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Bill Fleischman: Pocono Raceway beefs up safety ahead of June 12 race

WHEN NASCAR teams and fans arrive at Pocono Raceway for the June 12 Sprint Cup race, they'll see major safety improvements.

WHEN NASCAR teams and fans arrive at Pocono Raceway for the June 12 Sprint Cup race, they'll see major safety improvements.

SAFER barriers have been installed on the infield side from Turn 1 to Turn 2 (over the tunnel), and from Turn 2 to the exit of Turn 3.

Pocono president Brandon Igdalsky said Tuesday more than 5,000 feet of the crash-absorbing barriers are in place. Pocono previously installed the barriers on the outer walls of all three turns at the 2.5-mile track.

"Where the old Armco [barriers] were 80 feet off the track, the new SAFER barriers are only 30 feet off the track," Igdalsky said. "It's really changed the look of the track. As you go down the backstretch, it feels a lot tighter. It has an Indy feel to it."

Igdalsky, a Council Rock High graduate, also said the catch fence was extended the entire length of the track from Turn 1 to 2.

While these improvements were planned, crashes by Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne at Pocono last year reinforced the need for additional safety measures there. In last August's Cup race, Sadler's Ford was struck from behind exiting Turn 1 and went skidding across the wet infield grass. The speeding car struck the Armco barrier front-first, tearing the engine loose and leaving Sadler dazed, though uninjured. In the June 2010 race, Kahne's car almost soared off the track over the 39-inch retaining wall between Turns 1 and 2. He, too, was unhurt.

Like many racetracks, Pocono is working to attract younger fans.

"We're all trying to get the younger fans," Igdalsky said. "What Dover [Del.] did with their family fun zone is unbelievable. I was really impressed. We have a big kids day here on Saturdays.

"But the younger kids need the parents to bring them [to races]. The price of fuel is going to hurt anybody. Whether you have the money or not, you think twice about where you're going."

Igdalsky, a grandson of Drs. Joseph and Rose Mattioli who own Pocono Raceway, said the track plans to continue running buses from New York City on race days. He said Pocono might add buses from Philadelphia and Allentown for its Aug 7 race.


 The big topic on Sirius XM radio on Monday after the Dover race was Fox' use of a split screen during its final commercial break in Sunday's Cup race. I haven't heard this much reaction over a sports innovation since the mild horror generated by the glowing pucks when Fox carried NHL games.

The Dover race was the first time Fox used a split screen on a NASCAR race. Lou D'Ermilio, a Fox spokesman, told the Associated Press advertisers Sprint, FedEx and Pizza Hut had to agree to share their time with the race coverage.

Fox hasn't decided whether to use the split screens during its last two Cup races.

TNT has employed a split-screen on its NASCAR telecasts. ESPN will introduce "NASCAR NonStop" on its Cup telecasts starting Sept. 18 from Chicagoland Speedway.


The ARCA series stops at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville Sunday. The ModSpace 150 at 1 p.m. is the only road course on ARCA's schedule.

Among those racing on NJMP's 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway course are Cherry Hill's Tom Hessert, Ty Dillon, Nick Igdalsky, Tim George Jr. and Milka Duno.

Hessert, ninth in points, drives the No. 52 Chevrolet owned by NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader. Hessert finished fifth in last year's NJMP race, won by Casey Roderick (he's not entered for this race).

Dillon, grandson of longtime NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, has won two of the four ARCA races this year. Igdalsky's brother, Brandon, is Pocono Raceway's president. Nick is a Pocono senior vice president.

George is a Childress development driver and Duno has IndyCar experience.

Other NJMP weekend races are vintage Trans-Ams Saturday and Sunday, and dirt-track road modifieds Sunday after the ARCA race.


NASCAR Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race

Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.

When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Speed/WNPV (1440-AM)

Race course: 1.5-mile oval

Race distance: 100 laps in four segments: 50, two 20s and a final 10

Race forecast: partly cloudy, 77 degrees

Last year's winner: Kurt Busch

Track facts: The winner of this non-points race collects $1 million. Not bad for a short night's work . . . Preceding the All-Star Race is the qualifying Showdown . . . Monday's NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony will air on Speed at 8 p.m. Inductees are David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett and Bud Moore . . . In winning three of the last five Cup races at Dover, Jimmie Johnson has led an astounding 1,192 of the 2,000 laps . . . Martin Truex Jr.'s eighth-place finish at Dover was his best this year since a sixth at Las Vegas in the third race . . . Juan Pablo Montoya has faded to 15th in Cup points. Six races ago, he was seventh.

Wins: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, 2 each; Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, 1 each.

SPRINT CUP STANDINGS (Through 11 of 36 races)

1. Carl Edwards 416

2. Jimmie Johnson 392

3. Kyle Busch 379

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 364

5. Kevin Harvick 362

6. Matt Kenseth 342

7. Ryan Newman 340

8. Clint Bowyer 336

9. Kurt Busch 336

10. Tony Stewart 328

11. Mark Martin 324

12. Greg Biffle 311

13. Denny Hamlin 304

14. Jeff Gordon 299

15. Juan Montoya 296

16. A.J. Allmendinger 295

17. Paul Menard 291

18. Kasey Kahne 286

19. Martin Truex Jr. 282

20. Marcus Ambrose 281

Up next: Coca-Cola 600, May 29, Charlotte Motor Speedway, 6 p.m.; TV: Fox; last year's winner: Kurt Busch.