© Andrew S. Hartwell
This weekend, the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series makes the first of three stops in 2005 at the "Road Racing Center of the East" - the Watkins Glen International circuit. The first race up is a 6 hour sprint / endurance / get out of the way affair, with the subsequent races to come at "The Glen" running for just 200 and 250 miles in length. Given the on-track action this series has yielded to date, we expect all three races to be worth the price of a ticket.
But just going to far away Watkins Glen at all is worth the trip, anyway.
Watkins Glen is the small town in upstate New York that first recognized the monetary and publicity value associated with the staging of professional sportscar races. In1948, a young lawyer by the name of Cameron Argetsinger persuaded the local politicians that a race held in the fall would help to extend the tourist season. He convinced the town leaders that an October race event would put the town on the map and bring in tourist dollars from far and wide. He was right, of course, with the first few years seeing townspeople - and those all important cash-carrying visitors from other towns across North America - lining the streets to watch daring thrill seekers in exotic cars chase after a black and white flag.
In those earliest days, those cars had equally exotic names such as Allard, Cunningham, Jaguar, Farago Special, Alfa Romeo, Bandini-Fiat, Vauxhall, and Gordini. And the men who drove them at breakneck speeds had names that ranged from the colorful like, Haig Ksayian, Ledyard Pfund, Zora Arkus-Duntov and Doctor Gandolph Vilardi, to the more mundane and ordinary such as Dave Garroway, John duMont, Sam Collier and Phil Hill.