Farewell to The Glen?


The weather was fabulous at Watkins Glen for last weekend’s Indycar race. The sun shone brightly all weekend and Will Power scored an excellent win from pole for Team Penske. But the weekend unfolded amid a poignant atmosphere as rumours persisted that this was the last time Indycars would race at the Glen. The track is owned by the International Speedway Corporation and new Indycar boss Randy Bernard is weighing up whether he should continue to do business with ISC because of the disappointing turnout for most Indycar races at its tracks, Watkins Glen included.

“This is a beautiful track,” Bernard said at the Glen. “The weather’s perfect and there’s quite a lot of fans out there – a lot of campers. I’d like to find a way to continue to race here. But I’m held accountable for my bottom line and I want to make sure each facility is held accountable with plenty of butts in the seats. I don’t want to go anywhere where we don’t have the full support to make the event successful.”


Bernard said he’s still talking to Watkins Glen about next year. “We have to have an answer within six weeks and it might happen sooner than that,” he said. “We need to make sure we give our team owners and sponsors plenty of opportunity to be able to plan for next year. The key is to get 18 promoters behind us who really want to make the series grow to reignite open-wheel racing. That’s one of my primary goals.”

“We love this event, ” said Watkins Glen president Michael Printup. “These guys and girls race the hell out of this track, so I’m personally pushing very hard. We have a fantastic camping crowd this weekend and I’m pretty excited about that, especially in this economy. We did take a bit of a risk and put a lot of advertising dollars up in Toronto and Niagara Falls. I’m not sure that paid off. I really thought we could bring a lot of those people down here, but I don’t know if that’s working.”


As delightful a place to visit as Watkins Glen is, the crowds for the six Indycar races run at the track since 2005 have been disappointingly poor. Back in the Glen’s heyday it used to draw huge crowds not only for the United States Grand Prix in the fall, but also for July’s Can-Am, Formula 5000 and Six-Hour World Championship sports car races. The village of Watkins Glen was full of crowds all weekend and traffic jams filled the road up to the track.

But the only race that pulls a serious crowd to the Glen these days is August’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event, first run in 1986. As NASCAR took over as the dominant force in American racing the Glen has struggled to find a healthy sports car or open-wheel alternative. Everyone hoped the Indycar race would be successful but it looks like last weekend’s event was the end of the road, and possibly the end of any major form of racing at the track save NASCAR.


“It’s like Spa, ” said Power after his victory. “It’s the nicest track we race on. You can pass here – it’s a flowing track with fast, banked corners. It’s a real dream to drive, especially when the car is working. I’d be really disappointed if we don’t come back here.”

Road racing in America started in 1948 on an open road circuit through and around the village of Watkins Glen. But 60 years later the great tradition of mid-summer road races at the Glen appear to have come to an unhappy end, leaving NASCAR in command of the track that was once known as the ‘home of American road racing’.

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