NASCAR At Pocono 2012: Does A Shorter Race Make For A Better Race?

When Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky sat down with his grandfather early last summer, the young track executive emphasized the need to shorten Pocono's traditional 500-mile NASCAR race lengths.

Igdalsky's grandfather, the late track founder Dr. Joseph Mattioli, listened as the reasons were laid out before him: There was pressure from fans, media and drivers alike, the attention spans of many Americans seem to be getting shorter all the time and it would be better for the sport as a whole.

And perhaps the biggest factor was that by removing 100 miles, there wouldn't be as much time for drivers to ride around. The intensity of the racing, Igdalsky figured, would be increased.

"Do we think it's going to be a better show?" Igdalsky said this week, in advance of Pocono's first 400-mile race. "We wouldn't have done it if we didn't think so."

Igdalsky's plea to his grandfather worked. Before Mattioli ceded control of the track to his grandchildren last August, he signed one more sanctioning agreement with NASCAR – which included the 400-mile races.

"I don't know if it was the old age being gentle or he was understanding it," Igdalsky said with a laugh. "He agreed with it at that time."

Now the question heading into the weekend is this: Do 400-mile races make for a better show than 500-mile races?

Those who have watched the seemingly endless Pocono races over the years might be quick to say, "YES!"

"Five hundred miles here for some reason just seems to get drug-out and drawn-out," Tony Stewart said Friday. "I think you're still going to have the same quality of racing, you just don't have to wait that extra hour for that exciting conclusion."

And really, that's what entertainment is all about these days, right? It's the last five minutes of a basketball game or the ninth inning in baseball: Hurry up and get to the good stuff.

"The way it was described to me that made it much more palatable is they took the middle 100 miles out," Carl Edwards said.

Why will it be a better race? Because, as Greg Biffle said, "There will be more urgency to go." In addition, drivers will be less likely to fall out of the race due to equipment failures – which can certainly happen with all the shifting and high speeds at Pocono.

"I think 400 miles is going to make for a little bit more entertaining race," Jeff Gordon said, "as well as hopefully (getting) more of us to the finish."

But some drivers don't think reducing the race by 100 miles will mean much at all.

"Four hundred miles is still a really long time," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "This is a track that is very long and just lends itself to feeling like it takes forever to get around it. I don't think it is going to feel like a short event in no way to me, personally."

Aside from the drivers, some fans might be concerned they're paying the same ticket price as last year for 100 less miles of racing this year. But Igdalsky said there have been surprisingly few complaints.

To those with concerns, Pocono responds by saying the increased entertainment is more than expected to make up for the reduced distance.

"Overall, we think it's going to give them even more value for their dollar," Igdalsky said. "I really think with the new asphalt and everything, it's going to put on a great race."

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