For many racing fans, the name Pocono conjures up an indelible image. An image of greenish-yellow super-speedway walls and long, fast corners. An image of car enthusiasts and family gatherings interrupted by frantic racing by teens and adults. An image of high speeds, big crowds and big personalities.
Forbes contributor and racing historian Bobby Thomson described Pocono as “An American version of the European festivals the speedways…Pocono becomes the place to be in August. Families from around the country converge on the scenic area, bringing their camper vans and pop tops, and join the party.”
The answer is yes and no. While Pocono is a legendary racetrack, it is certainly not limited to the above description. There is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Let’s take a closer look.
The History Of The Track
The first modern-day motorsport event was run on July 4, 1911, in Brooklyn, New York, with the Indianapolis race being the first World Championship event.
The course was extended to a mile in 1914 and then to 2.5 miles in 1926. The Brooklyn Park racecourse was the venue for the first US Grand Prix in 1910. It was the first time professional drivers had raced in the United States. That event is now remembered for its fatal accident that claimed the life of Earl “Cannonball” Rose. Rose was driving a Mercer Truck when he lost control on the wet and windy course and plowed into the spectators, causing several deaths and injuries.
After Rose’s accident, the race was canceled. It would not be until 1927 that the race would be held again. The track remained at 2.5 miles for the rest of its history. In 1949, the track was extended to its present length, with several turns and complex roadways, to accommodate more cars.
The first modern-day Indy car race was held in 1916 and was started as a reaction to World War I. The Indy cars were seen as a way to promote automobile manufacturing during the era of horse and buggies. However, the first Indy car race was not held at a single location. Instead, nine different venues across the country hosted the race.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the first modern-day Indy car race, opened in 1909. It was the dream of race promoter Eddie Rickenbacker to build the first concrete speedway. He also envisioned the track as a way to promote his business, the Ford Motor Company. Construction began in earnest in 1914 and was completed two years later. The track would be used for the majority of the Indy car races held before World War II. The most significant race there was the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 1937. Between 1914 and 1937, 54 Indy car races were held. The track also hosted the Indy 500 in 1940, 1941, and 1942, making it one of the most historic venues in existence.
Between 1939 and 1943, due to the limitations of oil during World War II, the Indy car races were canceled. Since the Indy car was a competitor to the military during World War II, they too were sidelined. In fact, the only remaining Indy car race was held in 1946 and was considered a war tax deduction.
Located on the border of Pennsylvania and New York, Pocono is a small city that prides itself on its Amish community. The city is most well-known for its “race track” which, as the name suggests, is a place where cars are raced. A place where engines are revved, tires are squealed and temperatures are soared.
The track is named after the famous horse-racing farm and estate, Pocono Downs, which is located just outside of town. It is currently home to a number of well-known thoroughbred racehorses, such as Storm Catcher and Lookin Arrow. As well as housing the racetrack, the estate boasts a golf course, a polka-dotted fairway and a duck pond. If you want to get a better sense of what Pocono is all about, check out the website for the Lehigh Valley Fair, which is an annual ten-day agricultural and entertainment trade show that takes place in the city. The site lists all of the events that are scheduled to take place, as well as the ticket prices and locations. Be sure to check it out if you are interested in attending any events.
The Grandstands And Events Venue
The grandstands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are a great place to watch the Indy car races. Unfortunately, unless you are there when the race is on, you cannot appreciate the full sight-and-sound experience that the stands provide. The stands at the track were originally built in 1914 and have been the scene of some legendary moments. During the 1923 Indianapolis 500, veteran driver Billy Arnold won the race in what is considered to be one of the greatest comebacks in racing history. Arnold started at the back of the field and steadily worked his way through the field. He finished eighth, out of ten teams, but became a national hero for his efforts.
Nashville, TN is another city that was home to a legendary racetrack. Known as “The Mecca of Country Music,” the Vanderbilt University track in Nashville was where legends were made and broken. Many country music greats, such as George Strait, Dolly Parton, and Kenny Rogers, performed there. The most significant event was the 1982 edition of the Spring Race, which was the precursor to the famous “Nashville sound” that changed country music forever. It was also the home of the Grand Ole Opry, making the Nashville track, in many ways, the spiritual center of country music. Unfortunately, the track closed in 1997 and a portion of it was demolished in 2012. However, the site where the grandstands once stood is now a center devoted to the study of country music, named the Ryman Auditorium.
Apart from being the home of a famous racetrack, the city of Pocono is also the headquarters for the Sports Authority chain of stores. The company’s first store was opened in 1970 and was named after the famous steeplechase horse, Nesbit. The store’s mission is to make sports available to everyone.
Pocono is the location of the Lehigh Valley Mall, one of the largest malls in the area. The mall’s anchor store is Malls Across America, which was founded by former Cleveland Browns owner James Dimond. Other stores at the mall include Belk, Barnes and Nobles, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. There is also a large outdoor ice-cream parlor, Barnes and Nobles, that is located near the mall’s entrance. You will find lots of fast food chains there, along with family-friendly attractions, including Simon’s Magic Show and Carousel Gardens. An amusement park, featuring a wooden roller coaster, a kiddie ride and a carousel, is a short drive from the mall. The city’s only international cuisine restaurant, Mac’s Restaurant & Bar, is located within walking distance of the mall.
The Pennsylvania Dutch Country Club is located in the city and provides a beautiful setting for weddings and other social events. The club is home to a nine-hole golf course that was designed by Dick Nugent, a noted golf course architect. The club also features a swimming pool and a tennis court.
The Crowds And Speeches
While there are no exact figures available, it is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people attend the Indy car races at Pocono. That is a lot of people, but it is also a far cry from the hundreds that normally attend the races at this point in the season. It would seem that the appeal of the track has not diminished in the slightest over the years.
The fact that it is an early-season event makes the crowds even more sparse. The track is considered a warm-up for the rest of the season. Most drivers will not race at this point in the year, as the teams will be competing against one another and adjusting their setups. The exception is the Indianapolis 500, which is one of the major events on the schedule. Therefore, it tends to attract the most fans and media attention. The Indy 500 generally draws anywhere between 400,000 and 700,000 spectators, making it one of the most popular annual sporting events in the country.
It takes a little bit of research to figure out exactly what makes up the thrilling essence of the Indy car races at Pocono. There are a lot of contributing factors that go into making these races special. From the corners that the cars drive through to the spectacular displays of skill by the drivers, the overall experience is an adrenaline rush that is unmatched by any other type of motor sport.