this year was the added bonus of the inaugural Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday, July 31st.

You may wonder why those are my two favorite days at the track. I can sum it up in two words: Pit Pass. The Pre-Race Pit/Paddock Pass invites fans into the garage area on race weekend (well, from behind a fence, but you can see a lot!), and is a must-do for any fan of NASCAR at least once. The pass takes you under the track (which is quite an experience when the cars are on the track!) and over to “the other side.” Fans can watch what’s happening in the garage area for the Sprint Cup Series, and may even catch an autograph from a driver, owner, crew chief, or two (this is not a guarantee, but I’ve had some good luck over the years – Michael Waltrip, Tommy Baldwin Jr., Joe Nemechek, and Todd Bodine to name a few). From “Garage-Vu,” take a walk out to pit road and see what the crews see on race day – the vast expanse that is the frontstretch of Pocono Raceway. This year, the Trucks were permanently pitted on pit road on Friday and Saturday (no room in the garage area, as the ARCA Racing Series was also on the card), and the Truck drivers were in general very gracious about signing autographs for the fans on pit road (a shout-out to Jennifer Jo Cobb for being so accommodating to the fans!).

The Truck Series race on Saturday was amazing: Elliott Sadler won the pole and the race, as one of three Cup Series regulars in the lineup (Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin were the others). It was great to see Sadler win after so many winless years, and the fans were happy to hear a “thank you” from the gracious winner.

I’ve heard many people (drivers, announcers, other fans) complain over the years about Pocono Raceway – the race is too long, the track is too dangerous, work needs to be done. From this fan’s point-of-view, however, the pit pass in itself makes this track tough to beat from a fan’s perspective.

Photo 1 - Todd Bodine was the first truck to take the track for practice.
Photo 2 - Cup series cars lined up in the garage.
Photo 3 - Jennifer Jo Cobb hits the track.
Photo 4 - Elliott Sadler starts his burnout after his Truck Series victory.

All photos Paula Thompson


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