The primary focus of the Mattioli family for their beloved Pocono Raceway has always been the fans. Early on in the track's development, Dr. Rose Mattioli envisioned a special place where fans could access their favorite drivers.
The Mattiolis constructed a bleacher style enclave between the garage area and pit road to do just that. They dubbed it Autograph Alley and for many years fans have gravitated to that area of the track to seek autographs from their special driver or crew member.
On this race day morning, I had the opportunity to talk to a few fans in Autograph Alley. It was early and the crowds were just beginning to stream through the doors.
Many of the fans were just coming into Autograph Alley as most were mesmerized instead by the firing up of the race car engines in the garage area. There are smaller grand-stand type seating for the fans to watch that as well.
Some of the fans in Autograph Alley were optimistic, while others were less hopeful. One fan shared that he had been there for two days and he had not been successful yet in his autograph hunt.
There were quite a few fans perched in the Alley, hoping to get a Kyle Busch autograph. One fan from Long Island shared, "He's got a strong will," which is probably the understatement of the morning.
Other fans were more evenly split between trying to get the autographs of the usual suspects, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
One fan, Dave from Pottsville, PA was pretty excited by his time in Autograph Alley. After the ARCA race at Pocono yesterday, he was able to secure an autograph from race winner and Cup Rookie contender Joey Logano.
Another fan named Josh from St. Clare, PA looked just a little sleepy in Autograph Alley. Seems he has been staying in the infield in Turn One at Pocono.
"There are lots of crazy people in Turn One", said this fan Josh. "We had a good time but it was a little hard getting sleep sometimes."
Josh said that he was hoping to get an autograph from Jeff Gordon, his driver of 16 years since 1994. He was also hoping that his driver Gordon had another championship in him before being sidelined with his back problems.
There were quite a few fans from my home area of northern New Jersey. Two of the younger fans were experiencing their first and second races respectively.
One young fan was rooting for Matt Kenseth and the other for Jeff Gordon. While both were hoping for autographs in the Alley, they were pretty excited about just taking in all the sights and pageantry of the Pocono Raceway.
Another couple from New Jersey had come to the race together to perch in Autograph Alley. The young woman was a Kasey Kahne fan and her husband, decked out in green, was definitely rooting for fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
All of the fans in Autograph Alley were pretty excited about witnessing history at Pocono Raceway with the double file restarts.
One fan thought it would be "pretty chaotic" but another thought it would "definitely improve the racing, particularly at this long of a race".
Most fans agreed that they thought the double file restart should have been instituted long ago.
Most interesting was that although most fans were rooting for drivers like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., those particular drivers were not actually their picks to win the race.
Race picks for the day instead seemed to be pretty equally divided amongst Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards.
While every fan seemed to have their own favorite driver, as well as their own race picks for the day, they all had one thing in common.
After hopefully getting their fill of autographs and glimpses of their favorite drivers, these fans cannot wait to see the green flag fly in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.
So, there you have it straight from Autograph Alley at Pocono Raceway. Happy Race Day!
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