Also included in the build was a 150-site motor home park for the racers, 124 of which have water, sewer, and electricity. He yanked out all of the old 375 toilets and replaced them all with Long John, the biggest toilet facility in the world, with 1,000 stalls. Doc was adamant that Pocono would never have lines for the restrooms again. To this day I'm not sure whether he was more proud of the see-through fence or Long John...probably the fence…maybe. Finally, he built an expansive Midway that is completely landscaped with 14 40-foot-high Blue Spruce, 200 picnic tables and gazebos all over that anybody can use to relax. You could say that Pocono was green long before green was a fashionable buzzword.
All of the success that Pocono has had over the years is an outgrowth of some very difficult times. Doc pulled no punches in the interview when talking about how he almost lost the track.
He had served in the Pacific during World War II as a Navy medic. Using the G.I. bill, he enrolled in the dentistry program at Temple University (where he met his soon-to-be-wife, Rose.) Upon graduation, he developed his dental practice into a very lucrative business by working 12- to 14-hour days, six and sometimes seven days a week. He then began investing in and developing properties in Philadelphia and Northeastern Pennsylvania. That's when he became involved in the start up of Pocono Raceway. But Doc and his lovely wife Rose nearly went broke a number of times while building what is arguably the most unique racetrack on the NASCAR circuit.
F-5000 cars running on one...
F-5000 cars running on one of the three road courses inside Pocono's expansive 2.5 triangle circa 1977.
The parade lap of a 1969 Open...
The parade lap of a 1969 Open Wheel USAC race on Pocono's 3/4-mile track. Dig the '69 Mustang pace car.
NASCAR Tour-type Modifieds...
NASCAR Tour-type Modifieds getting set to tackle Pocono.
They held their first race on the long-gone 3/4-mile track in 1968. That was followed by the first 500-mile Indy race on what is now called the "Tricky Triangle" in 1971 and then the first NASCAR 500-mile race in 1974. But thanks to construction mistakes, the CART-USAC fight and a lot of inexperience, they ran into some serious financial problems.
I remember Doc telling me, "I was almost bankrupt two or three times but was too dumb to realize it." He went on to say that he had kept all the keys to the racetrack on one very large key ring. "I had gotten to the point
that one day I went down to the bank that held the papers on the track, walked into my banker's office, tossed the keys on the table, and said, 'Congratulations, you now own a racetrack.'" As Doc told me, when he turned around to leave, the banker wouldn't let him. After all, back then no banker wanted to own a racetrack.
It was shortly thereafter when Bill France Sr. asked Doc to meet with him in New York. France Sr. wanted the Mattiolis to stick it out and not leave the business. Doc makes no bones about the fact that he resisted France's desires. Toward the end of the meeting France pulled out a business card and penned a message for Doc on its back. During our interview Doc pulled the card out of his desk and showed it to me. It said, "on the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones of millions, who within the grasp of victory, sat and waited and in waiting died."
Card in hand, Doc headed back to Pocono, deciding to give it a shot. Doc said that the Frances gave much moral support and a lot of good advice following that New York meeting. Bill Sr. and his wife, Annie B., came to the races the next two years to show their support for Pocono. Shortly thereafter he and his son, Bill Jr., gave us our second NASCAR race. From there, Pocono stabilized and became a jewel in the NASCAR crown. Still today, it's the only family-owned racetrack on the NASCAR Sprint Cup series schedule.
Pocono's famous Autograph...
Pocono's famous Autograph Alley is shrouded in fog during the now infamous July 1986 Winston Cup race.
Autograph Alley today.
Coming to the finish line...
Coming to the finish line for the July 1986