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History of Pocono Raceway

June 5, 2020

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The Pocono Raceway is an iconic attraction in the Poconos. NASCAR fans from around the county flock to the Tricky Triangle every year in order to experience the epic long weekend of racing. Those who visit the region often like to learn more about this raceway and discover its history.

The Early Years at Pocono Raceway

The Pocono Raceway first opened in 1968, and it had humble beginnings. The Mattioli family, who owns the racetrack along with the Igdalsky family, established the raceway. The original track was simply a three-quarter mile track, and it didn’t bring in the best and fastest racers in the country. Rather, it was a community attraction designed for amateur enjoyment.

However, within a few years, it attracted the attention of Indy racers. By 1971, the track had expanded to two-and-a-half miles, and the first Indy 500 race was held at the raceway. By 1974, the first NASCAR 500 race was held there.

These early years were an exciting time for the raceway, but they were quickly followed by dark days that nearly became disastrous. During the expansion of the track, there were many costly mistakes that were made. Construction issues were further complicated by the CART-USAC fight, and before long, the raceway was riddled with financial issues. The family who owned the raceway came on the brink of bankruptcy several times, and almost had to sell the track altogether. At the moment when the track was just beginning to gain national notoriety, it was being threatened with closure or sale.

Avoiding Disaster: Rebuilding the Raceway

The owners were sure there was no other option than to sell the raceway and begin rebuilding their own lives, but the president of the International Speedway Corp. had other plans. Bill France Sr. contacted the owners of the raceway, and asked them to meet him in New York City to discuss the future of the track. At the meeting, he begged them not to sell. He encouraged them to stay the course. He lifted them up, and gave them the confidence they needed to press on.

In addition to sparking confidence in the raceway owners, Bill France Sr. also helped to build up the reputation of the racetrack. He came to the raceway two years in a row to show his support, and then awarded them another NASCAR race.

Soon, the Mattioli family realized that they needed to address the construction issues and mistakes that were built during the expansion of the track. The only way to make the track what it needed to be was to give it a fresh start. The original raceway was destroyed, and the family began to build it again from the ground up.

Construction of the Pocono Raceway that exists today began in 1990. Some of the changes that were made included:

  • Installing new crash walls.
  • Installing new paving on the race track.
  • Constructing an innovative garage area for the cars.
  • Building a campsite that includes 150 spots, 124 of which offer water, sewer, and electrical connections.
  • Creating a fan-friendly Paddock Area.
  • Designing a state-of-the-art press room, which was heralded as one of the best on the circuit.
  • Building a large and beautiful Midway, that includes towering Spruce trees and ample picnic tables as well as gazebos.

Redesigning the raceway from the ground up allowed the owners to see a new vision for their beloved track. Rather than striving to become the largest track on the circuit or the most profitable raceway in the country, the owners instead want to be the prettiest, friendliest and cleanest. This humble commitment has captured the hearts of NASCAR fans both in the region and across the country. It has rebuilt the brand of the Pocono Raceway.

The 2020 NASCAR Doubleheader Week

The Pocono Raceway has a history of excitement and thrills. The most wins at this raceway are as follows:

  • Jeff Gordon, with 6 wins at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
  • Kyle Busch, with 3 wins total between the NASCAR Infinity Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
  • Tim Steele, with 9 wins at the Arca Menards Series.
  • A.J. Foyt, with 4 wins at the NTT Indycar Series.

Noting this history, the raceway is looking to its milestone event in 2020. The 2020 NASCAR Doubleheader Week is scheduled for Thursday, June 25 through Sunday, June 28, 2020. It’s a thrilling week at the raceway, filled with campers from across the country and race fans who want to experience the speed for themselves. Kids camp free during this event.

In addition to watching the races, visitors also have the opportunity to enjoy free raceway tours. Children at the event can let loose on the inclusive playground that is located on-site. The 2020 Doubleheader Week is sure to be one of the best events of the summer in the Poconos.

Looking to the Future While Respecting the Past

The Pocono Raceway has a storied history, one that is filled with simple beginnings and includes obstacles that were overcome by the owners of the track. Today, the raceway management team strives to look forward to the future, while respecting the history of car racing in the United States.

Noting its unique location, the Pocono Raceway strives to be a destination that people want to enjoy. It is located within 90 miles of two other race tracks — the New York Raceway and the Philadelphia Raceway — and it is situated near 60 million people who are long-time race fans. The raceway leadership recognizes that its location puts it in a prime position for success, and the leaders strive to exceed the expectations of those who come to enjoy what racing is all about — family, fun and speed.

While the owners and leaders of the raceway are always looking for ways to improve their facilities and provide fans with the best possible experience, they also take time to pay homage to the past. They know that racing began as a family activity, one that was filled with things to do for everyone. They rely on their motto, “Back to the Good Old Days,” as they make decisions about the future of the raceway. They want to grow this attraction in a way that is welcoming, friendly and enjoyable for all.

Those who want to experience the sights and sounds of the raceway this season will love staying at nearby Skytop Lodge. The lodge is a convenient 30-minute drive from the race track, yet it offers a peaceful escape from the thrill of the crowds.

For more information about the best events in the Poconos throughout the summer season, contact Skytop Lodge today.

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