Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

July 9, 2013

A Memorable IndyCar Race Weekend in Pennsylvania

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 5:27 pm

Indy400This past weekend at the Pocono Raceway was one real racing fans waited a long time to see. It is difficult to put into words how refreshing it is to visit a fan friendly track that is happy to see fans, opens its gates with enthusiasm and is not owned by someone named either France or Smith. The renaissance of that legendary track is very impressive. The Mattioli family has made their track one of the best venues on the circuit. The guy who runs the show these days, Brandon Idalsky, has been quite enthusiastic about the return of Indy Cars for the first time in 24 years, and the crowd that showed up on the 4th of July weekend exceeded expectations.

As someone who visited the track for the first time ever I was impressed with its size, ease of parking, accessibility, friendliness, cleanliness and racing. It has some quirks not seen at other tracks. The Churchill Downs-style grandstand spires were unique…and restroom attendants in the bathrooms? At a race track? They do keep them clean though, except for perhaps the floor on which the liquid that gets stepped in is probably not just mere water. There are still visible parts of the facility that are vintage 1971, and that is cool to a history buff like me.

And the winner isThe return of this track after 24 years of idle is something many thought would never happen. When the mutinous dissidents of cart came into being in 1979 the next ten years were spent boycotting, filing lawsuits and alienating the Mattioli family completely until they basically got thrown out after the 1989 event. Given that sort of arrogance was typical throughout the existence of that group and the fact that many of them are still around in IndyCar of today it remains difficult to fathom any agreement was reached. Only after Doc died did some of the frost evaporate. For 24 years the disdain of the Mattiolis toward IndyCar was palpable and unfortunate. Then came the 4th of July weekend in 2013.

The weekend was spectacular. My party and I were there both Saturday and Sunday. The condition and layout of the track should have led to the quality of racing we saw at Indy, but IndyCar micromanagement of the package made it turn out more like Texas. There were moments, however. Marco proved his ‘Andretti-ness’ again. The Chevys blew away the Hondas in speed but not in gas mileage. As an Andretti Marco assumed his place at the front, and fast, for most of the race but used up all the fuel and HAD to slow down at the end. The tortoise and hare approach worked well for Honda. We were looking for great things from Takuma Sato in the race but his brain faded in the second round of pit stops.

It appears very tricky to get from speed in turn 3 into the pits at 60mph without luck, skill or prayer. The champion Hunter-Reay seemed to take a slower entrance on the left hand side. During the second round RHR was in that left lane entering a bit slowly, talking on his radio and generally bitching about the way his car was driving (while he was in second place). Meanwhile, Sato was dive bombing the pits kamikaze style and it became clear he would not be down to 60 by the time the cones appeared, which were well inside the pit. Hunter-Reay moved to the right and Sato was already leaving a trail of tire smoke and flattened rubber when the inevitable occurred. Neither did themselves any favors with regard to points.

In the end, Ganassi swept the podium for the first time ever and picked up the trophy. Other observations:

Great track-8 Lights cars is an utter and complete joke.

-24 IndyCars looked sparse. Let’s make this a 500 mile race (as it should have been anyway) and figure out a way to run at least 30 cars.

-The race track is a thing of beauty. Everything is nice and wide, and the improvements made over the past few years have enhanced the facility greatly.

–I like the corner configurations a lot better than I thought I would.

-Leaving the track is a large pain in the backside. Between youthful cops with bad attitudes, really counterintuitive stop lights away from the track and generally heavy Pocono area traffic returning to civilization after recreational weekends. But that is not the fault of the track.

My post-weekend thoughts? Nothing but heartfelt thanks to the folks at Pocono for welcoming back the dysfunctional IndyCar family and fans. We had a spectacular time and will be back next year and all future years IndyCars run there.



  1. Dear Defender:

    Can’t you write a blog entry that does not alienate and insult the half of our dwindling fan base that enjoyed and supported CART/Champ Car and who do not pray in the Church of TG? You continue to talk out of both sides of your mouth when you, on the one hand, speak about unity in the series for both the competitors and the fans and then, on the other hand, blast us for not siding with coke head TG and his failed vision all those years ago…

    Now, about the race and the facility….Pocono is an anomaly in today’s world of ISC/Burton Smith cookie cutter 1.5 ovals and the NASCAR-centric trappings that characterize today’s oval circuits….the grandstand was small in comparison to the size of the track and it was difficult if not impossible to view the entire track, especially the space between turns one and two, unless you were in the press box. That said, the grandstand was clean and well maintained, in stark comparison to the decaying state of IMS with its filthy bleachers and rusting infrastructure and the bathroom attendants were a welcome sight along with the relatively clean restrooms, again in stark contrast to IMS and almost all other ovals.

    I agree that exiting the facility was an abortion with nasty law enforcement and no real plan of how to get the traffic back to I-80…not to mention the 3 hour ride back into NYC with massive holiday traffic back into civilization.

    As for the race, it seems as if the series has again failed to realize that nobody wants fuel mileage exhibitions, especially on an oval, and somebody should have figured this out before running this race distance on the day when Indy Car was supposed to impress this audience which had not seen an open wheel contest in over two decades…perhaps lengthening next year’s race, if it happens, to 500 miles may help the on track action.

