By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
LONG POND -- After a 23-year absence, Indy cars are returning to Pocono Raceway in 2013.
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard made the announcement Sunday night during the unveiling of the 2013 schedule on 'Wind Tunnel' on SPEED TV. The Pocono IndyCar 400, which is set for July 7, is the 11th race on the 19-race schedule in 2013. The race will be televised on ABC.
"In 1971, my grandfather (the late) Dr. Joseph Mattioli and my grandmother, Mrs. Rose Mattioli, brought IndyCar here with the help of Tony Hulman and it is great to officially welcome back the Izod IndyCar Series to the Tricky Triangle," Pocono Raceway CEO and President Brandon Igdalsky said on Monday. "Our fans have indicated to us that they wanted IndyCar back here."
Igdalsky noted that tickets for the event went on sale on Monday morning, and the ticket office was already taking orders for the race.
"The contract is for the next three years, and we hope it will be longer than that," Igdalsky said.
The 19-race slate is an increase from 15 this past season. Bernard is focused on building additional exposure for the series.
"I can tell you from our fan base, they are really excited to come back to Pocono after a 23-year absence," he said. "Our fans want to see the greatest drivers in the world compete at a track where the greatest drivers once competed. I think we'll see phenomenal attendance for the race."
The return to Pocono also marks the return of the Triple Crown. If a driver can win the Indianapolis 500 (May 26), Pocono and the season-ending 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway (Calif.) in October, they will collect a million dollar bonus. If a driver wins two of the three races, they will collect a $250,000 bonus.
Dave Sharpley, a Reading native and crew chief James Hinchclife, is looking forward to having a race in his home state.
"It's awesome, I can't wait," he said. "It was one of the races I thought they could pick up as the closest we get to home is Baltimore. I've never been to Pocono, but the older guys on the team have. Coming from an oval background it is a plus to have another oval on the schedule, and the guys in our shop are already talking about it."
Four-time Indy 500 champion A.J. Foyt, was a four-time winner at Pocono.
"I always enjoyed going to Pocono," Foyt said. "I used to miss it when they took it off the schedule. I had some pretty good days there."
The late Mark Donohue, driving for Penske Racing, won the first Indy car race at Pocono on July 3, 1971. Danny Sullivan won the last race in 1989.
In the 19 Indy car events held at Pocono, no driver has ever won back-to-back races.
Mario Andretti, the 1969 Indy 500 winner, won his lone race at Pocono on Aug. 17, 1986, a weekend he'll never forget.
"We swept the weekend," he said. "Michael (his son), won the pole, I won the race and son Jeff won a companion event."