Pocono Raceway has always been one of the most challenging venues in NASCAR. Three distinct turns, combined with the longest straightaway in the sport make the “Tricky Triangle” a difficult venue for drivers and teams to master.
This weekend, it’ll be even tougher.
|Burton: "It's still Pocono."|
A new layer of asphalt has rendered any notes accumulated in the last 20 years virtually useless, and record-shattering speeds in pre-race testing this week indicate there will be little margin for error. A total of 36 cars tested on the Pocono tri-oval yesterday, with 22 of them eclipsing the standing track record of 172.533 held by Kasey Kahne. None of those 22 drivers were in qualifying trim.
Unofficial reports have AJ Allmendinger atop the speed charts in today’s session, a whopping seven mph beyond the previous track record.
"We're in for a really good race," said Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby Wednesday. "Goodyear's done an excellent job matching the tire to the new surface. All the way up and down the garage, we've heard zero complaints, which is a good feeling."
Driver Jeff Burton said that in addition to record speeds, he expects the competition to be improved “a great deal. It's still Pocono,” he said. ”It still has the same characteristics and personality of Pocono, but it has more grip. This pavement is unbelievably nice (and) smooth."
Former series champion Jeff Gordon called the new Pocono layout, “a hold-your-breath situation,” joking, “I’m not sure I want to know how fast we were going into Turn One.”
He said the new asphalt will force drivers to be at the top of their game Sunday.
“A harder tire on the new-paved track, it’s hard to feel the limit of that tire. So you’re already going to be on edge (and) you certainly don’t want to get out of the groove. It’s going to be white-knuckle for sure. You’re really going to have to hit your marks and you’re going to have to be very aggressive.”