In my 3 years of doing HPDEs/trackdays, I've done Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, NJMP, and Monticello, but never Pocono. Finally managed to get to Pocono two days ago. It was a good time, and very different from the dedicated road courses that I'm used to.
Pocono is called the "tricky triangle" because it's a tri-oval, featuring three turns on the superspeedway instead of the more typical four. At 2.5mi in length, the oval surrounds an absolutely huge infield. I felt like I needed a map to get around. At lunchtime I asked someone for directions to the track cafe. They pointed vaguely to the right and said, "It's way over in that direction. You should probably take your car." I found it about 20min later.
The infield, in addition to a huge paddock and lots of garage space, has a road course section. Between the NASCAR oval and the infield, there are multiple configurations that can be run. The infield course has been recently repaved, and overall the facility is pretty nice.
The event was run by NASA, and was part of their 3-day "Grand Slam" weekend at Pocono that features HPDE, races and hyperdrives. I saw a couple of nice race-prepped E92 M3s. A beautiful white one was recently prepped by Bimmerworld, and a mean-looking black one was a former Turner build. The black one had a nice-sounding custom side-exit exhaust.
I ran in HPDE 3 and we started the day with the Southeast course, which is infield only. It's basically a gigantic, dedicated autocross course and was a lot of fun. Since the recent repaving, this was the first time on the Southeast course for all of us except one person, so we initially were just feeling our way around. Also because of the new paving, there was very little rubber laid down, so the circuit was pretty slick. I started off on my daily Michelin Super Sports. You can hear them protesting pretty loudly:
Later on in the day I had my Toyo Proxes RRs on. I think this is the first time I've done a direct back-to-back comparison of the Super Sports and the Toyo R-comps on the same day, same circuit. What a difference! You tend to forget just how much better R-comps stick compared to summer street tires. By the last session of the day it was starting to rain lightly, so I tried a little Scandinavian flick action on one of the tighter sections of the track. Here's my rather lame attempt
We also ran on the North course, which features Turn 3 of the NASCAR tri-oval. Pretty cool to run on this portion of Pocono. The banking in Turn 3 is pretty mild at 6 degrees, certainly much milder than at most other NASCAR ovals. When accelerating hard into and through the turn, the forces definitely send you up toward the outside wall. The banking isn't enough to keep you low and planted. You definitely get the feeling that if a suspension piece or tire let go while in this section, it would be a direct trip into the wall.
I tried to stay on the race line, defined by the darker part of the track. There were plenty of marbles waiting to upset cars up above the line. The transition from the oval into the infield has always been notoriously abrupt and bumpy, but has been somewhat improved by the recent repaving. It's still pretty significant, though, as you're transitioning at 80+ mph, and still with some steering input dialed in. You can see my head bouncing around on the transition down into the infield in the clip:
Running in HPDE 3, we were all obviously signed-off solo drivers, but a pair of instructors ran with us in their own cars. One had an Exige, and the other a track-prepped Porsche 968. The instructors would run ahead of us so we could observe their lines, and then back off and follow us so they could watch our lines. Then after each session we would meet to debrief. It was a lot of fun following the 968. He was really on it, and would typically lift an inside rear wheel and/or spin a tire on one of the tighter turns of the infield. Must not have an LSD.
You can see him doing it here at around 0:30. Sorry for the relatively poor video quality of the RaceKeeper system, but you can see a bit of smoke (and hear me laughing like a lunatic):
The transition from the NASCAR oval into the infield brings you just to the left of a tire wall. The closer you get to the tire wall, the smoother the bump tends to be. You obviously have to be mindful of getting too close to the tires, though. When following the instructor in his 968, I saw him get so close to the tires that I thought he would either rip a side mirror off or send tires flying into my car.
Here's the clip. Sorry again for the poor video quality. I keep on thinking I need to get a GoPro 3 to run as well:
Overall, a worthwhile experience. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is relatively close to Pocono who hasn't been.