(This story originally appeared as exclusive content on the Verizon INDYCAR Mobile app).
LONG POND, Pennsylvania – One of the favorite parts of the Verizon IndyCar Series is the unique venues that are on the schedule. From the epic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to the iconic streets of Long Beach, California, to the “National Park of Speed” at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Then there is Pocono Raceway, site of Sunday’s ABC Supply 500.
It’s layout alone makes it different than any other track on the schedule. It’s not a true oval, it’s a triangle, with three turns instead of four. All three turns are different, making it a challenge for the driver and engineers that devise a setup for the race car.
But that’s not all that makes Pocono stand apart.
When Dr. Joe Mattioli realized a dream of building Pocono Raceway in the late 1960s, he carved it out of land that was part of a spinach farm in the Pocono Mountains resort area of northeast Pennsylvania. Nearly 50 years later, part of Pocono Raceway will return to its roots with creation of an organic farm.
The project is overseen by Ashley Walsh, the oldest granddaughter of the late Dr. Mattioli and his wife, Rose, and the sister of Nick Igdalsky, Pocono Raceway CEO and president of the Mattioli Foundation.
“It’s funny how things are cyclical in this world,” track president Ben May said. “Doc Mattioli’s oldest granddaughter is kicking off a project called ‘Pocono Organics.’ It will be an organic regenerative farm right outside the raceway gates at the corner of Long Pond Road and Highway 115. She is looking to get that project underway in partnership with Rodale Institute.”
Rodale Institute, a global leader in regenerative organic agriculture, is a nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. Rodale has been putting science behind best practices in organic agriculture for more than 70 years. The vision is to turn Pocono Organics into a model sustainable and regenerative organic farm.
Under the plan, Pocono Organics will construct a 30,000-square-foot “barn” designed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Standards that will be used for processing and storing organic crops, including fruit, vegetables, herbs, grains and flowers. The state-of-the-art facility will have a living vegetative roof that captures rain water for re-use. During Phase 1, more than 38,000 square feet of greenhouses will be built and connected by corridors to the barn to expedite the progression from growing to processing in all seasons.
“Like all of Doc and Rose’s grandchildren, they have a great business mind and she is doing something she is passionate about and they are diversifying outside of motorsports,” May said. “And, I’m sure spinach will be one of the vegetables that will be grown on that farm.”
It won’t be the first “farm” on Pocono Raceway grounds, however. The track also has a 25-acre solar panel farm (shown below) that provides enough power for the facility and 800 to 1,000 area homes for the full year.
“Pocono Green is our brand there and a big part of what we are doing,” May said. “We went online in 2010 with that 25-acre solar farm and have (generated) over 26 million kilowatt hours (of electricity) to date. It powers everything we need, and we don’t store the power, we send it back to the grid. That provides enough power to 800 to 1,000 homes that we require to run our facility.
“What has been interesting is Pocono Green and the solar farm is really all we had since then, but now we use the solar farm as a springboard to recycle, composting and other efforts like that. We are tracking at 75 percent this year on the diversion number and that means 75 percent of our waste isn’t going to a landfill. That is something we are proud of and a little bit of the direction that solar farm kicked off for us.
“We love doing it and it’s a lot of fun to do.”
Meanwhile, on-track activities for the ABC Supply 500 begin with practice at 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday. The 60-minute session streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.
Verizon P1 Award qualifying for the 22 entered cars starts at 1:30 p.m. and airs live on NBCSN. A final practice is set for 4:45 p.m. (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and on the INDYCAR Mobile app).
Coverage of the 200-lap race on the “Tricky Triangle” commences at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.