Will IndyCar return to Pocono?

Posted: August 01, 2014

ODDS ON an IndyCar series race returning to Pocono Raceway next summer are 50-50 at the moment. That's the view of Brandon Igdalsky, Pocono's president and CEO.

Igdalsky said Tuesday a decision will be made "in the next few weeks. We're deep into our 2015 planning. We would like to be on IndyCar's schedule and they like being at Pocono."

Pocono officials are surveying fans and sponsors about IndyCar racing for a third time at the track. Prior to the July 6 race at Pocono, Igdalsky challenged fans to either show up or risk IndyCar not racing at the mountaintoptrack in 2015.

Attendance for the race was less than last year when the IndyCar series raced at Pocono for the first time since 1989.

The Fourth of July race dates for the last two IndyCar at Pocono were a major issue. Although that holiday weekend is the busiest of the summer in the Poconos, many families there don't seem interested in spending their Sunday at the race track. Fans outside the area are reluctant to deal with heavy holiday traffic.

Igdalsky said Pocono has "a couple dates" where it could possibly host IndyCar other than the Fourth of July. Pocono expects to continue holding NASCAR Sprint Cup series races in early June and early August.

An appealing race card is on Pocono's menu this weekend. An ARCA series race is scheduled for tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. (Fox Sports 1). The popular NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race will be Saturday at 1 p.m. (also Fox Sports 1). The Cup race is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. (ESPN).

Igdalsky said ticket sales for the Cup race are "strong. Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. winning our June race energized a lot of people. Jeff Gordon winning at Indy [last Sunday] bodes well." Gordon's six wins at Pocono are the most of any driver.

Back in the late 1990s, when Gordon was dominating the Cup series with 10 to 13 wins per season, he received thunderous boos during prerace introductions. Many of those booers were fans of other drivers whose shares of victories were seized by Gordon.

Now, with 90 career wins, including two this year, Gordon has secured his place as one of racing's elite. Only Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105) are ahead of Gordon on the career-wins list. Closest to Gordon among active drivers is Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (69).

Gordon's Brickyard 400 win was his fifth, tying him with Formula One great Michael Schumacher. Gordon's five wins resonate more with American racing fans. Gordon has an astounding 17 seasons with multiple race wins.

Alan Gustafson, Gordon's crew chief, says the No. 24 Chevrolet team is finally giving its driver a car he count on running up front with every race. Gordon, a four-time Cup series champion (last title, 2001), is the points leader.

"The thing that we've struggled to do over the last few years is have that consistently and have that confidence consistently, not shoot ourselves in the foot," Gustafson said on a conference call yesterday. "I think [Gordon's] in a good place in his life personally, but I think he's been there for a while.

"All the work that we've put in, all the work that he's put in, making it through the difficult times, putting ourselves in position this year, has energized him. I think that he sees the reality of what we can do. It's exciting for all of us."

"[At] Indianapolis we were the best car and were able to execute all day and win the race. That gives us an added feel of confidence in our ability."

Gustafson, 38, is in his fourth full season as Gordon's crew chief. Gustafson grew up in Ormond Beach, Fla., near Daytona. When Gordon surged past teammate Kasey Kahne for the Brickyard lead with 17 laps remaining Gustafson enthusiastically pumped his right arm.

"It was a huge win for me, my biggest in the series," he said. "Even being from Ormond Beach, that race [Brickyard] is the one that I wanted to win the most in my career.

"Indy demands the best of everything. You have to have a great car, great engine, great driver, great team, great setup, everything. Strategy has to be perfect. Everything about that race is extremely, extremely difficult.

"You take that challenge and then you put it in that environment with the history of the race track. That race track, in my opinion, is such a world stage. Everybody in the world knows Indianapolis Motor Speedway, knows the history and heritage behind it. I love walking in there. I love the feel of the track. I love the tradition."

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