July 7 was a date circled in red on many calendars, from track management at Pocono Raceway, to officials at INDYCAR, to teams (especially one with ties to nearby Nazareth, PA), to us media types. It was a make or break date, a race with the potential to give INDYCAR the shot in the arm it so desperately needs. Everyone wanted this race, returning to the schedule after a 24 year absence, to succeed, even us media types. If we’re honest, those of us that write about Indy cars do so mostly because we have a passion for the sport, and while we’re critical of the missteps, when it comes down to it, we really want this series to return to the glory it once enjoyed.
So, now that the big weekend has passed, how did it go? Not the race itself; our Huston Ladner already covered that, but what about the event as a whole? By the numbers, it was a success. Some estimates put attendance at around 30,000, an excellent number for any IndyCar race not held at Indianapolis. Track management noted that attendance exceeded their expectations, so that’s a definite positive.
The race fared well on television too, something our Matt Stallknecht noted in his column last week as being of critical importance given the premium positioning of the race on network television on a quiet holiday weekend Sunday afternoon. Overnight ratings were 1.1, tying it with the June 8 race at Texas Motor Speedway. Only the Indy 500 has done better this year. Texas was a big missed opportunity for INDYCAR, but it’s good to see viewers were willing to give them another chance with Pocono.
All this is good on paper, but what did fans really think? Ah, the beauty of social media is that fans are more than happy to tell you. Pocono Raceway’s Facebook page was filled with comments. The majority were positive, a few were not impressed, and some highlighted areas that could use a little work. (Comments are as posted on Facebook; spelling and grammatical errors are those of the original posters.)
Corey Sharp: Beth Sharp & I are glad we made the Pocono 400 a part of our honeymoon. The race was great, accommodations in the Terrace Club were fantastic and we will be back. We don’t mind the 1400 round trip for that type of hospitality and racing.
Patti Picone: Thank you for an awesome several days! You did a great job! Thanks for bringing Indy back, sure did miss those cars and drivers!
Maria Pambianco White: Great race!! So glad to see you back at Pocono!! Hope you stay!
Jim Carruthers: Great day of racing, keep Indy coming back.
Ray Tulanowski : Great time at the track today. Major speed.
Susan Dengler: It was a great weekend. Made some new friends and looking forward to seeing them back there again.
Jeannie Stone: I think that they weren’t expecting such a great turnout. I do agree with some of you, this was an awesome race but I do enjoy NASCAR racing as well. I love racing, but this hot weather.
Marie Kuhenbeaker Coleman: Great race. Great times. Welcome home Indy been far too long.
Dan Bowman: Marco didn’t win but Indy racing at Pocono was great. Can’t wait till the next one. Good job!
Jan Willson: I sure am glad to hear all the drivers saying how much they loved driving this track. Really hope to see them back soon.
Sandra Razuk: It’s awesome, so glad we came. It’s hot as heck though:)))
Terry Maher: Indy cars and Pocono were made for each other.
Bryan Love: 220mph= awesome!! Great to see Indy car back at Pocono.
Lauri Gemberling Wildman: Hope they come back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Of course, in the interest of fair play, not everyone was impressed with the racing…
Tony Colletti: What a dull race! Actually it was more like a bunch of cars doing hot laps – did not really see much racing.
Paul Zeigler: POCONO … please go to 500 miles for the INDY cars … it would be much better racing …. just my opinion …. anyone agree ?
Michael Ellenberger: Very boring race. Single file racing is always boring.
Adam Blymire: It was a gas saving race at the end. Would have liked to see Marco win after Ryan Hunter-Reay got wrecked. Just a stupid wreck…..
Jason S Champion: You know darn well Marco wasn’t gonna win; he never wins!
(OK so that last one isn’t really unhappy with the racing per se, it was just funny…)
Usually the squeaky wheels are the loudest, but in all honesty, that’s pretty much every negative on the racing that was posted as of Monday morning. The far larger number were pretty happy. Which is important because, while this first race was a big one, if IndyCar is going to have a future at Pocono, fans need to come back next year.
Tom Huxley: Is IndyCar coming back next year? What dates? Want to reserve tickets now.
Bj Greg: Will Indy racing be back at Pocono for 2014? I sure hope so.
