WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WETM) – The race track we know today as Watkins Glen International went through major changes for over 70 years, both in appearance and location.
In 1948, Cornell Law Student and Sports Car Enthusiast Cameron Argetsinger proposed an amateur road race known as the “Watkins Glen Grand Prix” to the Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce. The circuit mapped out by Argetsinger was a 6.6-mile long race track, containing mostly paved roads with a short stretch of dirt and gravel. Both the start and finish lines were located in front of the Schuyler County Court House. The track made its debut on October 2nd that same year.
“Racing started here in 1948,” said Mark Steigerwald, Executive Director for the International Motor Racing Research Center. “We were the first post war American road race in America.”
Car racing was hosted at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Circuit until 1952, when the race was moved to a new location on a hilltop southwest of town. The change happened in response to several accidents, some of which were fatal, in the latter years of the original course. A permanent road course with multiple improvements opened in 1956 with the debut of the 9th Watkins Glen Grand Prix. The course would be renamed to “Watkins Glen International” in 1983 after a deal between Corning Enterprises and International Speedway Corporation.
Today, part of the original circuit can be found on N. Franklin St., with the start and finish flags flying in front of the Schuyler County Court House. The current race track still stands on the same hill top as it did in 1956, with improvements introduced in the 2000’s, including the addition of frontstretch grandstands and housing booths for series officials.
NASCAR Xfinity Series returns at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, August 20th at 3 PM EDT. “Go Bowling at the Glen” returns the following day at the same time.