Twice each year, Long Pond becomes the third largest city in Pennsylvania, thanks to the thousands of race fans who storm the Pocono Mountains for NASCAR Sprint Cup weekends.
This year, those fans will be greeted with a multi-million dollar improvement project to the raceway that includes bucket seats with back rests in the center parts of the grandstand. The raceway also sports a new parking lot entrance and additional parking areas that will make it much easier to get in and out of the facility.
Senior vice president Nick Igdalsky feels that the improvements will help Pocono weather a difficult economy, which is taking its toll on all levels of racing.
"We're not taking the hits that some of the other race tracks around the country are taking," said Igdalsky via phone from his Long Pond office. "With the population diversity in our region, many race fans can visit our track with a day trip, using less than a single tank of gas."
Pocono Raceway is the only track in the state of Pennsylvania to host NASCAR's premier series, but that's not the only thing that makes it special. For teams and drivers, Pocono provides a unique challenge: the tri-oval offers three different corners with varying degrees of banking as well as three different-length straight-aways.
For fans, Pocono provides an up-close-and-personal look at a booming sport and spectacle; the raceway began offering the public pit and garage access tickets long before it became trendy throughout the series.
Pocono's front office staff appreciates the fan loyalty it has enjoyed over the years, and the success that has come with it.
"It has a lot to do with the nature of fans in this area," said Igdalsky. "It's a passionate state as sports goes, from the Eagles and Steelers to racing, Pennsylvania fans love their teams and love competition, and this falls in that category. Sports fans in Pennsylvania appreciate family values and wholesome entertainment, and NASCAR fits the demographics of this state."
Single-day parking is still free, and fans can save on hotel and restaurant bills by camping in the infield for as little as $50 per vehicle. Pocono has beefed up the infield activities and entertainment to present almost a fair-like atmosphere with food booths, free bluegrass concerts, kids' attractions and lots of shopping opportunities. Some drivers have been known to show up at their infield merchandising trailers for meet-and-greet sessions with fans.
Tickets for Pocono still start at $45 with the first Sprint Cup weekend at Long Pond this year set for June 5-7. Then the Pennsylvania 500 goes green Aug. 2. Both weekends feature Sprint Cup qualifying on Friday followed by an ARCA/REMAX series event and Sprint Cup "Happy Hour" practice on Saturday.
Kellie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.