In May 2006, a newly-hired, part-time worker, just weeks out of college, was led to sit down with Dr. Joseph Mattioli on his first day of work at Pocono Raceway. The Raceway was the 21-year olds “home” NASCAR track and the first place he had ever seen a live race, nearly nine year earlier. As the employee was guided to President of the track’s office, he was told by Dr. Mattioli’s daughter-in-law that this meeting is a way for the Dr. Mattioli to meet the “new blood.” Not knowing what to expect, a gradual nervousness began to build within the new employee.
Upon entering his office, this young man was introduced to a very stern and focused individual who appeared deep in thought making final touches to the event plan for the June race weekend. The employee was extremely nervous now, hoping he wouldn’t say the wrong thing to a figurehead in the NASCAR realm, as it may disrupt any chances of pursuing a career in auto racing. And, of course, the young man slipped during a response to the first of Dr. Mattioli’s questions by saying, “Yes, Mr. Mattioli.”
“Did you really just say that? Oh no, my life is over,” this new employee thought to himself. His heart started beating out of his chest, he broke into a profuse sweat and turned beat red in his embarrassment. But, it typical Dr. Mattioli fashion, after waiting just a few more seconds to let the embarrassment fester, gave a response that calmed the nerves of his new young hire.
The response began with laughter followed by a response, between laughs, that went something along the lines of, “Kid…Mr. Mattioli was my father’s name. You work for me now. Call me Doc.” The two would go on to have a wonderful conversation as Doc was engaged in his discussions with this young man, even though a race weekend was right around the corner. Doc took time out to hear about the young man’s passion and life goals, as well as, to offer advice. It’s a conversation the new employee remembered, not only during his first 3-month stint at Pocono Raceway that summer, but when he was welcomed back to the track’s family a little under a year ago under the direction of Doc’s grandson, Brandon.
I am the young “kid,” as Doc called me six years ago, in the story above. His words always touched people and it is with sadness that he is no longer with us. Over the last 11 months, I’ve heard stories about the man, who I feel, was larger than life. Most are filled with laughter reminiscing accounts of the way Doc ran things here and each tale gives me a glimpse into this legend’s life and the amazing family business be built from the ground up.
My role at Pocono Raceway allows me to interact with the race fans each day. The impact Doc had on them is evident with the outpouring of comments left on Facebook, Twitter and our website. I had the chance to look them over last night and was overwhelmed with emotions as I continued to read each of their heartwarming messages.
His legacy, professionally and personally, continues with his family and the employees of Pocono Raceway. I am forever grateful to the love and support they have shown me. They welcomed me back with open arms and are now my second family, being there when times were tough and always willing to offer their assistance whenever needed. I share this because their friendship and generosity is hereditary. It has been passed along from generation to generation, starting with one person, the Raceway’s patriarch, Doc!
The impact of Doc had far exceeds the realm of this region or NASCAR. He truly was a giant who touched more lives than people will ever realize. He’ll be dearly missed, but he’ll never be forgotten!