The rain has changed everything at Pocono Raceway, and that might not be a bad thing after all.
Sunday’s Axalta We Paint Winners 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was postponed by an ugly meteorological trifecta of rain, fog and mist, which thoroughly soaked the 2.5-mile, three-turn Pocono track.
Now, the race will run on Monday at noon, with live television coverage on FS1.
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Without question, the rain delay is terribly inconvenient for many fans, both at the track and at home, but for the teams it actually makes the race itself easier.
Monday’s forecast is great — sunny skies, temperatures in the mid-70s and zero percent chance of rain between noon and 8 p.m.
That means the race will start on time and should go 400 full miles without interruption. In turn, that means crew chiefs won’t have to worry about getting beaten by a team with a slower car that uses pit strategy to gain track position in a rain-shortened race.
Recall that in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Pocono, Kyle Larson did exactly that to win over the faster Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas in a race that was scheduled for 100 laps but was called with 53 laps complete.
That won’t be an issue on Monday, when the weather should be good from start to finish.
Crew chiefs will be able to concentrate on making the adjustments necessary to maximize the speed of their cars, instead of playing the strategy game.
Fuel mileage, of course, could still play a factor. The last time the Cup teams were here, the three leading cars all ran out of fuel in the final three laps of the race.
Having enough fuel to go the distance will always be an issue at Pocono and Monday’s race likely will be no exception.
That said, the change in race dates from Sunday to Monday doesn’t favor one team over another.
Frankly, the race ought to come down to — in no particular order — the five Toyota drivers who’ve all won races already; the Chevrolets from Stewart-Haas and Hendrick Motorsports; and Penske teammates and front-row starters Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.
The last time a race-winner came from a team other than Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, SHR or Team Penske was all the way back in August 2014, when AJ Allmendinger won on the Watkins Glen road course.
This time around, I do not expect to see an underdog win. But I do expect another great race, like we’ve had so many of already this year.