Pocono owner Doc Mattioli retires

Joseph Mattioli sealed the deal to bring NASCAR to the Poconos

over a plate of Southern fried chicken in 1972.

He then turned the popular honeymoon region into the heart of

racing on the Northeast, bringing two Cup races a season to the 2

1/2-mile triangle Pocono Raceway track nestled in the

mountaintops.

After nearly 40 years of calling the shots, Mattioli decided to

retire.

In an impromptu press conference Friday that caught his family

and associates unaware, Mattioli decided the time was right to turn

the day-to-day operations over to his three grandchildren.

Not much will really change. Brandon Igdalsky, his grandson, was

already track president as Mattioli scaled back his duties in

recent years and has added CEO to his title.

”Brandon is well-trained, and he knows the track like the back

of his hand,” Mattioli said. ”He’s well prepared to do the things

that have to be done.”

The 86-year-old Mattioli fought back tears Friday as he talked

about his decision to step down. Mattioli was in a wheelchair and

held his wife’s hand. Mattioli was a former dentist and known

around the sport as ”Doc.”

Mattioli said ”it’s about time that I got the hell out of

here.”

He surprised everyone, telling Igdalsky and track officials to

meet in the media room. When spokesman Bob Pleban handed over the

microphone, that’s when Mattioli broke the news.

”We always thought this was something special,” Mattioli

said.

Mattioli remained a staunch defender of the 500-mile races and

their place on the schedule even as critics bashed the length and

the facilities. Mattioli and Igdalsky worked hard to address

NASCAR’s concerns: The track underwent a 10-year renovation in the

1990s, adding new crash walls, a garage area and 150-site motor

home park.

Pocono recently completed a multimillion-dollar project that

bolstered safety and included a soft-wall barrier and catch

fence.

”For over four decades, Dr. Joe and Rose Mattioli have been a

big part of NASCAR’s success and their track has created many

memories for our teams, drivers and fans,” NASCAR chairman Brian

France said in a statement. ”As the Mattiolis step away from the

day-to-day operations at Pocono, we wish them all the best in

retirement and extend our heartfelt gratitude for their many

significant contributions to our sport.”

Igdalsky, 35, started working at the track as a teenager picking

trash and working at the sewer plant. He worked in nearly every

department at the track as he worked his way up the company

ladder.

He called his grandfather a visionary in the sport.

”He always told me, `If you get bored with what you’re doing,

change what you’re doing,”’ Igdalsky said. ”Don’t let work be a

four-letter word.”

Igdalsky’s brother, Nick, and sister, Ashley, received new

titles.

”When I realized my three grandchildren are capable, I started

thinking heavily about it,” he said.

The family owns the track as Mattco Inc. Mattioli, and his wife,

Rose, started the company with only $48, and it’s now valued at

around $600 million.

He always refused to listen to overtures to sell the track and

said it will remain in the family.

The only time Mattioli considered selling Pocono was in the

mid-70s when a CART-USAC spat led to financial trouble at the

track.

Mattioli wanted to sell until he received a call from NASCAR

patriarch Bill France Sr. The two met in New York and France tried

to persuade Mattioli to ride out the downturn and keep the

track.

France pulled out his business card and scribbled this

message:

”On the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones who when

within the grasp of victory sat and waited and waiting died.”

Blown up pictures of France Sr., his business card and the note

hang in the media room dining area.

Mattioli kept the track and racing in the mountains.

Now, the next generation is set to carry on his legacy.