IndyCar extends agreement with Pocono Raceway through 2018

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The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Pocono Raceway for its fourth straight year next weekend, Aug. 20-21.

And there now will be at least two more races to come as the sanctioning body and racetrack officials announced Wednesday morning a two-year contract extension to continue holding IndyCar races at the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle through 2018.

The exact race dates for both upcoming seasons are still to be determined.

“We are thrilled to share this great news that we will host the Verizon IndyCar Series through 2018,” Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky said in a statement. “Our track was originally designed for open-wheel cars and our fans really enjoy the action on the track.

“When you see these cars going six- and seven-wide it is incredible. We also received positive feedback from teams and drivers and worked together with IndyCar to make sure Pocono Raceway stays on the schedule.”

The IndyCar Series has raced at Pocono since 2013. Winners to date have been Scott Dixon (2013), Juan Pablo Montoya (2014) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2015).

Pocono previously hosted the CART Series from 1980 through 1989, with the exception of 1981.

“We’re thrilled to announce today’s two-year extension with Pocono Raceway – an iconic oval track with a long history of hosting great open-wheel racing events,” said Jay Frye, Verizon IndyCar Series President of Competition and Operations. “It’s very clear that Pocono is one of the favorites amongst the drivers, teams and fans of the Verizon IndyCar Series and we look forward to competing there for the foreseeable future.”

Several other notables also chimed in on the contract extension:

Team owner Roger Penske: “Pocono has been a terrific track for IndyCar racing and I think the teams, the sponsors and the fans have really enjoyed an entertaining show there since the series returned a few years ago. Team Penske has certainly produced some special moments at Pocono and we are looking forward to creating some more memories at the track in the future.”

Graham Rahal: “This is great news. We all love coming here. This place is one of the most entertaining and interesting ovals we go to and one of the most interesting tracks we go to period. And one of the most demanding. It’s three corners that have nothing in common and it’s difficult to make it work. It’s a lot of fun.”

Charlie Kimball: “This is great news. The Verizon IndyCar Series prides itself on having the most versatile drivers because we race on so many different tracks. Pocono Raceway is unique in that it’s 2.5 miles and has three corners. It really is unique and unlike anywhere else we race. I think it’s great that we can keep Pocono Raceway on the schedule and fans can mark their calendars and book their vacations and come out to the raceway. It’s a great event and IndyCar racing here is always spectacular.”

Tony Kanaan: “I think this is great. I am a big fan of this racetrack and consistency on the schedule is extremely important so I am all for it.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: “The on track show, the product we put on here last year was phenomenal. Lead changes throughout the race, six-wide throughout the straights, passing throughout the field, you couldn’t ask for a better product and hopefully we can do it again for the fans.”

Marco Andretti: “This is my home track so selfishly this is great news. There is a great long history of racing here at Pocono Raceway and I am excited we will continue to come back. I think our cars were made for this track. Trying to find the balance between turn one and turn three it will be a tremendous challenge.”

Scott Dixon: “That sounds fantastic. Pocono Raceway needs to be a place we visit each year and to build on the product we need to come here for a while. We need some longevity here.”

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”