- Associated Press - Saturday, July 31, 2010

LONG POND, PA. (AP) - Pocono Raceway keeps taking hits.

Often criticized by drivers for unnecessary 500-mile races and for clogging two spots on the Sprint Cup schedule, the 2 1/2-mile triangle track is now deemed by some unsafe after an accident in the June race involving Kasey Kahne.

The rally cry of “shorten the races” has morphed into “make them safer.”

Track president Brandon Igdalsky is listening _ and he’s promising to do what it takes to improve the track.

“Do we need to make changes? Yes,” he said.

Greg Biffle offered the harshest critique in a recent Sports Illustrated story, saying “they’re going to kill somebody there.” He added: “If they don’t change that racetrack _ maybe not next year, maybe not three years from now _ they’ll hurt somebody there.”

Igdalsky wants the feedback _ even as he feels Biffle overstated the danger _ and has already started planning safety improvements. The track is adding more SAFER barriers in time for next year’s race and would like to install a catch fence along the non-grandstand areas.

The barriers would be installed along the inside wall between turns 1 and 2 and down the “Long Pond” stretch. The barriers, a combination of steel and foam, will replace the current guard rail system. SAFER barriers are currently in place at each of NASCAR’s oval tracks and are also being installed on the road course at Watkins Glen.

Kahne was involved in a huge scare in the June race when he lost control of his car in the grass, went airborne and into the trees that line the track. Had the car sailed higher, Kahne would have flipped out of the track.

“The Kasey thing was a freak thing,” Igdalsky said. “He didn’t make anything out of it. Everybody else decided to talk about it.”

Still, Igdalsky would like to add a catch fence there in time for 2011.

Jimmie Johnson, the four-time defending Cup champion, believes a catch fence is one of the necessary changes.

“And not just this track, but I don’t think grass has any purpose inside the walls of a race track anymore,” he said “There’s no friction to slow down the vehicle, and then the cars just hammer the wall when that’s the case. And then you get mud and rain and a wheel can sink into the mud and flip the car over and get it flipping. We’ve seen that at Daytona and Talladega, and even here.”

Add it to the Pocono wish list.

The 34-year-old Igdalsky has taken a bigger role as his grandfather, track owner Joseph Mattioli, scales back his duties. Igdalsky helped bring corporate sponsorship to the races, the first trucks race on Saturday, and has an eye on bringing back an IndyCar Series race.

Story Continues →