Twice a month, we will utilize this blog to showcase some of the employees of Pocono Raceway.
Today, we feature Patti Bodnar-Angeloni, Vice President / Credentials. Patti has three children, a daughter Kristina and sons A.J. and Michael. She also has two adorable grandchildren. She and her partner Gary reside in Drums, Pa.
Q: When did you start working at Pocono Raceway?
Patti: I started part time at the end of 1993. My background is in business retail and retail management. I had two small children and decided to stay home for the first five years of their lives. I decided it was time to go back to work and I didn’t want it to be in retail. The hours are long, you work weekends and holidays as well. So I decided to do something else, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I liked racing and Pocono Raceway was right here. I always liked the hospitality industry, I like talking with people and being around them. I watched racing every week, Rusty Wallace was my favorite Driver, #2 Miller car. So I sent a resume and two weeks went by. I was hearing back from other places, but not Pocono Raceway. I didn’t want to work at those other places, I was determined to work at Pocono. When I didn’t hear back I called and got Bob Pleban (recently retired Vice President of Administration). He said he had my resume but they didn’t have an opening. I let him know that I really would like the chance to work at Pocono. So another week went by, and Bob called and said he had something part-time, would I consider it. I said yes. I did intend to go back to work full time, but I figured in the meantime I would take it. I worked three days a week for Bob, helping him and his assistant at the time. Six weeks went by and Bob’s assistant left. I was summoned into Dr. Joseph ”Doc’s” Mattioli office and he asked, “Angeloni, you want a job?” I said I would love a job. Doc said, “But you work for me.” I said, “absolutely.” So I worked for Bob as his assistant full-time for four years. I also did credentials as well. Ginny Terry would come in during the summer and help out in the department. Ginny, Bob and I were all in the same little office. From that department, I did credentials too. We had a lot of fun, we worked hard though. We also did all of the trade shows back then. That’s why I say I paid my dues when it comes to trade shows. I can’t remember how many we went to but it was a lot. We were all over, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey. They were productions back then, we would rent a truck and put everything in the truck. We had this pit wall custom built and the maintenance guys would come up in a truck, rivet this thing together and decal it all up. It was quite a production but we had a great time. So I did the P.R. aspect with Bob and then also credentials and learned a lot.
One of my favorite things I did back then was the Make-A-Wish tours. I really enjoyed that, it was rewarding. One of my favorite Make-A -Wish tours was a little boy named Ryan, I still remember him. Ryan sadly passed away about three weeks after his tour. His wish was to meet Rusty Wallace. Rusty worked with us quite a bit because at the time Miller was our sponsor. Rusty was great he would come to tradeshows and sign autographs, we did the Miller parties with him at shows. So I knew Rusty, he was really great with kids. We set it up for Ryan to meet Rusty and I took him into the garage, he was in a wheelchair and the little boy was all decked out in Rusty Wallace garb, and Rusty came out of his hauler and talked to him, it was great. The little boy was thrilled beyond belief. Rusty signed the back of his wheelchair in gold sharpie, put the #2 on it and gave him all kinds of memorabilia. So that was the highlight. Sadly, he passed away and his mom sent me a beautiful letter thanking Pocono Raceway for making his wish come true.
We would also go to other tracks and I can remember one race, Bob and I went down to Dover for a race and it was pouring rain on a Sunday morning, and half of their volunteers didn’t show up. Bob and I did the garage tours for them.
The company was growing so departments started being separated and moved. Credentials was a big department and took up most of my time. “Doc” decided to make me a Department Head and have credentials be its own department. So it was pulled from Bob’s department and then I got my own office.
Q: Describe your current role as Vice President / Credentials. (Patti was promoted to Vice President in 2007)
Patti: We used to have a small out building (shack) near Gate 3 that was for credentials for race weekends. I would have to move my whole office, everything. All of my books, computer, printer, all the stock, etc. But every night when I closed, I would have to take everything back down and leave it in the vault. There was no heat and no air-conditioning in there and some mornings it was really cold and then some days it was so hot it would trip the system. We made it work, it was fun, we never complained because we were having fun. Now, we have a bigger office for credentials. The best part of my job, I think, is race weeks when people come in, because “Doc’s” philosophy was always, Pretty, Friendly and Clean and he wanted people treated here as if they were coming to your home and that’s what we always did, and that’s what we still do. When people come into the credential office on race weekends we want them to feel comfortable and at home. It’s usually the first door they come in at Pocono Raceway. So that first experience should be positive, they should feel welcome, they should feel at home and that’s what we try and do. I have an excellent team and their guest relation skills are impeccable. It’s fun to get to see the people that are in the industry because you’ve known them forever, and it’s like they’re coming back for a visit to your house, and it’s great to see what happened in their lives. Every year we try and improve to make the process easier for them. We just launched a new system that we built for credentials and I am super proud of it. We’re always trying to improve and make things better for people so that when our race comes up on the schedule guests are looking at what’s next, their excited that Pocono’s coming up. We credential every staff member, every event staff, souvenir vendors, sanctions, media, team, everyone here that does not have a ticket needs a credential, and that’s thousands of credentials. Logistically it all has to work, so logistics is also a huge part of my job. Making sure people have no trouble getting to where they need to be. My job is to make that as easy as I can for them so they can enjoy themselves and not worry about any issues with getting stopped.
Q: Do you have a favorite “Doc” Mattioli story?
Patti: “Doc” was larger than life. He was a great boss and friend. The first time I met Doc was an experience. He was coming down the hall and I didn’t know who he was, I had never met him. He goes, ” Who are you?” and I was kind of bewildered, so I asked “Who are you?” and he just burst out laughing. He said “I love that, that’s great,” and he says, ” I’m Doc, Doc Mattioli, now who are you? I imagine you work for me.” So I told him who I was, and he asked, ” who do you work for?” I said Pleban, and he stuck his head in and he says, “Pleban, she work for you?” Pleban said yes. Doc laughed and said you’re a good kid, and walked away. I was mortified, I just met the CEO and thought I really flubbed that up! He truly was larger than life. He was legendary and he had such a big personality that it filled a room, and when he spoke, there was silence. He commanded the room, he just had such presence. Dr. Rose (Mattioli) was the perfect partner. They were the perfect combination because they played off each other so well. Dr. Rose is a lady, refined, elegant, exquisite woman and brilliant, both of them, what a powerful combination, like the dynamic duo. They were wonderful to work for. They were so good to their staff and you always felt included. You always felt that you part of something great and you were excited to be part of that. I’m not exaggerating, it’s truly how it was working for them. Their family is extremely fortunate to be blessed with them as parents and grandparents because they were just phenomenal, remarkable people. I miss him terribly. Sometimes you would be able to go and sit in his office for a half hour and talk. He wanted to know about you, your family. It was easy, it was comfortable. We just sat and chatted. He did that with everybody.
I always said and I still do, even though how hard we work and we all work hard here, we have the best staff on the circuit, I would put our staff up against anybody’s. Even with how hard we work, I always said I could never work a real job again. A normal job would just seem so dull now. Not to say that normal jobs are dull, I don’t want to offend anyone but after you do this and you’ve been involved in this sport, even just event management/entertainment how do you go back to doing something else? It gets in your blood and you can’t. I mean when the command to start your engines is given I still get goose bumps up and down my arms, it’s going to be twenty-three years in August. You know when you still get goose bumps you love what you’re doing.