Watkins Glen International (WGI) President, Michael Printup, announced that the track plans to hold a ribbon cutting for the newly repaved racetrack as part of its opening weekend events April 16-17 and that the event will be open to the public. The official spoke about the planned festivities in his talk for the “Conversation Series” at the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) in Watkins Glen, N.Y. on Saturday, February 27.
Speaking to an audience of over 100 on a sunny and warm Saturday afternoon in late February, Printup said that the $12 million repave project is complete except for a few finishing touches such as curbing and fence work. The repaving of the track itself was finished one week ahead of time, last October.
Describing the new track as “smooth as glass,” Printup indicated that the public would be invited to a ribbon cutting opening weekend, April 16-17. Plans for the ribbon cutting are ongoing with final commitments yet to be determined; however, the track has several irons in the fire to celebrate not only the iconic American circuit’s history in motor sport but also its promising future with NASCAR and sports car racing, as well as historics and other professional and amateur competitive auto racing events.
Printup mentioned names such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, racing commentator Bob Varsha as emcee, and racing legend Derek Bell as among those who have been invited and have expressed interest in participating in the ribbon cutting festivities. With the help of Tony Parella and the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA), WGI hopes to showcase 15-20 cars representing every generation in the track’s history, including Formula 1, as part of the opening ceremony. An official announcement with details and commitments on these possibilities will be forthcoming.
Printup passed around sample sections of the old track and the new track for the audience to see and handle. He explained how the chemistry of the track material was designed to hold up in the New York climate with active racing on it for about 15 years. Core sampling, he said, to check on the condition of the lower layers, would typically begin in around seven or eight years. He talked about how now, without the repair marks that used to make up the old track, drivers will need to adjust their prior techniques to the new, clean pavement.
In the question and answer part of the talk, Printup responded to several inquiries about other series racing at the track. It does not look promising, he indicated, that either Formula 1 would return or that the new Formula E series that is more centered around bigger cities, would race at the upstate New York track. He does not rule out, however, an IndyCar return one day.
When asked about NASCAR racing the boot section of the track, he explained some of the problems for the facility in handling that, or the changes it could make in the race (a shorter number of laps would likely result, for instance) but also did not rule out the possibility in the future. He also did not rule out another NASCAR/F1 car swap event like happened at the Glen a few years ago with Lewis Hamilton and Tony Stewart.
“Being a racing fan,” I’d race bathtubs if we could,” he quipped about his openness to talking with different racing series and other interested parties. He is not shy about taking news of the track with him on the road, either. He told the audience that he logged 120,000 domestic air miles in 2015.
Printup spoke optimistically about the improvements in the track, its increased camping space, sell-out crowds, being named “USA Today’s” Best NASCAR track in 2015, and the possibility of more facility improvements in the future. He brought more good news for those in attendance by offering each member of the audience a free ticket to the 2016 Sahlen’s 6 Hours of The Glen.
The next “Conversation” IMRRC event will be its 3rd annual model car show, March 18-20. The speaker will be Jan Hyde of the Corvette Historic Registry. Corvette, said to be conceived in Watkins Glen, will be the featured marque of the vintage weekend that returns to its normal spot on the calendar this fall.