On the tip of Seneca Lake is the beautiful Village of Watkins Glen with wineries, waterfalls, and treasured racing history. Watkins Glen is also the home to one of the most popular racing tracks, Watkins Glen International.
“You could probably call Watkins Glen International the heartbeat of Watkins Glen,” said Michael Printup, President of Watkins Glen International.
WGI brings people from all around to watch races and for other events, but the history of racing in the village did not start on the track that is there today.
Printup said, “In 1948, right after WWII, six gentlemen started racing downtown Watkins Glen, they raced down there for about three years through the streets, through the hills behind me, and eventually ended up here.”
After decades of hosting some of the most prestigious races, Watkins Glen International hit hard times and filed bankruptcy, but they were saved but a local company.
“Corning Incorporated decided to buy it, to have something for their executives to do a professional venue. So they got our company involved, we took it along, and then we had a buy out option and we bought them completely out in the ‘90s, but if it wasn’t for Corning Incorporated, this place might be just about four feet of weeds,” Printup said.
With COVID-19, the future of fully reopening the track to fans remains uncertain, but plans are already being made for when that can happen.
“We will hopefully have a limited number of fans for our races that are coming up,” Printup said. “We’ve got NASCAR in the middle of August, our vintage racing that is coming up in September, and our world challenge coming up as well, so, and IMMSA, so we look forward to all our great racing coming up, but we have to make adjustments. Only essential employees will be allowed, everybody will be tested in and out of the facility, there will be secure zones and areas that we won’t let fans in at all, if we are allowed fans.”
[[Note: On July 8, it was announced that NASCAR’s race would not be happening in August due to the coronavirus pandemic]]
Embedded in the village are reminders of the racing history, including the Driver’s Walk of Fame, which showcases the names of drivers that have raced in Watkins Glen.
“We have the most famous area on top of the most famous race track,” Printup said. “When you start speaking about our world-class wines, our world-class state parks, Watkins Glen State Park, we have it all right here. The lakes are beautiful, the fishing is awesome but between the wineries and everything else to visit here and our restaurants, we have the perfect little setting for every family to enjoy. Even if you don’t come to the race track, you can go to town and have a ball in Watkins Glen.”
So whether you come for the racing, boat tours, or wine tasting, there is plenty of activities for the entire family in Watkins Glen.