LONG POND, Pa. — Pocono Raceway made history in 2016 in a way that no track would ever want to make it.
For the first time in NASCAR history, a track had both of its races postponed. For a track that saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. sweep both of its races in 2014 (a track promoter’s and many fans’ dream), it got the promoter’s and fans’ bad dream in 2016.
“It’s awful luck,” said Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky after the rainout. “Kyle Busch gets the great [pole/race sweep] record last week and we get the awful record this week — way to go, good for us.
“At the end of the day, I literally feel so awful for the fans that were here. We had a great crowd. I just hope they all come back [Monday].”
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Pocono, while having a little bit of a rap for bad weather, did not have a rainout since August 2009 before this June’s race was postponed for a day. Then the July race Sunday was postponed because of rain, making it back-to-back rainouts for the track.
Tracks often see a drop in renewals the year after a rainout — some in the industry estimate it results in renewals 10 percent lower than the previous year — so consecutive rainouts can’t help at all.
With so many local race tracks in Pennsylvania and a passion for all forms of motorsports (the Andretti family hails from about 30 miles away), Igdalsky hopes his fans are understanding.
“The Dale sweep [in 2014] gave us a great bump last year,” Igdalsky said. “We held on to that bump and had an increase this year, which was great. It’s way too early to tell [the impact].
“People realize Pocono is a great place to be. … The fans have shown that. We’ve got the best fans in the sport.”
Pocono is the only track so far this year to have a Cup race postponed (the Sprint Showdown was postponed to the morning of the Sprint All-Star race).
What could make matters worse for Pocono races in the future are the 3 p.m. ET starts for the races at the track next year.
The race was postponed Sunday at 2:43 p.m. ET because it had taken three hours to dry the track earlier. With sunset at about 8:20 p.m., there wasn’t enough time to dry the track and get it started — NASCAR’s policy is not to start a race that it couldn’t reasonably get the full race (about three hours) in as long as it didn’t rain.
With the 3 p.m. starts next year in hopes of attracting a bigger television audience, any rain delay could result in a rain-shortened race or postponed race.
“At least with the 3 o’clock start, we’re going to know early if we’re not going to get the track dry,” Igdalsky said. “That’s the good thing about it. I’m curious to see how the 3 o’clock is going to work out. I’ve got my feelings both ways on that one.
“I agree to an extent, and I disagree to an extent. … I was a little bit hesitant towards it but we’ll see what it means. Our fans have been right down the middle.”
Xfinity Series: Making most of opportunity
It was the way a driver with the best car should race — not making any mistakes and waiting for the best opportunity to pass.
“[Dillon] did a good job playing aero games and getting us behind and I was working hard trying everything I could and finally I got a really good run when he got hung up with the lap[ped] car and [I] was able to get clear of him,” Jones said.
“I don’t know if … I would have been able to get around him straight up. But once you got in clear air, I felt really good about it.
Jones wasn’t the only driver to take advantage of having a good car at a stand-alone event.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Brennan Poole finished fourth. Dakoda Armstrong, driving the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 car in place of Matt Tifft (recovering from brain surgery), was fifth. Josh Berry, the JR Motorsports late-model driver who raced the No. 88 car, was ninth.
“I kind of struggled there through the middle [of the race] — lost a lot of track position — but there at the end, the car just kind of came to life,” Armstrong said. “If we would have done a better job of holding on to track position, we would have had a shot at an even better finish. [It was] still a good finish.”
Camping World Truck Series: Make it five for Byron
William Byron won his fifth Camping World Truck Series race of the season by capturing the victory Saturday at Pocono Raceway.
Byron has gone from struggling on restarts and not necessarily being a weekly favorite to being able to handle restarts and handle the different pressure of entering a race as the odds-on favorite.
The pulse on pit road prior to the race Saturday was that it was Byron’s race to lose. He led 44 of the 60 laps at Pocono and lost the lead on only one of six restarts — and on that one, he was back in the lead after another lap.
“Having the confidence that you know you can win — it’s so much easier when you have a fast truck because you don’t have to think about much before the race and what you have to change,” Byron said. “That’s what we came in to today with the mindset of and it worked out.”
Byron set the record for most wins by a truck rookie.