LONG POND, Pa. — Kyle Busch usually wakes up around 8 a.m. or so on race day and just waits until he’s needed for a meet-and-greet before he slips into the No. 18 Toyota.
But if he’s up, he may as well as qualify before lunch. And if he wins the pole, well, he may as well go win the race.
Busch was the biggest benefactor in NASCAR’s decision to try a reduced weekend Cup schedule at Pocono Raceway.
NASCAR ditched the traditional practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and drivers made their run at the pole just a few hours before the start of Sunday’s race. Busch won the pole and won a race for the first time this season.
“I wouldn’t mind more days like that,” Busch said. “With my Xfinity and Truck efforts getting cut back more and more each year, that’s going to be more Fridays at home with my son. That’s going to be more fun for us drivers.”
NASCAR will try the two-day show again this week at Watkins Glen and Oct. 29 at Martinsville.
Pocono threw an infield fan festival on Friday night and a solid crowd turned out to watch Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell have fun participating in lip sync battles, cooking showdowns and the like.
Watkins Glen is holding its own fan fest and a country music concert Friday night.
The real benefit to the skinny schedule is that teams can save money and spend more time at home. The cash and days off add up over the course of one of the more grueling schedules in sports. Plus, it’s hardly worth it for tracks to open the gates anymore on Fridays to draw a crowd not much larger than a minor league baseball game.
“That’s really what it’s about, it’s about quality of life for the team guys, giving them an extra day,” 2014 NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick said. “If we can add that up 10, 15, 20 weekends, that’s two or three weeks that you can keep those guys at home and let them spend some time with their families and kids and wives. Everybody is just gone so much, it’s almost becoming harder and harder – it is becoming harder and harder – to hire people because it is such a grind.”