Without question, the Pocono Raceway is a track where either one loves it or one hates it. That certainly applies in the case of Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy 500 at the famed triangle track.
This is the reason why. Pocono has a complete length of 2.5 miles. That is the same length as both Daytona and Indianapolis. Both those tracks over the summer months hold races that only go 400 miles. The lap times are nearly identical to what they are at Pocono, meaning the race is long but also exciting.
Pocono has been hosting races since the early 1970s, and the races have always been 500 miles in length.
The only 500 mile race that should be run on a 2.5-mile track should be the Daytona 500. Hosting a race that long at this track, especially one that doesn’t have many cautions, is more boring than exciting. It draws away fans and can even make media members get tired. It’s appropriate that 5-Hour Energy was the title sponsor of this race because it seemed like to get through the entire 500 miles one needed to drink one.
In the end, the race lasted nearly three and a half hours. A start time of just past the 1 p.m. hour led to a checkered flag at around 4:30 p.m. That is simply too long of a race at this place.
People have been pushing to have Pocono go to a 400-mile event, even if it was just one of their races, but that has not happened. NASCAR will certainly look into the idea if the second race here is a mirror of what today was.
But at the same time, despite my criticism of the length of the race at this track, I was particularly happy at how the race ended. I make no bones about who I cheer for in NASCAR, and that’s Jeff Gordon. I’ve been a fan of his since 1993, and I saw four championships come his way. In recent years, the struggles have been present, and the disappointments have been numerous. But, this year it is a completely different story.
The drive this man has to not only win races, but win a championship, is unbelievable. That was shown Sunday as Gordon went on to win the race at Pocono, his fifth win at the facility.
But, here’s something more interesting and more unbelievable than anything. Between 2008 and 2010, Gordon only won a single race, coming at Texas in 2009. He came close many times last year only to finish second to many strong drivers. He also hasn’t won a championship since 2001, yet has seen his teammate Jimmie Johnson win five consecutive titles.
In just 14 races, Gordon has doubled that win total from the previous three years, and has found himself in a great position to secure a spot in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Another interesting fact from Sunday’s victory has to do with Gordon’s sponsor, DuPont. At the beginning of the year, it was revealed that AARP’s Drive to End Hunger would be the majority sponsor of Gordon, being on the car for 22 of the 38 total races this season. DuPont would take the primary role in 14 races, while other long-time sponsor Pepsi would take the final two, specifically Pepsi Max.
Gordon’s win in the DuPont Chevrolet on Sunday was the first time that DuPont went to victory lane as the primary sponsor of Gordon’s car since Charlotte in 2007. When Gordon won at Texas in 2009, the National Guard was the lead sponsor, and AARP was there when he won Phoenix this year.
No matter what, as a writer it means great stories and ideas heading into the week ahead with Gordon’s victory. As a fan, it’s unbelievable seeing the driver I cheer for celebrate a victory.
Hard to believe that 16 years ago Dale Earnhardt nicknamed him the “Wonder Boy” when he won his 1995 championship, and he thanked him by drinking milk at the award’s ceremony. Now, that boy will turn 40 this year, and he has officially earned the nickname the “Golden Boy.”
And who says old age is a bad thing.
RESULTS: 1-Gordon 2-Kurt Busch 3-Kyle Busch 4-Johnson 5-Harvick 6-Earnhardt Jr. 7-Montoya 8-Kenseth 9-Newman 10-Truex Jr.
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Kahne 18-Martin 19-Hamlin 21-Stewart 27-Biffle 37-Edwards
CAUTIONS: 4 for 14 laps. Lap 10-11 (Debris-T1), 19-21 (Debris-T3/Competition), 112-116 (Debris-T2), 156-159 (Debris-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 18 among 10 drivers. Kurt Busch 1, Hamlin 2-19, McDowell 20, Wimmer 21, Hamlin 22-47, Johnson 48, Hamlin 49-76, Montoya 77-97, Hamlin 98-101, Montoya 102-116, Kurt Busch 117-139, Gordon 140-141, Kyle Busch 142-143, Kurt Busch 144-156, Stewart 157, Montoya 158-159, Gordon 160-177, Cassil 178-181, Gordon 182-200.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 26 Mins, 21 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 145.384 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 2.965 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Top-12): 1. Edwards, 492 points; 2. Johnson, -6; 3. Earnhardt Jr, -10; 4. Harvick, -11; 5. Kyle Busch, -25; 6. Kurt Busch, -35; 7. Kenseth, -44; 8. Bowyer, -73; 9. Stewart, -75; 10. Newman, -75; 11. Gordon, -81; 12. Hamlin, -84.