The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 12, 2014

Shawn Wood's Inside Track: Memories from first trip to Pocono

The year was 1975.

Gerald Ford was president, gas cost 57 cents a gallon, the Reds would beat Boston in seven games to win the World Series and on August 3, I saw my first-ever NASCAR race.

My dad and I, along with my late Uncle Tom Wood Jr. — who raced at Selinsgrove — and his son Pat, made the trip from Lost Creek to Long Pond that day.

The race was won by David Pearson who was driving a 1973 Mercury for the famed Wood Brothers (no relation) racing team of Stuart, Va.

Pearson’s car was smoking heavily with three laps to go and he was black flagged.

Back then, when you got the black flag, you had three laps to get to pit road or they would stop scoring you.

At the end of the three laps, Pearson took the checkers over Richard Petty, who would win the 1975 NASCAR title.

Among the top-10 that day was Buddy Baker, the late Benny Parsons, now car owner Richard Childress and Coo Coo Marlin.

If my memory serves me correct, a rain shower that hit the track the day. Not like that hasn’t happened before at Pocono.

I recall walking around during the track drying process and seeing my aunt, uncle and cousins working at a concession stand to raise money for a local charity.

Fast forward 39 years and the Tricky Triangle in 2014 is still the most unique track in NASCAR. And this year, it didn’t rain, at least not until after the race.

During a break in testing at the track a week before, Jamie McMurray came close to pulling an Allen Iverson “practice” press conference as he kept referring the weather on race day in June or August.

What McMurray should be thankful for is the rainout back in April for the softball game back between Team Pocono and his Team Dover.

Don’t worry Jamie, the rainout only postponed the inevitable victory by Team Pocono until 2015!

It was nice of Mother Nature to give us a sunny day last Sunday to get the full 400 miles of racing in. What was even nicer was to see was the good-size crowd on hand which had to be bigger than last year.

I have to wonder what the late Bill France Sr. would say about today’s struggling TV ratings and empty seats?

He gave some great business advice to the late Dr. Joseph Mattiol, Pocono Raceway founder, as on the back of his business card he wrote, “on the plains of hesitations lie the bleached bones of millions who when within the grasp of victory sat and waited and waiting died.”

A picture of that business card is prominently displayed in the Pocono infield media center.

I lived in Charlotte for 10 years and I have covered NASCAR for quite some time. If they want to get the fans back, they only need to look to their past to move forward.

The early stars of the sport came from the dirt tracks. So why not adapt some modern-day dirt-track racing formulas?

For instance, why not eliminate time trials and use a blind pill draw for heat races and use passing points to set the field for Sunday’s race?

On Sunday, fill out the field with a B-Main and start the race at 1 p.m., not 1:20.

In having heats and a B-Main rather than time trials, you give more exposure to the sponsors and the fans get to see their favorite more than once.

To really make it exciting for the fans, have a young fan draw a feature inversion pill of 8, 12, 16 or 20 cars.

All races would be 400 miles with the exception of Daytona, Talladega, Michigan, Fontana and Bristol, which would be 500.

Let the series title be decided over the entire season, not 10 races or any elimination type format.

I think we’d see some great racing, the sponsors would be happy and it would make for great TV.

It’s highly unlikely that NASCAR would ever give this any consideration, but then again, Bill France Sr. and Dr. Mattiol were visionaries in the sport.

Thankfully, management at Pocono Raceway is keeping that visionary tradition alive so that the new generation of race fans will, like me, have memories of their first-ever NASCAR race that will never fade away.

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