UPDATE: As of 11:40 a.m. ET Saturday, NASCAR has announced the following schedule updates:
The Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series’ Pocono Organics 150 to benefit Farm Aid event has been postponed to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 28. This race will air live on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The Pocono Organics 350 in partnership with Rodale Institute, slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 27, remains on as originally scheduled. Live coverage is set to begin on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 27.
The Pocono Green 225 Recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) race and the Pocono 350 NASCAR Cup Series race remain on as originally scheduled for Sunday.
Live coverage for the Sunday’s NXS race will begin at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1, FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Live coverage for Sunday’s NCS race will begin at 4 p.m. ET on FS1, FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Due to the coronavirus, race fans won’t be permitted as Pocono Raceway hosts an historic weekend of NASCAR racing Saturday and Sunday.
All the action will be televised, however, helping to deliver for both the fans and the Tricky Triangle.
Barring the fans puts a severe crimp on the balance sheet without the hard-core base on hand to splurge on tickets, food, drinks and merchandise.
TV money can sustain a track even without fans lining up for $16 beers. Race hosts receive 65% of NASCAR’s $8.2 billion, 10-year television package and that accounts for most of what tracks bring in.
According to NASCAR News and Notes released by Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Monroe County:
While the condensed schedule following the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in back-to back races at the same track over a course of several days, this weekend at Pocono Raceway will mark the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series’ Modern Era (1972-Present) the series will run a pair of races at one track on consecutive days. First up will be the Pocono Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, followed by Sunday’s Pocono 350 at 4 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The last time the NASCAR Cup Series raced on back-to-back days was on Aug. 27-28, 1971, but the events took place at two different tracks – the first of the two races was at Columbia Speedway in Columbia, South Carolina, on Aug. 27 and the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty. The second race was at Hickory Speedway in Hickory, North Carolina, and won by Tiny Lund.
In addition, the 2.5-mile, three-turn Pocono Raceway is hosting the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Pocono Organics 150 to benefit Farm Aid at 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday and NASCAR Xfinity Series Pocono Green 225 Recycled by J.P. Mascaro & Sons at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday, both carried by FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Randomly drawn Thursday, the starting lineup for Saturday’s Pocono Organics 325 in partnership with Rodale Institute is as follows (car number in parentheses):
1. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford.
2. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford.
3. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota.
4. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota.
5. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet.
6. (22) Joey Logano, Ford.
7. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet.
8. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford.
9. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford.
10. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet.
11. (10) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota.
12. (48) Jimmy Johnson, Chevrolet.
13. (6) Ryan Newman, Ford.
14. (47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet.
15. (8) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet.
16. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet.
17. (3) Austin Dillon, Toyota, Chevrolet.
18. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford.
19. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota.
20. (38) John H. Nemechek, Ford.
21. (21) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford.
22. (42) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet.
23. (43) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet.
24. (17) Chris Buescher, Ford.
25. (41) Cole Custer, Ford.
26. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford.
27. (15) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet.
28. (51) Joye Gase, Ford.
29. (32) Corey LaJoie, Ford.
30. (37) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet.
31. (78) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet.
32. (00) Quin Houff, Chevrolet.
33. (53) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet.
34. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet.
35. (77) James Davison, Chevrolet.
36. (95) Christopher Bell, Toyota.
37. (96) Daile Suarez, Toyota.
38. (66) Timmy Hill, Toyota.
39. (77) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet.
40. (7) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet.
The Pocono Organics 325 will be 130 laps (325 miles) and the first stage will be 25 laps, the second stage will be 52 laps and the final stage will be 53 laps. Kyle Busch won this race last season becoming the eighth different driver to post consecutive wins at the track (July 2018-June 2019); joining Bobby Allison (1982 sweep and June 1983), Bill Elliott (1985 sweep), Tim Richmond (1986 sweep and June 1987), Bobby Labonte (1999 sweep), Jimmie Johnson (2004 sweep), Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep and 2009-2010) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014 sweep).
Following post-race inspection of the first Cup race at Pocono, the starting lineups for Sunday’s Pocono 350 will be released. The lineup will be set by inverting the top 20 finishers in the first race and the drivers that finished 21st-40th will start in the position they finished the first event. The Pocono 350 will be 140 laps (350 miles), the first stage will end on lap 30, the second will end on lap 85 and the final stage will end on lap 140. Denny Hamlin won the second (July) Pocono race last season, his fifth series career Pocono victory.
This weekend’s racing comes amid an unprecedented year for NASCAR: An opening weekend that had a visit from the president and a death-defying crash. A pandemic-forced hiatus that drove the virtual racing popularity boom. Empty grandstands. And suddenly, perhaps surprisingly, a prominent role in the push for racial equality.
All with the second half of this unusual season still to race.
The stock car series was a pleasant diversion when it resumed in May, for a while the only North American sport to broadcast a live product each week on national television. Even without fans in the early going, racing was back.
The past two weeks have been something else entirely: NASCAR has been dominated by matters of race and racism, not unlike the nation as a whole. Those empty stands did more than put a hearty dent in the bottom line as tracks open for business: They have temporarily staved off some difficult challenges when fans return, including any enforcement of the series’ new ban on the Confederate flag.
“That is not something that’s going to be accomplished overnight,” said former NASCAR consultant Ramsey Poston, now president of communications firm Tuckahoe Strategies. “The sport will want to look forward to how they continue to invest in things like the Drive for Diversity program. How do they attract new fans to the sport? How do they continue their effort to diversify their sport from the track to the executive suite?
“I know the sponsors in the sport are eager for this to happen,” Poston said. “They can work together with the partners and their sponsors to make this a reality.”
NASCAR will eventually have to wrestle with whatever headaches are caused by the stubborn Confederate flag holdouts once the gates are again open to all fans. They could get a taste of things next month when 30,000 fans will be allowed at the All-Star race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.
The Associated Press and supervising reporter Kurt Bresswein contributed to this report. Reach him at [email protected].