    Lastly, a word about the series’ dismal marketing and promotion of this event across the region…Pocono is the closest facility to millions of potential fans in the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania market and people in both NYC and Philadelphia had no clue about the race just about 100 miles away…. Indy Car could have rented billboards, especially one in Times Square, and taken other traditional measures to promote the only oval race on the East Coast but as usual marketing was non-existent and the series was invisible to millions….of course, there were several marketing tie ins on track to link the series to the upcoming animated film Turbo and if the series is relying on a cartoon for a shot in the arm then the series is in bigger trouble than the rows of empty seats that I witnessed on Sunday.
    Editor’s Note: Neil….I did not say anything about Tony George, positive or negative. I did chide the cart contingent for crapping all over the Pocono relationship virtually every year they were around until they got the bum’s rush in 1989. That is not alienation…it is historic fact. Again….that does not really have anything to do with Tony George. Good point on the marketing. The only entity that did any was Pocono. IndyCar has not lost any of its smug arrogance. Here was a race within spitting distance of two of the largest markets in the country and lots of quality smaller markets that was not marketed effectively, if at all. The crowd that showed up did so out of loyalty or because they found out through the track.

    Comment by Neil Rubin — July 9, 2013 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

    • Dear Defender:

      I remain extremely disappointed with the remaining schedule now that we have run through the bottleneck of races between the 500 and Pocono….we have just one oval remaining months away in October and just a smattering of road/street courses in between including just one stop the rest of this month (crash-fest Toronto), boring ass Sonoma next month (too damn tight for any real passing), the Baltimore race which is apparently on life support, another series of 90 degree turns in Houston during hurricane season (should be hotter in Houston than we had in Pocono this weekend) and then California Speedway or whatever ISC calls it today…how in the world can we build a fan base and keep interest when the schedule is uneven and lacking any real balance? Am I just bitching like the rest of Indy Car nation or is there a real problem with a season that starts too late, bunches too many races in too short a time between Memorial Day and July 4 and has no real rhythm alternating between ovals and road/street courses?

      Comment by Neil Rubin — July 9, 2013 @ 10:58 pm | Reply

  2. The track looked fantastic on TV. How are the sight lines from the grandstands?
    Editor’s Note: The higher the better. People forget how big 2.5 miles is.

    Comment by Tony Dinelli — July 9, 2013 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

  3. I agree with what you said about the race and the facilities. For the most part Pocono has done a great job on the return of Indy Cars. The drivers have to be highly complimented for their continued close contacts with the fans. ALL the drivers would stop in the garage area and sign autographs even when they had some where to go. During qualifying Tony Kanaan graciously reached around from the pit canopy and signed autographs. Thank you, Tony!… and after the race,to be able to walk right up to Charlie Kimball in the garage area and congratulate him on a great finish. Try that with the New York Yankees!

    I agree with your comments about the post race traffic. First, in the morning parking was a breeze as the track had many flaggers getting cars right in and efficiently parking them. After the race there was only one flagger within sight in the parking area behind the Fan Fair leading onto Hulman Road. Unfortunately, this meant it was every car for itself until you made it up to that flagger who got cars in line quickly on Hulman Road. It seems short sided that the track did not hire those flaggers in the morning for the afternoon when they were also needed.

    Second, traffic exiting Hulman road onto Route 115 was not allowed to turn right even though traffic from the parallel Long Pond Road just a short distance away was all turning right. A right turn from Hulman Road onto 115 was the direct route west towards Wilkes Barre. There does not seem to be any reason why westbound Hulman Road traffic was denied the chance to go that way. This led to a long convoluted detour that made no sense. The track should publish a track exit map in the program and post it at points in the parking lot clearly marking where eastbound, westbound, etc. traffic should proceed. Also, I believe that in the past traffic used both lanes in one direction at the heavy congested points near the track. The traffic all forced to turn left from Hulman Road was funneled into just the right lane for several miles.

    Talking to different fans at the track there seemed to be much ticket confusion on Saturday. Even though the letter that came with Terrace Bistro tickets does state that Saturday Grandstand tickets are required for gate entry on Saturday, it was perhaps easy to overlook that as the first two paragraphs of the letter discussed the ticket and paddock entry on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday you needed to have your Sunday Bistro ticket validated for paddock admission. Just too confusing! The staff at various points seemed be letting some people in with just the Sunday Bistro ticket even to the Bistro area itself, which was susposed to be closed on Saturday. Some times the staff, such as at the tunnel would just role their eyes when someone approached who did have all the right tickets in order. The track should make Saturday much less restrictive ,i.e. a Sunday grandstand ticket should be good for Saturday admission period. That $25 extra they want fans to pay who have already purchased a Sunday seat might well then be spent on concessions! Oh well, it’s still would be a cheap seat at Yankee Stadium so the problem seems to be the awkward requirement for different, somewhat over lapping, tickets on Saturday.

    Comment by pb2y — July 9, 2013 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

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