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Pocono has what Vegas wants — two races

Jun 3, 2003 6:33 AM

In this new age of NASCAR Winston Cup Series business, it’s amazing that a track like Pocono Raceway still has two race dates a season.

Following this week’s Pocono 500, NASCAR will announce that California Speedway will be getting a second date scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

As previously speculated, Rockingham will have one date removed, leaving them only with their spring date. Darlington’s Southern 500, the longest on-going race in NASCAR, will move to Rockingham’s fall date. Las Vegas will likely have to wait until 2005 to obtain an additional race date.

Pocono, adds a pleasant mix to the season. The track is often called the "Super speedway that drives like a road course."

Each of the three turns on the triangular track is different. All vary in banking with turn 1 being the steepest at 14 degrees. Turn 3, a relatively flat six degrees, carries the greatest excitement for spectators because that’s where most of the passing is done.

The one track that is similar because of the banking, turns, and long straights is Indy. The best strategy may be to check the current hot drivers and mix in some recent track history.

Here is a look at some of the top Pocono contenders.

Bobby Labonte (6-1): The hottest driver in NASCAR is the favorite. No one has an answer to what happened to the 2001 Winston Cup champ last year, but it appears he’s back. Had five straight Top 3 finishes coming into Pocono, a track where he has won three times.

Bill Elliott (25-1): The Ray Evernham Dodge program seems to have taken a giant step backwards. In 13 races, Elliott only has one Top 5 finish. Still, he’s the all-time leader in wins at Pocono with six.

Tony Stewart (7-1): Has finished no worse than seventh in 7-of-8 Pocono starts. Pocono appears ideally suited to his style. Was fourth at Dover. Still seeking first victory in 2003.

Jeff Gordon (8-1): One of his most consistent tracks. Has finished in the Top 5 in half of his 20 career starts. Has three career Pocono wins since split with Evernham, though none since 1998.

Jimmie Johnson (8-1): Came into this race last year on fire and second in points. Ran third in his first career race on the tough track. Almost on the same kind of roll this year except for his position in points.

Robby Gordon (65-1): Now tenth in points and gaining the respect from fellow drivers. His aggressive road racing skills may give him an edge. Not sure a second win will happen, but a Top 10 could.

IRL-Vegas match

Look for the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to get an Indy Racing League date next season. The news should be put to use as a new marketing scheme for several of the major International Casino/Resort types in the city.

The names Castroneves, de Ferran, Kanaan, and Brack are known and respected by all, but the IRL only runs one race out of the States. A Las Vegas IRL event could be another way the casino player development staffs could lure foreigners.

Wynn thinking F-1?

Le Reve’s Steve Wynn has been seen at several Formula-1 races. Rumors say he’s trying to bring an F-1 race to his new property. Tickets would only be available to invited guests. It would take $13 million to make that happen. A hefty tag.

Part of the past problem with the IRL is that American fans haven’t had the urge to travel to any dates except the Indy 500. Las Vegas could make this event a must see for International fans and help gaming.