Pocono Raceway spires

LONG POND, Pa. -- Not long ago, the horse racing bugle call to the post was broadcast through the Pocono Raceway public address system before the traditional “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

Track president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky chuckles. It was a family joke. His grandparents, Drs. Joseph and Rose Mattioli (he a dentist and she a podiatrist), were the founders and driving force of the sprawling and multi-faceted racing facility that sprung from a former spinach patch.

A fan of another form of racing, Dr. Rose never made it to Churchill Downs to watch the Kentucky Derby. So “Doc” had two steeples like those at Churchill Downs built atop the Pocono Raceway grandstand. A bugler was on hand for the unveiling.

Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 damaged one of the steeples, but it’s been repaired and the distinctive feature of the racetrack with the mailing address of Long Pond and Andretti Roads greeted IZOD IndyCar Series personnel and teams July 3.

Rahal seeking second victory for family at Pocono

Graham Rahal was seven months old when his father, Bobby, won the Quaker State 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 21, 1988, providing Truesports its final Indy car victory.

This weekend, the second-generation IndyCar driver seeks to claim the family’s second victory at Pocono in the No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Bob Rahal made eight starts on the 2.5-mile tri-oval from 1982-89 – the final Indy car race at Pocono until this weekend. His best start was second in 1984 and he qualified in the first two rows in six of his eight events.

It also was the lone Indy car win for a car powered by the Judd engine.

“(In ’88) to be honest, we weren't the fastest although we qualified well (third),” said Rahal, who earned a total of six top-five finishes. “The Chevys were much more powerful than the Judd was at the time, but it was a battle of attrition and in the end Al (Unser) Sr. and I had a fight. In the end we were the last ones standing so to speak. What made that race even more special was that earlier in the week we had broken ground on my first automobile dealership in Mechanicsburg, Pa., that started the Automotive Group we've got going today.”

Zoeller is grand marshal of race

Fuzzy Zoeller, a 10-time winner on the PGA Tour including the 1979 Masters and 1984 U.S. Open, will be the grand marshal of the Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco.

Zoeller is the founder and namesake of Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka, which is sponsoring the Fuzzy's Triple Crown. If Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan can win at Pocono and Auto Club Speedway (Oct. 19), he'll collect a cool $1 million. Failing that, a driver who wins two of the three races will earn a $250,000 bonus.

Pocono factoid

In the first Indy car race at Pocono Raceway on July 3, 1971, Pennsylvania native Mark Donahue won the pole for the Schaefer 500 at 172.393 mph in a car owned by Roger Penske. He led 126 of 200 laps during the race to take the checkered flag by 1.688 seconds over Joe Leonard. There were 16 lead changes.

Of note

Racing For Kids representatives Josef Newgarden, Sebastian Saavedra and Simona De Silvestro will visit patients July 5 at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger (Pa.) Medical Center. … Justin Wilson spent the IZOD IndyCar Series off weekend at Watkins Glen International, where he co-drove a Michael Shank Racing car to sixth place in the Grand-Am race. “I’m definitely looking forward to getting home and spending time with family,” said Wilson, who has the next two weekends booked with IZOD IndyCar Series races.