In a move that, for some, has been a long time coming, Pocono Raceway announced Wednesday that both its races will be shortened to 400 miles beginning in 2012.
"The 400-mile distance will make NASCAR racing at Pocono even more exciting," said Brandon Igdalsky, Pocono's newly installed president and CEO. "Race strategies will change, fuel-mileage calculations will be altered and I firmly believe that our fans will be treated to outstanding racing at the 400-mile distance."
For years, track owner Dr. Joseph Mattioli insisted his races would remain 500 miles. Despite calls to shorten them to 400 miles, Mattioli resisted, taking pride in his events being patterned after the 500-milers in Indianapolis and Daytona.
"Never," he told Yahoo! Sports in 2010 when asked if he would ever consider knocking 100 miles off his events. "We took a poll of our fans and they want 500 miles. If that's what the fans want, what would I shorten it for? If for any reason it was imperative that we do it, great. The world wouldn't fall apart. But our fans want 500 miles."
Mattioli, 86, surprised his family last Friday when he announced his retirement after calling the shots at Pocono for nearly 40 years. Even Igdalsky, his grandson, wasn't aware that the move was in the making.
Igdalsky's first order of business – doing what his grandfather said would never be done – is a bold one. The 2012 races are scheduled for June 10 and Aug. 5.
"NASCAR supports Pocono Raceway's move to two 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2012," Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, said in a statement. "We believe this will be a good transition for the fans and competitors. It will provide the teams with a new type of strategy and should make for even more exciting competition at a unique facility that has a long-standing history in our sport."