Pocono Raceway will hold five races over the course of the next three days.
That stretch of nonstop action is highlighted by the first NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader – consecutive days of separate races – in the sport’s modern era.
Since this is such a unique weekend, especially due to the exclusion of fans as the state and sanctioning body navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s break down what this weekend will look like.
The ARCA Menards Series kicks off the weekend on Friday with an 80-lap, 200-mile race at 6 p.m. on FS1.
Friday’s race marks the 67th time ARCA will race around the Tricky Triangle, but 2020 will be the first time since 1987 that the series is limited to just one event at the 2.5-mile triangular track. Because the series is full of young drivers making their first trip to a track of this size and layout, ARCA will be the lone series to have practice this weekend, Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday’s on-track activity begins at 12:30 p.m. on FS1 with the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series’ 60-lap, 150-mile event.
That race will be followed up by the first NASCAR Cup Series race of the weekend, where the sport’s top drivers will line up for a 130-lap, 325-mile race scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on FOX.
On Sunday, the NASCAR Xfinity Series takes center stage as the day’s opener with its 90-lap, 225-mile event at 12:30 p.m. on FS1.
The Cup Series then takes the track for its second race to wrap the weekend with a 140-lap, 350-mile race at 4 p.m. on FS1.
Outside of the Cup Series qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 in May, NASCAR has limited on-track activities have been restricted to the race, meaning no practice or qualifying.
That remains true for this weekend. The Truck, Xfinity, and Cup series starting lineups will be set by a random draw. Teams sitting first through 12th in owners points will draw for those positions, teams 13th through 25th draw for those, and the same for positions 26th through 36th with the final four available positions based solely on points.
To set the starting grid for Sunday’s Cup Series event, NASCAR has done away with the initially-announced idea to invert cars who finish on the lead lap. Instead, the top 20 finishers from Saturday’s race will be inverted to start Sunday’s race, meaning the 20th-place finisher will start Sunday’s event first, and the winner will start 20th.
Each of the Truck, Xfinity and Cup series races will be broken into three stages as has been the case since 2017. The top 10 drivers at the conclusion of stages one and two will receive points toward their regular-season totals, while stage winners receive a playoff point that provides insurance for NASCAR’s postseason.
The Truck race will be broken into stages that end on laps 15 and 30 with the checkered flag falling at lap 60. The first Cup race will then see stages end at laps 25, 77 and 130.
On Sunday, the Xfinity Series will have stages end at laps 20, 40 and 90 while the Cup race will have stages end at laps 30, 85 and 140.
NASCAR is requiring its Cup Series teams to use the same vehicle in both events this weekend.
Following post-race inspection on Saturday, teams will be allowed to perform routine maintenance on their cars, including changes to oil, springs, shocks, and valve springs but not a full engine change. The car must then be ready for Sunday’s pre-race inspection.
"Knowing how much the track changes in that first race will kind of give you a basis to how much you expect it to change in the second race, barring any weather," Kyle Busch, the defending Cup champion and a 2019 Pocono winner, said. "If it’s a 68-degree day one day and a 90-degree day another, there’s going to be some big differences that you’re going to want to adjust for and compensate for."
With Saturday’s top 20 finishers being inverted to start Sunday’s race, will drivers race more conservatively on Saturday to keep their cars clean?
"It kind of depends on what’s going on and what’s happening," said Busch, who has won three of the last five Pocono races. "If you’re struggling along or pit strategy throws you off and there’s three (laps) to go and you’re 15th, maybe you want the pole for the next day. So we’ll see what happens with that.
"But obviously, you want as many points as you can possibly get. We’ve run real well there over the last few years. We definitely want to keep that going and try to get a win, so if you’re up in the front or in the top five, you’re going to try to get as much as you can get there and not worry about the next day. You’ll just refocus the next day."