Pocono Raceway Features Plenty of Firsts

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IJune 5, 2009

LONG POND, PA - JUNE 08:  The finish line awaits Kasey Kahne driver of the #9 Budwiser Dodge at the entry to victory lane after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 500 on June 8, 2008 at Pocono International Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images for NASCAR)

It's the start of NASCAR race weekend at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. That is the good news. The bad news is that it is raining and the wind is whipping pretty significantly, at least right so far this morning.

Thanks to the generosity of Pocono Raceway in recognizing Bleacher Report as a member of the media corps, this article is being filed from the media center in the heart of race central here in Pennsylvania.   

Business is beginning to pick up as media file slowly in, with cameras being set up in the corner and laptops firing up.

In spite of the inclement weather, Pocono Raceway has pulled out all the stops to make this a memorable experience for race fans, who are already lining up in the rain to get a glimpse of the cars going through tech and waiting for their driver to go through the gate.

There are a myriad of firsts here at Pocono for this race weekend. Of course, the most important first is NASCAR's institution of the double-file restart for this race weekend.

Brandon Igdalsky, grandson of Doc and Dr. Rose Mattioli, and President of Pocono Raceway, is pleased to be able to debut the double-file restarts. He said that Pocono also was the first race track to use the green-white-checkered finish, another historic NASCAR change.

Another important debut—at least the official one—here at Pocono will be Lance McGrew on the top of the box crew chiefing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Although he assisted at the Dover race, this will be McGrew's first time in taking the reins and facing the intense pressure of making NASCAR's most popular driver successful.

Another first at Pocono is having driver/owner Tony Stewart in the points lead. Stewart triumphed in points over Jeff Gordon after Gordon's miserable finish in the Dover race this past weekend.

Pocono has lots of firsts to offer for the race fans as well. Paul Teutel, Sr., of TLC's American Chopper show, will be appearing and signing autographs in the Pocono Souvenir area from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturday, June 6.

Pocono also has opportunities for fans and families alike to take a walk on the track and survey the three most interesting and different turns, including the famed tunnel turn. There will be a NASCAR Foundation Track Walk, also on Saturday, June 6, at 3 pm.

Mike Helton, Richard Childress, and driver Regan Smith will all be walking in this year's event. Proceeds will go to the NASCAR Foundation, as well as the American Red Cross Southeastern PA Chapter, a favorite charity of the Mattiolis.

Pocono has a special debut on race Sunday, announcing that actor Ryan Reynolds will serve as Grand Marshal. Reynolds is starring opposite Sandra Bullock in the new movie The Proposal.

Reynolds will attend the drivers meeting, participate with the Mattiolis in driver introductions, and give those most famous words in racing: "Gentlemen, start your engines."

“It’s an honor to have Ryan join us for the Pocono 500 and serve as the grand marshal,” said Brandon Igdalsky, President of Pocono Raceway. “Ryan is one of the brightest young stars in Hollywood, and we are looking forward to having him at the track.”

Hopefully all of these Pocono firsts will be able to debut on schedule, barring the weather challenges. 

While Friday may be a washout, the weather predictions for Saturday and Sunday look to be glorious for all of the special events planned at Pocono Raceway this weekend.