LONG POND - The summer series of NASCAR racing at Pocono Raceway this season created a lot of excitement with a newly repaved track, faster speeds, and better overall racing.
Now, Pocono President and CEO Brandon Igdalsky along with INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard have given race fans even more to look forward to. IndyCar will be back at Pocono International Raceway for the first time since 1989 when some of the best drivers in the world hit the track on July 7, 2013. Open wheel cars began racing at Pocono in 1971 under the USAC label and then CART after that.
The July Pocono race will also bring back an open wheel tradition that many racing enthusiasts have wanted to see back for quite some time. That is the IndyCar Triple Crown, including the Indianapolis 500, the 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA and of course the Pocono 400. Phase one of The Triple Crown ran from From 1971-89 and the three tracks involved were Indianapolis, Pocono, and Ontario (CA). Ontario was closed in 1980 and was replaced by Michigan and the Triple Crown lasted until 1989. There will also be a one million dollar bonus awarded to the driver who wins all three races in the Triple Crown series and 250,000.00 if a driver wins two out of the three.
"I can tell you by our fan base they're really excited to come back to Pocono after a 23-year absence," said Bernard. "Our fans want to see the greatest drivers in the world come back to a place where the greatest drivers in the world once competed. You have more racing ovals in the state of Pennsylvania than any other state in the United States. I think we're going to get phenomenal attendance here and I just can't thank Brandon (Igdalsky) and his family enough for allowing us to come back here."
Something for racefans to get excited about are the blistering speeds the open wheel cars could create come this July. After the repave NASCAR speeds were much faster with Joey Logano setting a track-record qualifying at the Pocono 400 at 179.598 mph and the fastest average starting field as well at 175.844 mph. To get an idea of how fast the open wheel drivers could be going you can look back to the race finale in 1989 when Emerson Fittipaldi set a track record of 211.715 mph.
"The fans wanted to see open-wheel racing return to Pocono Raceway and we're excited to welcome the IZOD IndyCar Series back next summer," said Igdalsky. "We are now pleased to offer the greatest fans in all of motorsports the very best in both stock car and open-wheel racing."
IZOD IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter was in attendance as well representing the driving side of IndyCar and talked about the feeling he got when he came out of the tunnel turn and into the infield for today's press conference.
"Just pulling through the tunnel and coming into the facility, you get the feeling that this is a special place, the same kind of feeling that I get in Indianapolis, so I can't wait to get on track here in an IndyCar," said Carpenter. "I expect it to be a real challenge. It's called 'The Tricky Triangle' for a reason. There are three totally different corners with different degrees of banking. With that, I think it's going to make for very exciting racing."
Another good open wheel driver was in attendance yesterday at Pocono except this driver is arguably the best racecar driver of all time. Mario Andretti, who has been vital in trying to bring IndyCar driving back to the Northeast expressed his excitement of the return of IndyCar to Pocono.
"There's only one negative to this whole deal and it's that I'm to damn old to drive now," said Andretti. "It was music to my ears when some of the rumors started to fly around. This place not only means a great deal to me personally, but it means a lot to the Northeast race fans as well. I competed in this race 17 times and when it ended we missed it and now that we're back it's great. This place as far as safety features goes and now with the repave it's second to none."