Lagano, Tempers and Pocono

     Dale Wilkerson                                                 June 2010

As summer approaches and the temperature rises outside, tempers are on the rise in NASCAR.

From the Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch mix up in the All Star race, to Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton after the Coke 600, to Kevin Harvick, surrounded by his pit crew, with Joey Logano, along with his father cheering him on, this weekend at Pocono, drivers are starting to boil over due to actions on track.

Let’s look at the most recent incident. Kevin Harvick made few late passes and was closing in on Joey Logano in the final laps. Logano lost a lot of momentum as he attempted to pass Sam Hornish on the low side coming off turn three. Harvick pulled alongside but could not clear the car of Logano. The two drivers went through the tunnel turn side-by-side and charge down the short-chute towards turn three.

As Logano and many other drivers have realized in recent years at the Pennsylvania Triangle, fresh pavement in one groove in a corner means there is only one fast way through that end of the speedway.
Harvick appeared to let Logano have the corner, but just before Logano cleared Harvick’s car, contact was made and Logano went on a long slide. This contact resulted in a green-white-checkered restart where Kasey Kahne was ran off the track by his teammate A J Allmendinger, resulting in a track blocking pile-up. Logano made it through the melee to come home in 13th, but the young man was very upset feeling like Harvick nudged him out of a top-five finish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                       Photo Credit

Should Logano be upset? Certainly he should but should he aim all of his frustration at Kevin Harvick for this incident Sunday at Pocono? No. How can a track only repave an area wide enough for one car to run through without expecting that to cause problems during a race? This type of paving, or patch work, would be like digging potholes in certain places and telling the guys to drive around them. Yes that sounds a little like the Daytona 500, but that hole just happened. Yes that area of the track was only repaired for the July race, but the entire track at Daytona will be repaved before the 500 next year.

If this problem had happened at Pocono during the June race, and the folks with the track needed to do something fast to have the track race ready for the second event that would have been okay, so long as that temporary repair was followed by a complete repair. This one grove of asphalt was installed during the spring of the year, and not the past spring but last year, and was not a temp-fix, but intended to be the only repair.
The minimum repair should have been repaving turn three, from the end of the short chute to the front stretch. This would allow for perhaps side-by-side racing through this flat corner at this oddly shaped track. Instead we have 43 cars rooting and pushing for a narrow strip of traction which results in contact, bent fenders and raised temperatures under the hood as well as under the collar.

I would like to see Pocono reconfigured to make it a more stock car friendly track. This track was built for Indy Cars, and those cars have not raced there in 20 years. Repairs need to be made here and if the track is not going to receive an extreme raceway makeover, some fresh pavement would give all cars the same traction, not just the ones that find one narrow strip while sliding around.