ARCA: Taking a Look Back at Pocono; Series Has History with Pennsylvania Track

RaceChaser Staff ARCA, Featured, Midwest 0 Comments

TOLEDO, Ohio — By Don Radebaugh, ARCA — Kyle Magda photo —

No superspeedway has appeared on ARCA’s annual schedule over the years more than Pocono Raceway.

A union that reaches back to 1983, this year’s Pocono ARCA 200 in June will mark the 60th ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards race on the historic 2.5-mile triangle. Through economic down-times, up-times and everywhere in between, the 63-year-old sanction has managed to survive and ultimately thrive on the famous track in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.

In fact, Pocono Raceway played a part in helping to restore the health of the ARCA tour, which had fallen into difficult times in the early 1980’s. It was in 1981 when ARCA founder John Marcum died suddenly and the U.S. economy crashed hard simultaneously.

The tour, which had averaged more than 30 shows per season since its inception in 1953 – and a series high 46 races in 1956 – had fallen to just nine events in ’81…and three of those were on the tour’s home track in Flat Rock, Michigan.

With the economy still in shambles, the schedule managed to grow to 12 races in 1982, but it was clear that the sanctioning body needed a jolt. Enter Doc and Rose Mattioli, who invited ARCA to race on Pocono’s triangular superspeedway in 1983. With the economy starting to show signs of life, the tour became a staple at Pocono in ’85, and was soon, beginning with the ’87 season, racing twice each season on the storied triangle. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Actually, if one counts the now defunct three-quarter mile Pocono track, parts of which still occupy space in the infield area, ARCA’s tenure at Pocono reaches back even further – to 1969 when Bobby Watson held off Benny Parsons to win the inaugural ARCA race at Pocono.

Pocono also opened up a new television chapter in the annals of ARCA with the first live nationally televised broadcast event on ESPN in 1983, the event won by Bob Schacht, who held off a late-race charge from Davey Allison.

From there, the list of ARCA winners over the decades at Pocono is nothing short of amazing.

Schacht would go on to post six victories at Pocono over the next 10 years becoming the all-time Pocono winner until three-time ARCA champion Tim Steele eclipsed the mark with nine wins, including five consecutive in the mid-to-late-90s.

Schacht also won four of the first five races at Pocono holding off the likes of Chargin’ Charlie Glotzbach, who finished second to Schacht in back-to-back events in ’87. Only Bobby Jacks would prevent Schacht from winning five in a row with Jacks’ victory there in 1986.

Two-time ARCA champion Lee Raymond picked up the win from the pole in the Champion Spark Plug 100 on June 18, 1988 before 1989 ARCA champion Bob Keselowski would start his own reign of domination with five wins overall from ’88 through 1992.

NASCAR Cup veteran and eastern modified champion Jimmy Horton, well known to area residents, posted popular back-to-back ARCA Pocono wins in 1990 holding off Glotzbach and 1988 ARCA champion Tracy Leslie for the honors.

Rookie Ben Hess stole the show with an impressive victory in the Champion Battery 150 on June 13, 1992 before Steele, also a rookie at the time, triumphed in 1993 in the Mt. Magic Jamboree 150. Had it not been for a NASCAR invasion – a precursor to today’s high-profile Cup development teams that compete regularly in ARCA – Steele may have won 10 consecutive events.

But it was not to be when Jeff Purvis, in a James Finch Chevrolet, and Mike Wallace, in a Junie Donlavey Ford, dominated the victory lane circle for the next four events (July 1994 through June 1996).

With Wallace, who won three consecutive, off to NASCAR, Steele jumped back in the victory lane saddle with five straight wins (July 1996 through July 1998) before another soon-to-be well known champion by the name of Frank Kimmel stopped Steele in his tracks with a Pocono win in 1999.

The late Blaise Alexander of Montoursville, Pa. gave his fellow Pennsylvanians something to cheer about with a victory in the Pepsi ARCA 200 in July of ’99 before another Cup invasion would set the tone in the next two events.

On June 17, 2000, the late Dale Earnhardt and Teresa Earnhardt joined Kerry Earnhardt in victory lane at Pocono for a very popular winner’s circle celebration. Later that same year, series rookie Ryan Newman, in a Roger Penske Ford, charged to victory in the July event.

Then Steele, after recovering from injuries sustained at Atlanta testing a Cup car, earned back-to-back wins in 2001 before ARCA regular Damon Lusk won the Pocono ARCA 200 in June of 2002.

From there, development drivers from high-profile Cup teams began to occupy more and more of the ARCA headlines at Pocono with Casey Atwood, in an Evernham Motorsports entry, going to victory lane in July of ’02.

Then, Casey Mears, from the Ganassi Racing stable, posted consecutive wins in 2003 before Scott Riggs, in an MB2 Valvoline Pontiac, held off the ARCA regulars for his career-first superspeedway victory in June, 2004. Travis Kvapil, in a Penske Racing Kodak-sponsored Dodge, held off Kimmel for the win in June of ’05 before Kimmel, who would go on to earn a record 10 ARCA national championships, returned to the Pocono winner’s circle in ’05 and ‘06.

Development drivers Chase Miller (Dodge Development/Cunningham Motorsports) and Chad McCumbee (Petty Enterprises) were Pocono winners in June ’06 and ’07 with Roush Fenway Racing development driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. following in the winner’s circle in June of ‘08. ARCA champion Justin Allgaier steered his way into victory lane in the second race that same ’08 season.

NASCAR-bound Joey Logano won in a Venturini Motorsports machine in ’09 with Richard Childress Racing’s Ty Dillon following two years later. Brennan Poole, now off to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, won the June Pocono race in ’12 with ARCA regular Chad Hackenbracht following in the win column later that year.

NASCAR Xfinity champion Chase Elliott won the June Pocono ARCA 200 in 2013 with second-generation racer Corey LaJoie winning in August. Elliott’s win etched his name in the ARCA record books as the youngest superspeedway winner in series history.

The most recent ARCA winners at Pocono are Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who held off 2014 ARCA national champion Mason Mitchell for the win last June, and Justin Allison, a third-generation racer from the famous Allison family, who held off third-generation ARCA racer Will Kimmel for the victory last August.

And so the Pocono ARCA tradition continues in 2015 with the traditional two shows on the calendar, each with entry lists full of flavor, complete with an interesting mix of rookies and veterans, all hoping to capture their share of the glory that always comes with winning at Pocono.

Pocono ARCA 200 race event 60th on “Tricky Triangle”

This year’s Pocono ARCA 200 will mark the 60th ARCA race on the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” since the tour made its debut on the big track in 1983. The June 6 event also serves as the preamble for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400.

On-track activity for the Pocono ARCA 200 includes one practice session on Friday, June 5 from 2:15 – 4:15 p.m. Raceday Saturday begins with Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell at 10:05 a.m., followed by the Pocono ARCA 200 at 1 p.m. The Pocono ARCA 200 is live on FOX Sports 2 Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.

In addition to live coverage on FOX Sports 2, arcaracing.com will feature live timing and scoring of all on-track activities to include practice, qualifying and the race.

Tickets are now on sale at PoconoRaceway.com.

CREDIT: ARCA Racing Series

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