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Munson suggests NASCAR racetrack for county

September 01, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioner John C. Munson thinks a stock car racetrack would be a good fit here, and he wants his fellow board members to support the idea.

Munson suggested on Tuesday that the board write a letter to the owner of Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., asking him to build a track in Washington County.

Munson said he got the idea after he heard that the owner of Pocono Raceway wanted to upgrade a dirt track in Cumberland, Md., to possibly attract national stock car racing.

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Pocono Raceway hosts two NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races a year, NASCAR's top series.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich said Friday during his visit to Washington County that he had a conversation earlier that day about the possibility of bringing NASCAR's Busch Series to Western Maryland, possibly including Washington County.

Many young and new drivers race in the Busch Series before possibly moving up to the Nextel Cup Series.

NASCAR representatives did not return a phone call on Tuesday.

Joseph Mattioli III, whose father, Joseph Mattioli Jr., owns Pocono Raceway, on Tuesday afternoon shot down the idea of his family building a stock car track in Washington County.

He said Pocono Raceway wasn't interested in building any other tracks and hasn't looked for a location in Washington County.

"Washington County has a great race track already - Hagerstown Speedway," Mattioli said.

He also said his proposed upgrades to the Cumberland dirt track are not affiliated with Pocono Raceway.

Mattioli III owns South Boston Speedway in Virginia and has a leadership role with Pocono Raceway.

Munson, a NASCAR fan who travels to a few races a year, said a national-level stock car track in Washington County would create jobs, boost the county's economy and attract thousands of fans.

"It's not a bunch of rednecks," Munson said. "If it was, I wouldn't be there."

"It's one of the fastest-growing sports in America," Munson said.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said a track was considered for Washington County about 10 years ago but the idea was shot down for "multiple reasons." He did not elaborate on what those reasons were.

The commissioners did not respond to Munson's request to ask Pocono Raceway's owner to build a track in Washington County.

In 2002, then-West Virginia state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, proposed building a "NASCAR-style" track in Berkeley County near the Inwood, W.Va., exit along Interstate 81.

The proposal prompted a response from NASCAR President Mike Helton, who said NASCAR had no connection with the proposal.

Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for corporate communications, said the chances that NASCAR would race in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle were unlikely. He said NASCAR's schedule was full and the existing tracks were looking for additional dates.

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