By Steve Wittich
Will the NTT IndyCar Series return to Pocono Raceway next year is the most common question being asked by the fanbase as the series prepares to take on the “Tricky Triangle” for the 26th time.
“Recently? No,” said Pocono Raceway President Ben May, when asked about negotiations between the track and INDYCAR this morning, adding, “Our status remains the same as we reported last week with our CEO Nick Igdalsky. We want the event back, and the hope the decision INDYCAR makes is favorable for our facility.”
ADDENDUM – INDYCAR and Pocono Raceway did have a conversation after I talked to May this morning.
The 2.5-mile oval located in Long Pond, Pa. is 90 miles from the largest and fourth-largest television markets in the United States https://mediatracks.com/resources/nielsen-dma-rankings-2019. The combined television numbers of New York and Philadelphia include 9,917,150 homes, which is 8.97% of the entire television audience in the United States.
TSO talked to a pair of team owners, who both said they would ‘hate’ to see this track drop off the calendar.
It’s a very unique race track,” said Andretti Autosport principal Michael Andretti, who grew up just south of the track in Nazareth. “It’s one that has a lot history. We’re up here in the North East, which is important. I would hate losing it.”
Larry Foyt, President of A.J. Foyt Enterprises, echoed Andretti. With the son of four-time Pocono Raceway winner A.J. Foyt telling TSO:
“There is a lot of history here. It is a great race track. It’s a shame it is a little overshadowed by the last few years, having some bad things happen. But, that is a part of racing. It’s a beautiful facility and a place Indy cars can stretch their legs.
“I like this track. I like big race tracks. I think having a good mix of tracks like we have is good. Having a couple of superspeedways, not just the (Indianapolis) 500, is important. This is a fun and challenging race track. I would hate to see it go.”
Both owners also mentioned the importance of having a race in the Northeastern United States for their sponsors and potential sponsors.
Over 20%, 106 companies, in the Fortune 500 are located in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts
“It’s similar to what I said regarding different types of tracks,” said Foyt to TSO. “Covering the Continental U.S. is important, and hitting all of the markets is great.”
Andretti agreed with Foyt regarding the commercial considerations for current sponsors, adding “It’s always nice saying that we race in the North East,” in regards to potential sponsors.
We also had a chance to talk to several drivers.
Tony Kanaan told us:
“I love this track. I think every driver that comes here, we look at each other and go “oh my God” you have to be careful here. It’s a track that intimidates a lot of us. I don’t get intimidated too often anymore. I like it. Look at how many fans we had here today. They are here and they keep asking for autographs. I think a lot is the nature of the track. I know we’ve been trying extremely hard with the track and IndyCar to promote this race more. In my opinion, it should be back.”
Pocono Raceway winner Alexander Rossi said:
“Yeah, no, I think you’re proud of any race win in this series just because of how hard they are to come by. This track is no exception. It’s obviously the second 500-mile race we do. Those are very hard to win with all the different variables that come with that, that length of race. Yeah, it’s definitely one you’ll cherish.
“Fingers crossed we can work something out and we’re all back here next year.”
Pocono Raceway winner Scott Dixon agreed with the others, saying:
“I love this track. We haven’t probably had the best runs in the last couple years, but that’s what makes it so good when you do get it right. It’s very difficult to get the combination with one and three correct, feel comfortable around the circuit.
“I hope we do come back. We just have to wait and see, I guess.”
Double Pocono Raceway Will Power is also a fan of the “Tricky Triangle” saying:
“I love the track. I love it. Obviously, it’s always a proud moment when you win a race. If you win back-to-back 500-milers, it’s a big deal.
“It’s a cool track. I feel like the more ovals, the better for me. I really enjoy them. It would kind of be disappointing if it went away. Obviously, I had nothing to do with that. It’s obviously INDYCAR negotiating.”
Are there team owners, drivers, and others in the paddock that would be happy if the NTT IndyCar Series never came back to Pocono Raceway, absolutely, but they were not willing to go on the record.
Steve’s opinion. Not returning would be a shame. It’s a track that wants the NTT IndyCar Series. A large portion of the fan base wants to be here. It’s an important market for the series and team’s sponsors. Superspeedways are the foundation of the NTT IndyCar Series. More ovals are better than fewer ovals. I could go on, but you get the point.
I’ll echo the others. I would hate to lose this race.