Dr. Joseph Mattioli, founder of Pocono Raceway, announces retirement
In the 1960s, Dr. Joseph Mattioli made a bold move by deciding to build a race track on a former spinach farm in the Pocono Mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania.
|Dr. Joe Mattioli|
On Friday at that race track, Mattioli made an equally bold move.
During a press conference at Pocono Raceway, the 87-year-old Mattioli announced he is resigning as the track's chief executive officer and that he and his wife, Dr. Rose Mattioli, are retiring. He is turning over the everyday duties to the three oldest of his seven grandchildren.
"As many of you know, we've been around here for quite a while. I came up here about 50 years ago. The years went by fast, and my wife and I feel it is about time I got the hell out of here. So as of today, I'm resigning all of my positions at Pocono Raceway and take it a little easy."
Brandon Igdalsky, 35, who already was president of the track, will also be the CEO. Nick Igdalsky, 34, will be the chief operating officer and executive vice president. Ashley Igdalsky, 30, will be secretary and treasurer.
The news came as a complete shock to Brandon Igdalsky, who said he had no idea Mattioli was going to make his announcement.
"To hear him say, 'We're retiring,' that in itself, for me growing up here, was hard to hear," Igdalsky said. "Then to hear the second part was shocking â€¦ and exciting. We've got some big shoes to fill, that's for sure."
A former dentist, Mattioli became involved with a group that wanted to build a race track in the Poconos. When he didn't like the direction the project was going, he bought out the other investors and did it his way.
Pocono held its first race on its three-quarter mile track in 1968. Its first 500-mile IndyCar race was in 1971 and NASCAR arrived in 1974.
Over the years, the track has witnessed many highs and lows. Perhaps the lowest point came during the feud between the Championship Auto Racing Teams and the United States Auto Club. Mattioli was caught in the middle and put him in financial difficulties that had him considering selling the track. But NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. convinced Mattioli not to sell. Shortly thereafter, Pocono received a second race date and Pocono, in essence, was saved.
As a result, the France and Mattioli families have maintained a close relationship over the years.
"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 and CEO 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."
Driver Jeff Gordon, who has raced at Pocono since 1993, said the Mattiolis are special people who have always cared about the track, the competitors and the fans.
"To me, a great sign of what kind of leader you are is those who take the reins after you. I think he's done a pretty awesome job to put it in good hands," Gordon said. "He's certainly put in his years of dedication and commitment, so he can enjoy himself a little bit and let somebody else do the work around here. I feel pretty confident that (Pocono) will continue to be a strong group effort to put exciting races on here."
Mattioli is equally confident his grandchildren are ready to take over at Pocono.
"Brandon, Nick and Ashley are well-trained to do what they have to do," Mattioli said. "I realize that they are capable. They really are three super kids. I feel happy and lucky to have these three kids. I'm sure they'll take care of everything in a proper way."
Doc and Rose Mattioli, who married in 1948, have three children - Joseph, Marilou and Michelle - who make up Pocono Raceway's executive committee along with track accountant Dale Capone. TheTimes-Tribune