By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com The 2001 NASCAR season has gotten to an ominous start. Moments after the tragic incidents unfolded at Daytona, global satellite feeds were reporting information worldwide. In the week that followed, expert ...
By Thomas Chemris - Motorsport.com
The 2001 NASCAR season has gotten to an ominous start. Moments after the tragic incidents unfolded at Daytona, global satellite feeds were reporting information worldwide. In the week that followed, expert analysis was offered from explaining the variables of velocity and g-force disbursement to the exploration of cutting edge safety devices.
Looking beyond the grief, these recent events dramatically highlighted how far the sport of Stock car Racing has come from the "Run what you brung" days.
"When I first started going to auto racing, they were always in conjunction with the State Fair, as far back as I have always studied, that is how it was. They would take a horse track from the State Fair and put cars on them. When you went to the auto race, you had that ambiance". Notes, Dr Joseph Mattioli, Owner of Pocono International Raceway.
Looking to be nostalgic, in an attempt to add to the family experience of attending a NASCAR event, Pocono has gone to great lengths to bring back the those days in the new Millennium
Fans attending either of the two Winston cup events held at the raceway this year can expect to find troops of jugglers, Dixieland musicians, polka bands, clowns, and stilt walkers traveling through crowds.
What would a State Fair be without animals? No problem, there will be a petting zoo with 100 to 120 animals is being brought in for the younger fans, and if all the excitement is too much for the older ones, there will be plenty of Rocking chair rest station located throughout the grounds.
" I traveled all over the country in a motor home going to all different tracks, and the state fair feeling was something I have always enjoyed. During the last twenty years, with all the new tracks coming in, I find them to have been build very sterile, having none of that country attitude or atmosphere" So when I rebuilt the track, I figured we did not do this the first time, so lets do it now"
Just like the State Fair, The Auto Race will not be the only attraction. After the races, fans will be treated to concerts by country greats Billy Ray Cyrus, and Travis Tritt (one performing at each event)
"Its two fold, not only entertainment, but it will keep people in the stands, so we don't get the big rush of people out"
The Mattioli's have a history of putting fans first. With the explosive popularity of NASCAR over the past decade, the facility has been rebuilding to accommodate their patrons.
The unique 2.5 mile super speedway boasts the longest straightaway in the series, and is renowned as a challenge for driver, a nightmare for crew chiefs, and a thrill for race fans. Known as the super speedway that drives like a road course, it is one of the four largest racing facilities in the United States.
The history of the facility began in the early 1960's when a group of area businessman approached Dr. Joe and discussed the prospects of developing the 1025- acre area.
" I originally was a real estate person, and I got involved on that level, then of courses the thing evolved I went to Indianapolis, and Daytona and met with owners ther. I quizzed them, and talked with them, and got there input. I don't think anyone back then could have envisioned how big it would become"
Hosting its first event in 1971, the series hosted open wheel cars, fresh from the Indy 500. 1974 was the debut year for NASCAR's cup series.
The events grew in popularity, and as fan attendance expanded, the need to re design many facets of the track became greater.
In 1998, construction crew moved in and began building a new garage and paddock area, as well as expanding grandstands to accommodate 15,000 more fans.
The re-design of the garage brings fan friendly to a new level. The pre race pit paddock admission is a tradition at PIR, and the new design safely puts fans closer to the action than other track in the series.
"They can see the mechanics, car owners and drivers, inevitably, someone will walk over to the fence and give a little kid a lug nut or spark plug, everyone feels like they are part of the action"
"The paddock area is the most popular place in all of auto racing"
New in 2000, multi level risers were added, so children would not have their view obstructed by adults.
The entire design of the section was for the fans, right down to designating traffic patterns in and out of the garage in such a way that every car must pass right in front of the spectators.
The Mattioli's continued to put major improvements into the facility in the years to follow. Last year, a completely redesigned reception area greeted race fans.
"We tore everything down on the back grandstand" Part of the improvement was to improve the personal facilities, constructing what is arguably the world's largest restroom. 1500 feet long, with the capacity to accommodate 20,000 fans per hour. Affectionately nicknamed "long-John"
Between the Grandstand, and the rest rooms is a new midway and food court with space for the souvenir trailers named "Fan-Fair".
Much in the state fair spit, fan fair could pass for a carnival midway.
"I know we overbuilt, but we did that on purpose, Usually when people leave there seats it is during a caution, and everyone wants to use the restrooms at the same time, overbuilding allows fans to go, get a hot dog and a Pepsi, and be back in there seat in time for the green flag
In addition to the Stat Fair amenities, addition parking areas and access roads has been constructed to improve traffic flow.
As the Sport of Auto Racing grows to one of the nations largest, it is important that the tracks and sanctioning bodies introduce the legions of new fans to the sports history. The State fair plays a role of historical importance in our sport, but beyond it's legacy is the realization that it's ties brought auto racing beyond generic competition. It became synonymous with family fun. And isn't that point?
That point will be one of the highlights of the 2001 season when The NASCAR Winston Cup Series visits Pocono Raceway on 6/17/01 & again on 7/29/01
30 years young, The Raceway is heading into the future holding on to the past by introducing an entire generation of race fans to the good ole days.