People typically say that Pocono has one too many races (some would even say two too many), and that they're too long and very boring. New track president Brandon Igdalsky shortened the race distance from its traditional 500 mile distance to 400 miles. It was a great move.
A repaved racetrack in Pocono and a shortened race lead to a lot of excitement this past Sunday. The Pocono 400 Presented by #NASCAR had excitement, controversy, and a great battle for the win. Last Sunday's race at Pocono had it all, and that's not something you say often about a race at Pocono Raceway.
The great battle for the win was between NASCAR's oldest driver, and one of its youngest. Joey Logano finally won a race that wasn't rain shortened. And he did so by moving his mentor, Mark Martin, out of the way with three laps to go. It was a bold and exciting move that Logano executed perfectly. Logano needed this win. His ride in the 20 car has been in doubt since last year when Carl Edwards was a free agent, and it's still in doubt with Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman both free agent drivers at the end of this season. This win could have saved his job (more on this in a bit).
The controversy came from pit road. There was a rash of pit road speeding penalties this weekend. 22 of them to be exact. Drivers like Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Jimmie Johnson were among those caught. Johnson was even penalized twice. The second time came when he was already serving a drive-through penalty for speeding on pit road.
NASCAR said they didn't make a mistake, but the teams did. Since the racetrack and pit road were repaved, NASCAR had to install new timing lines on pit road. They changed a couple sections from last year. Every race NASCAR prints up maps of where the timing lines are on pit road and has them available to teams at the NASCAR hauler. Some teams grabbed the new ones, some teams used last year's map, and some teams also decided to walk pit road and measure the lines themselves.
Regardless of what team did what, the teams and drivers made mistakes. Not NASCAR.
Sunday's race was great. Pocono needs more races like that to hopefully bring in more fans. NASCAR needs more races like that as well.
Did Logano Just Save His Job?
The short answer is no. But the win certainly helped.
With as many rumors that have been swirling around Logano for the last year, a couple top-10s and one win shouldn't do much to stop them all.
The rumors will continue, but they will be a little bit quieter for a little while. To silence them completely, Logano needs to continue this run that he is on. He has three top-10s in the last four races, coming at Darlington, Dover, and last Sunday's win at Pocono. He needs to add more top-10s, and maybe get another win. Logano sits 15th in points, tied with one of those guys that is rumored to take his job, Ryan Newman. He is also tied with Newman for the last wild-card spot in the Chase, because both have one win each.
Logano is in the fourth season of his Sprint Cup career, and the fourth and final year of his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing. But he is still only 22 years old. Dale Jarrett was 28 years old when he made his first Sprint Cup Series start. Mark Martin was 22 years old when he made his debut. Logano is just now entering the prime of his career. For JGR, it should be too early to give up on him now, but after four years of running sub-par they may feel it is time to move on.
Add another win and some more top-10s. Make the Chase or at least come very close, and those rumors should go away.
The win helped. As did Kurt Busch missing this race because he was suspended for threatening to beat up Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass. The rumors will be quieter, but he hasn't silenced them just yet.
A Quiet Weekend Without Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch was fishing on Sunday. He wasn't racing at Pocono in the 51 car. David Reutimann was in that car instead.
This is because Busch was suspended for this weekend's race for threatening to beat up a reporter after the reporter asked him a legitimate question.
It's just another example of Kurt Busch acting like a spoiled brat. There's just no other way to say it.
Busch has had elite equipment his entire career until this season. Twice he was fired from his race team.
The first time it happened was when he was driving for Jack Roush. Only a year after winning a championship for Roush Racing (now Roush-Fenway Racing), Kurt was suspended for the final two races of the 2005 season and subsequently fired. Team president Geoff Smith said the team was "officially retiring as Kurt Busch's apologists."
The second time was last November after Busch verbally berated ESPN pit reporter Jerry Punch. He was fired from his ride with Penske Racing a couple days after the incident.
Now he is with low-budget team Phoenix Racing, owned by James Finch. Mostly because no one else would hire him. And today Busch is having a "come to Jesus meeting" with Finch. A meeting that will decide whether he will continue to drive for Finch.
Finch said that Busch has wrecked 15 cars this season. For a team that doesn't have any sponsors, that is very costly.
Lee Spencer of Fox Sports reported that the Jerry Springer Show has been in talks to sponsor Kurt Busch, with Springer's head on the hood of the car. A sponsorship by Springer would be very appropriate for Busch. The Jerry Springer Show constantly has people yelling and fighting with each other, much like Busch does.
However, no sponsor and no ride would be more appropriate. The suspension was a good first step.