With the Monster Energy Cup Series in Pocono Raceway for Sunday’s Gander RV 400, things will take a unique turn for the series and track starting in 2020. That year, the Cup Series’ two dates at Pocono will be compounded into one weekend for a doubleheader, with more changes being revealed on Saturday including a field inversion, new race length, and rules for cars.
While the length of the first race – scheduled for Saturday, 27 June – was not mentioned, track officials have confirmed the second on Sunday will be 350 miles long, 50 miles shorter than the current distance. However, it can be inferred the first will also be the same length to maintain consistency, especially with drivers expected to run as many as 700 miles over the weekend. Cars will remain the same for both races; after practice and qualifying on Friday (26 June), they will be impounded, though maintenance work can be performed between races.
“They can’t really run the 700 miles without having their cars back for general service and all that,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said.
Perhaps the most eye-catching of the doubleheader format is the plan to invert the field for the Sunday race based on the drivers still on the lead lap following the Saturday event. Similar to the what is done in local short tracks and certain national series like the Stadium Super Trucks, the grid is flipped to allow poorer-running drivers to open the race at the front, while better-performing competitors fight their way up. This may also create potential strategies during Race #1 as drivers in the mid-teens but on the lead lap may consider different finishes to guarantee a better starting position in Race #2. However, Race #2’s pole sitter is not considered a pole winner and may not use it to qualify for the Clash at Daytona International Speedway.
If the inversion was in place for 2019, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Michael McDowell would have comprised the front row for the second race as they finished twenty-first and twentieth in the first round, but were the last to complete every lap.
The Gander Outdoors Truck Series and Xfinity Series will run their support races on Saturday and Sunday before the Cup Series, respectively.