There has been speculation that IndyCar will not return to Pocono in 2015.
Long Pond, Pa. – A year ago, the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to the Pocono Raceway after a 24-year absence. The return came about due to strong interest expressed by the track’s fan base.
While no crowd numbers were announced, it was estimated that some 30,000 fans were on hand, which, at the time, was considered favorable for a start-up venture.
Going into the weekend, pre-race ticket sales for the 2014 Pocono INDYCAR 500 were thought to be off substantially, so much so that track management indicated it could consider opting out of its final contract year, according to an Associated Press report. Some believe the weak economy is a factor with the diminished ticket sales while others speculate that the fourth racing in this area on the wane?
With picture-perfect weather Sunday, the race drew a decent crowd and competitors and fans alike hope the race returns in 2015. On Sunday morning, a huge crowd gathered for the autograph session, filling the fan fest grounds behind the grandstand. And those same fans cheered loudly during the pre-race ceremonies.
Pocono management wasn’t available for comment, so it may take a while for the final analysis to be completed.
“Pocono is a cool place because it is so close to New York, and there are so many Latinos there, New Jersey and all that area,” said Juan Pablo Montoya, the race victor. “I think of July holiday weekend is not a good race date. Or is interest in IndyCar the crowd was really good. I was amazed how many people were in the grandstands. It’s unbelievable and pretty cool.”
A large crowd of Colombians cheered loudly and waved the country’s flag during the post-race ceremonies. As a result, Montoya went across the track to visit with them and sign autographs.
Added second-place driver Helio Castroneves, “I thought the fans were incredible, and I don’t understand the rumors about not coming back here. I enjoy it and everyone seems to be having fun, so hopefully we will continue coming back.”
The 2013 race was 400 miles in distance, and this year’s event was extended to the more traditional 500 miles. IndyCar racing had been a staple at Pocono Raceway from 1971 to 1989. After the split between USAC and CART, the track elected to concentrate its efforts on its two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
In its heyday, IndyCar winners at Pocono included the greats of racing such as A. J. Foyt, Mark Donohue, Johnny Rutherford, Al and Bobby Unser, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti and others. The 500-mile race drew stellar fields of cars and drivers, and thousands of fans turned out to see the great drivers perform.
With only three 500-mile races on the IndyCar national scene, the Pocono race was considered one of the crown jewels of racing. However, that distinction went away in 1989 and if fan attendance wasn’t acceptable yesterday, IndyCar racing at Pocono could come to a stop again, possibly for the final time.