Skip to content

Rick Mears excited about Indy car return to Pocono after 23-year absence

Jul 1, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

Rick Mears sits on the wall during practice for the Indianapolis 500 in Indianapolis. Reuters

He hasn’t driven a race car since retiring in 1992, but when modern-era drivers talk about the return of Indy cars to Pocono Raceway for this Sunday’s Pocono IndyCar 400 Fueled by Sunoco, invariably the first name out of their mouths is legendary driver Rick Mears.

“He was the master of this place,” Helio Castroneves said of Mears in a recent interview with the Scranton (Pa.) Times-Tribune. “We’ve heard a lot about this place. We’re honored to be back here with Team Penske. Hopefully, we can do the same as Rick Mears did in the past.”

Mears, now in his 21st year as a consultant to Penske Racing, dominated Indy car racing at Pocono – until the track stopped hosting open-wheel racing in 1989.

But even as the hiatus ends with this weekend’s race return to the 2.5-mile tri-oval track in Long Pond, Pa., what Mears did there in a relatively short period of time is the kind of thing that legends are built from.

In just 10 races at Pocono (nine in the old CART series and a 10th in the USAC Champ Car series), Mears won three times, had six overall podium finishes (including two runners-up and a third) and earned four pole positions.

His average career finish there: an outstanding 8.3.

“You can never have too many tracks and you can never have enough tracks,” Mears told the newspaper. “I’m a racer. I like to run on all of them. Anything with a history like here with our cars, I think it’s great to get back.”

Much like it continues to remain a challenge to other series that have raced at Pocono for decades, including NASCAR, the track’s unique three-turn layout – with no turn the same – should make for some exciting racing this Sunday.

“It was like having three race tracks in one,” Mears said. “So the challenge was getting set up for three race tracks with one car. That was part of the fun.”

While lots has changed since Mears last appeared at Pocono a quarter-century ago, a famous old saying appears to still be true: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“You still basically have to get the balance of the car the way you want it,” Mears said. “The patterns on the race track as far as the line goes don’t change much. What was a good line back then is a good line today. All that stuff is still relative and still comes into play.”

Even with such a lengthy layoff, Penske Racing returns as one of the most dominating Indy car teams in Pocono track history, with seven wins there between 1971 (the late Mark Donahue) and 1989 (its last there with Danny Sullivan). In addition to Mears’ wins in 1982, 1985 and 1987, Tom Sneva (1977) and Bobby Unser (1980) also won there under the Penske banner.

Said current driver Will Power, teammates with Castroneves at Penske Racing, “Pressure’s on.”

Latest Posts
  1. Get your calendars ready for conflicts: Here’s the IndyCar/sports car ones in 2015

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

    Long-Beach-Lead Getty Images

    Get your calendars out and start marking up which series run where, when.

  2. Haas releases time-lapse video of F1 factory being built

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Gene Haas Formula One Press Conference Getty Images

    The team’s planned entry to F1 in 2016 takes another step forwards as the factory is completed.

  3. Kevin Harvick to make 500th Sprint Cup start, seeks first Texas win

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:41 AM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Stewart-Haas Racing) (Photo courtesy Stewart-Haas Racing)

    Kevin Harvick makes his 500th career Sprint Cup start this Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

  4. 2015 IndyCar schedule officially revealed; 17 races including 12 on NBCSN (VIDEO)

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

    James Hinchcliffe AP

    IndyCar takes the wraps off its 2015 schedule, with 17 races and a heavy jockeying of dates in the second half.

  5. Bianchi remains “critical but stable” but continues to fight, says family

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:16 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Japan Getty Images

    The Bianchi family issues a new statement over three weeks on from Jules’ accident in Japan.

  6. MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: United States GP

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Russia F1 Gp Auto Racing AP

    The MST writing team makes its picks ahead of the race in Austin, Texas.

  7. Has Formula 1 cracked the U.S. market in Austin?

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Race Getty Images

    The difficulties faced by Formula 1 in the United States seem to be long gone, with a great home in Austin, Texas and a booming fan base. Has the problem child of a market finally been righted?

  8. Behind the scenes: Lewis Hamilton on TODAY (VIDEO)

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Practice Getty Images

    Behind the scenes of Lewis Hamilton’s day at the TODAY Show.

  9. John Force to debut much-anticipated 16X Funny Car this weekend in Las Vegas

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    john force 16x car for las vegas 2014

    When it comes to this weekend’s Toyota NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, John Force is taking his effort to win his record-extending 17th Funny Car championship to a high power. As in 16X.

  10. NASCAR America video: Jeff Gordon hanging on edge

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    (AP photo/Steve Helber) AP

    On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Kelli Stavast talked with Jeff Gordon about the difficulties of advancing to the final round of the Chase.

  11. NHRA Top Fuel veteran Bob Vandergriff Jr. to step aside at season’s end

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/The Topeka Capital Journal, Chris Neal) AP

    It was just a matter of time for NHRA Top Fuel drag racer Bob Vandergriff Jr., and now that time has come.

  12. Kyle Busch may not walk on water, but he sure can glide on it (video)

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT

    kyle busch superboat

    With some of the things he says or does on the racetrack, Kyle Busch might seem like he’s all wet at times.

  13. IndyCar: Jack Hawksworth ready to go full-throttle for Foyt

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Jack Hawksworth AP

    Hawksworth: “We’re here to win, to give 120 percent.”

  14. Vettel and Ricciardo bring F1 to the streets of Austin (VIDEO)

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of USA - Previews Getty Images

    Downtown Austin gets treated to the first big event of the F1 weekend.

  15. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA covers critical Homestead test at 5 p.m. ET

    Oct 29, 2014, 4:54 PM EDT

    nascar america

    Coming up today: More on this week’s critical test at Homestead-Miami Speedway; an in-depth look at the Drive for Diversity program; Parker Kligerman shows you what it takes to be tops at Texas in the NBC Sports iRacing Simulator.

  16. Report: Plea deal delayed again for ex-NASCAR driver Tyler Walker in 150-mph, 3-state police chase

    Oct 29, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy Utah Highway Patrol) (Photo courtesy Utah Highway Patrol)

    After 10 delays to resolve the most serious charges against him stemming from a three-state police chase that reached speeds as high as 150-mph, will the 11th time finally be the charm for former NASCAR and World of Outlaws racer Tyler Walker?

  17. IndyCar: Foyt expands to 2 cars, adds Hawksworth alongside Sato

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    HawkSato Getty Images

    A.J. Foyt’s Honda-powered team expands to two cars, with Jack Hawksworth joining Takuma Sato in the lineup.

  18. Scott Lagasse Jr. to drive for RCR in NNS season finale at Homestead

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT

    (Images courtesy Richard Childress Racing) (Images courtesy Richard Childress Racing)

    Even though it will only be his third appearance this season in the Nationwide Series, it’s kind of fitting that Florida native Scott Lagasse Jr. will compete in the third NNS race and season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

  19. IMSA: CORE autosport celebrates its fourth straight PC team title (VIDEO)

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Photo: CORE autosport Photo: CORE autosport

    CORE autosport looks back on its fourth straight PC team title.

  20. Krista Voda to become host for NASCAR on NBC coverage next year

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    nbcsports1 (1)

    Voda will serve primarily as host for pre/post-race coverage of Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series events on NBC Sports.

Video from NASCAR America

Jeff Gordon hanging on edge
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. M. Crafton (1226)
  2. D. Hamlin (1127)
  3. K. Harvick (1087)
  4. J. Logano (995)
  5. T. Stewart (970)