John T. Howard: Kudos to staff and management… we had a great weekend and will see you next year.
Eric Jordan: Great race! We will be renewing our tickets for next year!
Dave Hess: Thanks Pocono for the free test day Thursday. Great days Friday and Saturday! Good race today. Nice to hear the drivers thank the fans and say they like the track and hope it stays on the schedule. Can’t wait for next year!
Kerry L Nesbitt Sr: It was my first Indy race I well be back again next year.
Eric Jordan: Awesome weekend at the track and a solid race. Hung out for an hour or so after the race and drive right out through the tunnel with no waiting! Can’t wait for next year!!
After such a long absence, Indy cars at Pocono were admittedly a novelty to many so it’s to be expected that there were quite a few first-timers at the track (and on TV). So what kind of impression did IndyCar make on them?
John Salvo: Great time, first open wheel race and the smells and engines are so different. No brakes, burnt clutch not even rubber did I smell. The 90 degree heat is brutal though. Been here nine or ten times, one day I’ll go thru my ticket stubs, anyway always a good show and that fighter jet was amazing! Only thing is not enough non NASCAR stuff anyways good times.
Jeremy Setzer: This was my first IndyCar race and I really enjoyed it. Thanks for bringing them back.
Ryan P Conville: Great race, great crowd. I can’t wait for next year’s IndyCar race. That was easily better than any stock car race.
George Dobson Sr.: Good day at the track,first Indy car race,was good but would have liked to see more action,as in passing.
Justin Digby: It was my first IndyCar race and it was fun!
Pat Kalinowski Johnson: It’s seems funny seeing Indy cars on the track instead of Cup cars. We put it on just to see what it was like and we haven’t turned it off yet. My hubby checks outs the Phillies’ score but goes right back to it. It would be nice to make sure it comes back next year. It will be nice to see Pocono Raceway become known for having all types of racing there.
Some fans remarked on the off-track atmosphere at an IndyCar race. In many ways, when it comes to fan access and autographs, if that’s your thing, IndyCar is what NASCAR used to be like (and sadly isn’t very much anymore.)
Meet the Drivers!
Mike Wismer: Had a great time at the track today.Walking in the garage area. I’ll tell you…NASCAR can learn a thing or two from the Indy Racing League about how to be fan friendly.
Kerry L Nesbitt Sr: Ya a lot of NASCAR driver’s are stuck up and won’t even give you a autograph. I was at the Indy race today I loved it.
Bernadette Vopasek Westbrook: The one thing I was impressed with is all the drivers came out and signed autographs for the fans. That is phenomenal.
It’s phenomenal all right, and it happens at every race, folks. One area where IndyCar fell short, and where NASCAR has it covered though, is in the souvenir business. John Salvo noted it in his comments above, “Only thing is not enough non-NASCAR stuff…” and a few other fans were looking to spend some money on merchandise only to be disappointed.
Debbie Meditz: Loved the race today. I hope Pocono stays on the schedule. Just wish there were souvenir trailers like there are for NASCAR.
Mike Joachim: Where online can we purchase merchandise tomorrow ?
OK, so there was one massive fly in the ointment. Traffic. Pocono is on top of a mountain and is accessed by small country roads so it’s never really been the best track to get in and out of. Fans have these complaints after NASCAR races as well. They’ve been hosting races since 1971 so you’d think there’d be a system in place, but I’ve been there, and I do agree they never seem to be the same. Some days have been easy, some hard. I’ve driven right out, I’ve sat in my parking spot for two hours, and one time I got sent over a billy goat trail road and it took me four hours to make the 50 minute drive home.
Most of the fans seemed to understand this, likely because they’ve also experienced it before. Most realized it was the local authorities and not the track, and certainly not INDYCAR, who are in charge of the traffic situation. Only one fan commented that they would not be back because of it.
Greg Morgan: Had a great time. Hope to see IRL back next year. Let’s just work on the traffic after the race…….
Natalie Plantier: Loved it Pocono!! Thanks so much from a die-hard IndyCar fan from Allentown who goes to Indy and Baltimore. I thought everyone did a great job promoting the race. For those that don’t follow IndyCar it is a sport attempting to rebuild itself. It’s a hard venue to sell and there are empty seats at all the tracks. It’s very much moving in the right direction and I appreciate Pocono adding it to their schedule!!! Get on the police about traffic control.
