Via press release on Thursday, April 7, 2016, Watkins Glen International (WGI) announced that Bob Varsha, Derek Bell, and Andy Lally will be on hand to help inaugurate the new track surface at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, April 15, 2016. Varsha is a Fox Sports announcer and will serve as emcee of the event. Racers Bell and Lally hold 10 sports car wins at WGI between them and each holds multiple 24 Hour endurance race wins — Bell at Le Mans and both Bell and Lally at Daytona.
The ceremony will begin on a stage at 11:15 a.m. and will feature remarks by Bell and Lally joined by state and local government officials and WGI President, Michael Printup. Following the remarks, a select group of Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) historic and vintage cars, representing different eras of the track’s history, will drive a ceremonial “first lap” around the 3.4 mile circuit. Hot laps with media and WGI partners will follow, with additional SVRA activities taking place from 2 to 3 p.m.
According to WGI, “Fans are invited to view the on-track festivities free of charge in the Argetsinger and Seneca grandstands by entering through Gate 2 off of County Route 16. The Toyota Green Grand Prix is scheduled to follow Friday’s ceremonial events.”
About the upcoming festivities, Printup commented, “We are thrilled to have Bob Varsha to emcee this historic day at Watkins Glen International, as well as Andy and Derek, who are two of the most successful sportscar drivers here.” He added, “It’s going to be a celebration. April 15th is the culmination of a lot of hard work by many people.”
The track’s $12 million repave project started immediately following the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Cheez-It 355 at The Glen last August when winner Joey Logano climbed into an earth digger and scooped up portions of the track at the start/finish line to ceremoniously begin removing the old surface. Repaving work continued into the fall, and this spring finishing touches have been put in place for opening weekend. The project marks the first completed Priority Project of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Council.
Other activities planned for Opening Weekend Fueled by Kwik Fill Red Apple, April 16-17, include the ARC Grand Prix Run (people, not cars) on Saturday morning starting at 8 a.m. and the opportunity for individuals to drive their personal cars out on the track for $25. both on Saturday and Sunday. Money is raised from these events for ARC (an organization that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; $20,000 was raised in 2014) and the R.A.C.E. (Racing and Community Enrichment) Foundation. R.A.C.E. will sell commemorative t-shirts and pieces of the old racetrack at the event also as a fundraiser.
The storied road course in upstate New York has hosted Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR, sports car racing, and many other series and racing events over its decades-long history. Watkins Glen International was voted the “Best NASCAR Track” by readers of “USA Today” in 2015. At the track over opening weekend, advanced priced tickets for the season’s events will be available. For more information about WGI’s ribbon cutting ceremony, opening weekend activities, or tickets for 2016 season racing or other events, see the track’s website or call 866.461.RACE.