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Watkins Glen International Speedway: The Trendsetting Underdog

With over 60 years of racing legend behind it, Watkins Glen International Speedway is a thrilling race location with a fascinating history and a bright future! As Clint Bowyer and the rest of the racing team head to Watkins Glen, New York for the Cheez-It™ 355 at The Glen later this week, we thought giving our fans a look back at this history of the track would be a great way to get their engines revved and ready for the race!

Watkins Glen International Speedway, nicknamed “The Glen,” was built in 1948 and designed by Cameron Argetsinger, a law student who used to spend his summers in the village of Watkins Glen. Argetsinger’s passion for European style racing, coupled with his fondness for this beautiful area on Lake Seneca was the impetus for the design of The Glen. His plan incorporated asphalt, cement and dirt roads, an exciting and challenging prospect in 1948. Initially, Argetsinger’s course was put into place as standard driving roads that wove their way throughout the village of Watkins Glen.

Racing dreams for Watkins Glen became reality on October 2, 1946; the date known as “The Day They Stopped the Trains”, this was the first road race in the United States following World War II. The top names in American racing loved coming to Watkins Glen and the course drew huge crowds to the small town for five years. In 1953, the racing was moved to a temporary track so a more permanent circuit could be built. The completed course was officially established in 1956, one year later Watkins Glen was home to a NASCAR Grand National Stock Car event, its first professional race. In 1958, the Formula Libre race was held, The Glen’s first taste of true international competition.

Drivers from the Formula 1 circuit made the trek to Watkins Glen in 1961 for the first Watkins Glen U.S. Grand Prix. After many popular crowd-gathering races, the course was expanded in 1971. Despite earlier success, in 1980 after the United States Grand Prix at The Glen, the track was dropped from the Formula 1 schedule which caused financial issues and ultimately bankruptcy for the track.

Despite the bankruptcy, Corning Enterprises bought the track in 1983, and with the partnership of International Speedway Corporation, the group formed Watkins Glen International and opened the course back up in the summer of 1984. The Glen continued to grow in popularity and in 1992 an addition to the Inner Loop made the long course 3.4 miles long (with 11 turns) and the short course 2.45 miles (with 11 turns as well). Ownership eventually went to the International Speedway Corporation in 1997.

Each year since 1993, tribute Grand Prix races have taken place at The Glen. 650 classic cars are featured (hundreds more sign up but don’t get a spot) and can be seen at the event each year which draws around 25,000 spectators. On September 6, 2013, visitors will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Grand Prix Festival by taking advantage of wine tasting, great food, live music, fireworks and more!

The Glen itself is an underdog story and has risen above many challenges to be a fan favorite! On the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, The Glen is one of two courses where the drivers have to make a right turn during the race. Being one of these two tracks makes a visit to The Glen a memorable one—a track that drivers look forward to racing and a race fans enjoy watching.

In 2012 Clint finished fourth at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Watkins Glen and we’ll be cheering him on again this summer. From one law student’s dreams of European style racing to a successful, booming race destination, Watkins Glen is sure to deliver racing excitement for both drivers and fans alike! The Glen brings in a greater economic impact than the Buffalo Bills football team, and we’re happy to have it on the racing schedule! Best of luck to Clint Bowyer and the rest of the racing team, hope to see you in Victory Lane at The Glen, boys!

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