WAVERLY, N.Y. — The IZOD IndyCar Series returned to Pocono Raceway on Wednesday for tire testing leading up to their July race at the 2.5-mile track.
While Indy cars last competed at Pocono in 1989, it was their first race at Pocono that got us reminiscing.
My college graduation present from my parents was the best seats in the house for the first Indy car race at Pocono on July 3, 1971. If you’re good at math you’ll figure out how old I am. We had been going to the races at Watkins Glen for about 10 years, but this was our first trip to Pocono. I wasn’t involved in racing yet, just interested in it.
I remember my first reaction when we got to the track — this place is gonna be neat when they finish it. I said that for the next 12 years, but Doc Mattioli finally got it finished.
It was ungodly hot, but the seats were good. My mother suffered a great deal with the heat.
Joe Leonard looked like a sure winner until he slid out of the groove in turn two and handed it over to Mark Donohue. He went on to win it and Leonard finished second with A.J. Foyt third. They were the only drivers on the lead lap.
My sentimental favorite was Jim Hurtubise, who ran the last of the roadsters. That day he was basically a start and park.
That was probably the first time I saw the one and only Linda Vaughn. It’s difficult not to say the two and only!
When you’re that far up in the grandstand all these people in the sport appeared like insects crawling on the horizon.
My favorite Pocono story was related to a NASCAR race, though. I was helping spot for Mike Bagley from Motor Racing Network. We were by a tree outside turn three. This was during the “Awesome Bill (Elliott)” era. He was walking away from everybody. Then the race went under a rain delay because it was pouring at the other end of the track. It was nice where we were. That’s not an unknown phenomenon at Pocono by any means.
Editor’s Note: Longtime motorsports enthusiast and NSSN contributor Al Robinson suffered a stroke in May of 2011. Al is continuing his recovery at Elderwood Care Facility in Waverly, N.Y., where he is dictating his racing memories to New York-area track announcer Carol Houssock.