Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Strong attendance for IndyCar at Pocono

Fans were impressed with the IndyCar race, the first at the track in 24 years.

(Mel Evans /AP)
(Mel Evans /AP)Read more

LONG POND, Pa. - When Pocono Raceway announced the IndyCar series would be returning for the first time in 24 years, no one knew how it would be received.

Well, yesterday's attendance was better than almost anyone expected. The Daily News estimated the crowd at about 30,000. Quite a few younger fans were in the grandstand.

"It's great to see such a big crowd," third-place finisher Dario Franchitti said. "That's a big grandstand, and it was pretty full."

That $25 admission tickets were available, including $12.50 for children 12 and under, certainly helped attract fans on a sweltering summer day in the mountains.

Earl Clauser, wearing a red No. 34 Roy Halladay shirt, was watching the Indy cars practice Saturday from pit road. Clauser, from Red Hill, Pa., near Quakertown, attended Pocono Indy-car races in the 1970s and '80s.

"I hope these races are a big success," he said. "The Indy cars are so even. Attendance at auto racing in general is down. [All series] need to draw younger fans."

Clauser said his former neighbor was Johnny Thomson, the 1959 pole winner for the Indianapolis 500. Thomson, known as "The Flying Scot," died in 1960 in a racing crash at Allentown Fairgrounds.

Kevin Herritt, from Danville, Pa., brought his son Daniel, 14, and his friend Jarrett Walters, also 14, to the races.

"My senior year in high school was 1989," Herritt said. "We planned to come the next year, but they stopped racing here."

Herritt has attended some NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono.

"You hear a lot of talk about, 'Wow, that's fast!' " with the Indy cars," he said. "The [Cup cars average] 160-170 miles an hour; these guys are doing 220."

Daniel said he has watched Indy-car racing on television.

"These cars are faster and there isn't as much contact," he said.

Stacey Weikel, from Perkasie, bought her father Robert race tickets for Father's Day.

"My dad was here in the 1970s and '80s," she said. "We were here Thursday for the testing. It was amazing to see how fast they go."

The weekend also was special for Robert and his wife, Sandra: It was their 50th wedding anniversary.

Standing in the busy garage area Saturday before qualifying, Sandra said, "You don't realize all that goes on behind the scenes."

Isn't that Jeff Gordon?

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon attended the race with his son Leo. Gordon finished 34th in Saturday night's race at Daytona. Gordon is staying a few days at his New York City residence on his way to New Hampshire for Sunday's Cup race.