IndyCar racing will return to Pennsylvania's Pocono Raceway in 2016
Despite the fact that attendance hasn't been what has been hoped for over the past three years, the Verizon IndyCar Series will return to Pocono Raceway for the fourth consecutive year next summer.
IndyCar and Pocono both announced on Tuesday morning that the premier brand of open-wheel racing will return to Monroe County the weekend of Aug. 20-21, which is basically the same weekend this year's race was held.
"We look forward to IndyCar returning to 'The Tricky Triangle' this summer," said Brandon Igdalsky, Pocono Raceway's president and CEO, in a release. "Our track was designed for open-wheel cars and given the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, it made all the sense to have them back for this historic season of racing.
"We worked diligently with IndyCar to make this happen and we both agreed it was important to keep our race on the 2016 schedule. This, coupled with the overwhelming response from teams, drivers and race fans, were all contributing factors to our mutual decision."
IndyCar racing features several local connections. Nazareth natives Marco Andretti and Sage Karam both participated in the 2015 race and Andretti has run every race since IndyCar returned to Pocono in 2013 after a 24-year absence. Karam was a guest at York Sports Night earlier this year.
The first two races in 2013 and 2014 were held on or near the Fourth of July holiday, but was moved to the weekend of Aug. 22-23. The later date paid dividends in the form of a larger race day crowd, although it was nothing approaching the crowds that NASCAR's Sprint Cup series generate twice per summer.
In terms of popularity with the drivers, Pocono always gets a thumbs up.
"In a lot of ways, I think our Indy care were built for Pocono," Marco Andretti said. "And the home town support for me and the team is great. I really enjoy racing at the triangle and am glad to see it on the 2016 schedule."
Michael Andretti, Marco's father and team owner, agreed.
"I'm excited to see the series return to Pocono," he said. "It's an important race on the schedule both because of the strength of the market and the competitive nature of the race track."
This year's race was marked by tragedy when a freak accident resulted in driver Justin Wilson being airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest late in the race. Wilson died the next day.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, an Andretti Autosport driver, won the race but Wilson's tragedy overshadowed everything else.
As usual, Pocono Raceway will be a busy place next summer.
NASCAR has previously announced two big race weekends next summer -- June 3-5 and July 29-31. And for the first time, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will offer a race at Pocono on June 4.