LONG POND, Pa. -- Last Sunday's race at the Dover International Speedway took nearly 4 hours, 50 minutes to complete, prompting both fans and race teams alike to be thankful that track officials reduced races from 500 miles to 400 in 1997.
But with this week's race at the Pocono Raceway looming -- a 500-mile race that usually takes about four hours -- begs an old question: Are races too long?
"A lot of it depends on if you are looking at it as racing or looking at entertainment," said Kyle Petty. "Is the issue what works best for television or what works best for the grandstands or what works best for the competitors?"
Everyone agreed last week that a 26-lap caution period to correct some scoring issues and a pair of red-flag periods were delays that distracted from the competition, but to cut it down to 300 miles would be unfair to the fans, Johnson said.
"It's hard to say with changing times and your idea of what is entertainment," he said. "But when you base it on what the series and our racing is about, our races can run long depending on the number of cautions. You can have a bunch of cautions like we did (at Dover) and it takes forever to run it. It's like if you go to a football game and they go into overtime. You just don't know how long it's going to take. The fans and the entertainment value of our sport really dictate some of those decisions. I'll be interested to see how that plays out in the future. It can be a three-hour race or a five-hour race, depending on how crazy everyone is on the track."
Eddie Jones, general manager at BAM Racing and driver Ken Schrader, said he'd like to see shorter races because it's easier on the crews, equipment and the fans.
"Shorter races would be better for everyone -- for the fans, for the teams, for television, for everybody involved," Jones said. "I think they would be more entertaining for the fans, and they would cut back on some of the costs for the race teams."
Petty said distance isn't the pressing issue on the Nextel Cup Series.
"The question isn't distance as much as it is time," he said. "Five hundred miles at Talladega (Ala.) takes about three hours. We should probably try to make our races fit into a time window." Petty suggested that 2 1/2 to 3 hours might be adequate.
BLANEY IN AOL CAR: Johnny Sauter no longer has a conflict with this week's racing schedule.
As one of the few drivers trying to compete full time on the Busch and Nextel Cup series, Sauter knew it was going to be difficult to race at Nashville Saturday night and at Pocono, Pa., Sunday afternoon, so car owner Richard Childress made it easy by hiring Dave Blaney to drive in Sunday's race.
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