History is Everywhere at The Glen

Aug. 5, 2010
Nate Siebens, Contributing Writer

Scott Pruett wheel the No. 01 TELMEX BMW/Riley around Watkins Glen International in the June 6 Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – If you’re heading to Watkins Glen International this weekend for the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen, make sure you take a good look around.

Because what you’ll see without looking very hard at all – both at the racetrack and in the surrounding areas – is history. Watkins Glen International calls itself the “Soul of American Road Racing,” and it’s definitely earned that distinction.

The circuit that currently hosts annual GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series events has been used for racing since 1956. In fact, The Glen was the home of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix from 1961 through 1980.

But the racing history in Watkins Glen, N.Y. dates to at least 1948, when races were held on streets and roads in and around the small town in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Maps of the old circuit are readily available, especially at the International Motor Racing Research Center on 610 S. Decatur Street in Watkins Glen

“One quick stop should be at the library,” recommends David Donohue, who will co-drive the No. 59 Brumos Porsche/Riley with Darren Law on Saturday night, and whose family has a long and storied history at Watkins Glen. “You can get a map of the old track and drive around.

“Just to see what they raced on and the mentality of what a racetrack was back in the ‘40s is pretty interesting. It’s pretty neat. It’s a big track. It would be crazy fast by today’s standards, but something about running through the woods and the fields at speed, you’ve got to wonder about people back then.”

Donohue also suggests a hike around the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park and dinner at one of the restaurants surrounding Seneca Lake – or even dining onboard a boat in the lake. Other musts for racing history buffs have got to be stops at the Glen Motor Inn or the tavern at Seneca Lodge.

There is plenty to do and see at the racetrack throughout the weekend as well. In addition to on-track Rolex Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup action, there will be live music at the Budweiser Tiki Hut – including a Saturday night appearance from American Idol finalist Bo Bice – and the McDonald’s Kids’ Zone for kids of all ages, as well many other activities.

But the main focus, as always, is what’s happening on the racetrack, and Donohue has some great pointers for those looking to maximize their viewing experience.

“I’d move around,” he says. “Certainly, the bus stop, or the Inner Loop (at the end of the back straight) is an exciting place. You see the failure of patience there often, shall we say, especially if it’s taken a guy a couple laps to get a move on somebody.

“Turn 1 is challenging to view from, because the cars pop into view about when they’re getting on the brakes if you’re on the infield. Now if you’re on the outside of the track, you can see a pass develop a little bit more and you can see them fighting for position up through the esses, so if you’re going to do Turn 1 viewing, do it from the outside of the track.

“Also, as the sun sets, that creates some interesting challenges. The second to last corner (Turn 10) becomes a challenge, and has been a challenge in the past, actually because of the infield lights. In the paddock, there are some really bright lights that sort of shine in your face and can cause visibility problems for the drivers. It has for me in the past.”

And while weather concerns have played a role many times in previous events at The Glen, Donohue expects this weekend to be outstanding.

“It looks like the forecast is about as perfect as you can get, with 80-degree temperatures during the day, low 80s, and 50-degree temperatures in the evening,” Donohue says. “And a zero percent chance of rain. For a spectator and visitor, it’s going to be a perfect weekend.”

History is Everywhere at The Glen

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