Marie Beasley: Thank you. The security people were so helpful. The weather was awesome. I had 8 of us and we had a great time!!! I agree with Greg the traffic problem. But no matter I will be back and my crew.
Paul Marziani: Good race. Almost 2 hours to get out of parking lot.
Mike Breidinger: 2 hrs. to get out of the parking lot, not too bad. Last time I went to a NASCAR race it took almost 6 hrs. to get out of the infield.
Sara Zappa Card: The race was great but Pocono Raceway can u figure out how you can fix your traffic situation after races? We have been sitting here for 2 hours after the race has ended and we aren’t moving a lick. Help, need gas soon.
Adam Blymire: Loved the race, parking is badddd. We just now got out of the lot after sitting there for an hour and a half. Nevertheless, great time. Not to offend anyone who likes NASCAR, but Indy is so much better.
Matthew Carriveau: Loved the race, but insanely hot. As for parking, nothing new.
Tom Wobensmith: I’m so happy the event was such a success & the drivers liked it. Looking forward to attending next year. The traffic has always been a problem, especially as it directs you away from where you need to go. So sad nothing has been done about it after all these years. Not the racetracks fault, it’s the local authorities & township managers to blame for not improving on the situation with better roads & routing to I-80.
Stacy Lutz Spadt: Congrats to Scott Dixon. Total failure to Pocono Raceway for their creation of a traffic nightmare. Closing Rt. 115 north for no reason. wtf??? I live 15 miles from the track and left 4hrs. 15 min. before the race and missed the green flag. Unacceptable Pocono Raceway. This race fan will not be returning next year.
Stacy Lutz Spadt: Traffic is always terrible getting out of Pocono. I’ve been going there for 24 years. But they screwed things up big time today for all the people going to the track from Rt. 115 northbound. They closed the road and diverted traffic all the way around the track via Long Pond Road for no reason. It has NEVER been like that before. Has never taken me more than 30 min. to get in for any race there even when it used to be packed at the track. Rt. 115 North takes you right into the parking lot with no problems. I live 15 miles from the track and left at 8:00. I didn’t see the green flag! Thats ridiculous. Total failure on Pocono’s part. It has never been like this for any NASCAR race for 24 years. Why the hell would you close 1 of the 3 roads that go into the track for no reason?? I literally could have rode a bicycle to the track faster today than it took me to drive my truck. If u do this again in August for the NASCAR race I’m done. Hell I could get to Richmond faster than I can get to the track 15 miles away from my house.
Let’s hope that not all of the fans that experienced traffic issues are as upset as Stacy. Pocono Raceway President Brandon Igdalsky issued the following statement today in recognition of the problem:
The entire staff at Pocono Raceway thanks everyone in attendance at the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco Racing on Sunday, July 7. The number of race fans who witnessed the historic return of the IZODIndyCar Series to “The Tricky Triangle” exceeded our expectations and we truly appreciated being able to share the experience with all of them. We would also like to express our gratitude to the INDYCAR teams, drivers and officials for putting on an amazing race.
Before and after the 400-mile open-wheel event, there was a large amount of traffic as fans tried to enter and exit our facility. After one of the most competitive races the Raceway has seen in years, fans expressed their disappointment, almost immediately, via social media posts, phone calls and through e-mails.
This week, we have meetings with state and local officials to find the exact reason for the breakdown and ensure these issues are resolved moving forward.
We sincerely apologize for the woes faced by dedicated race fans. As President and CEO of Pocono Raceway, I am making a solemn promise, to every race fan, we will do everything in our power to make the traffic situations better in the future.
Based on the feedback, overall it looks like Pocono was exactly the success INDYCAR and everyone else was hoping for. Sure, there is some work to be done, particularly in the area of traffic control. As for the racing, there will always be those who are unhappy, but the majority of opinions were positive, especially from fans who were trying out the IndyCar Series for the first time, and that’s critical if INDYCAR ever hopes to achieve any kind of growth. The bottom line is it’s about time something go right for INDYCAR.
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