Welcome to the first installment of “From Tailgate to Trackside.” Come with me as we journey from track to track each week celebrating everything that makes a NASCAR race experience great.
I will be offering an insider’s look into the best of both worlds, starting with a fan’s point of view from the tailgate to the journalist take as I report track side from the media center.
Until I win the lottery and buy myself one of those swanky motor homes I won’t be able to offer a personal perspective on every race day experience, but with a little help from my friends I will still be able to take you there in spirit.
While MJ will reporting from within, shadowing ARCA driver Alli Owens and the winner of the Ultimate Fan contest for Sunday's race, her husband Gary will be "fanning” it up in the infield.This darling duo is sure to bring back some tantalizing tales from the track.
Mary Jo and Gary will be invited guests of Ashley Mattioli-Igdalsky at “The Village at Pocono,” a new, gated, private resort located directly across from the track.
The Village, as MJ so eloquently wrote about in her piece Pocono Raceways Third Generation Woman Takes On Newest Venture, “features many amenities, including a 6,000 sq. foot Clubhouse, a Fireside Lounge, theater, state of the art fitness center, saunas, billiard parlor, game room and a 5,000 sq. foot Indoor Aquatic center.”
Let’s just hope that MJ’s dedication to her work allows her some free time to enjoy herself!
We all remember the scene from “The Shining” where Jack Nicholson’s character, writer turned winter hotel caretaker, takes a sinister turn after being trapped within the confines of the snowbound resort.
Feverishly typing away at his latest “masterpiece,” his wife is horrified to find endless pages of manuscript repeating the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” formatted in various ways.
Let’s hope that a freak snowstorm is not in the weather forecast!
I have heard that Pocono knows how to party and twice a year plays host to some of NASCAR’s most awesome tailgating. Is it because Pensyltuckians are just super cool or could it be that the track is literally out in the middle of nowhere with lack of any other form of entertainment?
Pocono offers infield parking and camping. Hardcore NASCAR fans don’t just show up on race day in the RV! Oh no, expect them to be camped out for days before the blessed event.
If you choose this route then you better come prepared. Bring everything that you’ll need for your stay because there are no places to purchase supplies inside or anywhere near the track and once you’re in there is no leaving unless you are prepared to repay for admission.
There are no dedicated showers and toilets for the long weekend guests, which after three long days in the sun is a not so good thing! Nothing like the gamy scent of NASCAR funk to wreck your race day experience!
There are rules that must be followed. No pets. No firewood. No weapons. No fireworks. No golf carts. No scaffolding. No amplified music. No tent camping. No disorderly conduct. No mopeds. No walk-ins.
But like any NASCAR track, shirts are of course optional.
As you enter the infield gates, a security guard will board your Winnie to look for illegal items and non-ticketed stow-aways. Many of the guards are packing heat, so don’t even think about breaking Pocono law!
Being in the Pocono infield does have it’s advantages, It has been said that it is the best way to see the race live. If you find a good spot, you can see almost two-thirds of the track.
Spectators in the Grandstands often complain that “you don’t see very much for very long,” because of the angle of the stands. When the masses stand up while you are sitting down, it is virtually impossible to see the cars as they hug the walls along the front stretch. Announcements are frequently made throughout the race asking fans to please sit down to prevent blocking the view for others.
On a positive note, it is one of the easier tracks for fans to acquire autographs from their favorite drivers as it has one of the most accessible pit areas. Big ups for that!
What the fans be grillin?
Some will travel through “Dutch Pennsylvania” on their way to the track, so kick it authentically Amish with the menu.
I recommend a good Lancaster County ham loaf smothered with Mennonite dried beef gravy. Corn fritters and stewed crackers will complement the entrée nicely. For dessert; how about a nice Friendship bread or some homemade Whoopie Pie. Wash it all down with a strong buttermilk colada. Delish!
If you choose to imbibe in spirits of a more palliative nature, I suggest the BYOB method. Unless you are come across a wild Amish adolescent in the throws of Rumspringa, you’ll be hard pressed to find some good Amish hootch, as the community generally frowns upon alcoholic beverages.
Looking for some some extra fun in the sun before the rush of the race?
The raceway will host two days worth of live bluegrass music leading into Sunday's Cup race, billed as "The Music from the Mountains."
Friday and Saturday performances include music from: Ricky Skaggs, Steep Canyon Rangers, Charlie Sizemore Band, Dailey & Vincent, Del McCoury Band, Cherryholmes, Blue Highway and SteelDrivers.
For $10, fans can take a lap around the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway. Ticket holders can make the donation to the Victory Junction Gang Camp and board a bus for a one-lap ride around the triangle. All proceeds go to the camp, and rides are available for infield and grandstand spectators from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. ET. Infield fans can board the bus at Turn three near pit road. Grandstand spectators should head to Turn one near the track crossing.
So party on in Pocono this weekend and see you next week when we'll have a "Helluva Good" time at Watkins Glen!