Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Watkins Glen International

credit: NASCAR Media
One of two road courses currently on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit, Watkins Glen International opened in 1956; there was, however, road racing in Watkins Glen, NY prior to the track’s opening. Here’s a brief history lesson on WGI.
  • The first road races in Watkins Glen were held in 1948 on a 6.6-mile course using public roads. Sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), the street race featured spectators along the sidewalks until a car left the street course in 1952, killing one spectator and injuring others; the original course is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The race moved to another temporary 4.6-mile road course starting in 1953, and work began on a permanent 2.35-mile course.
  • The first NASCAR race at the Glen was in 1957, with Buck Baker taking the checkered flag; NASCAR returned for two more races (1964-1965) on the 2.3-mile course. The first Watkins Glen US Grand Prix Formula One race was held in 1961; the Glen hosted the event for 20 years. Financial problems led the Glen race to be dropped from the F1 schedule for 1981, and later that year the track closed with the exception of a few SCCA meets. The track was purchased by Corning Enterprises in 1983 and renovations began.  The track is now owned by International Speedway Corporation, purchased in 1997.
  • The Glen reopened in 1984, with NASCAR’s Cup Series returning in 1986. The Xfinity Series and K&N Pro Series East currently race during the Cup Series weekend, while the Camping World Truck Series and Whelen Modified Tour have also raced at the track. The Verizon IndyCar Series returned to The Glen in 2016 after a five-year absence.
  • Tony Stewart holds the record for most Cup Series wins at WGI (five), while Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin each had three poles at the track; Martin also holds the record for most top 10 finishes (16). The Cup Series qualifying record belongs to Marcos Ambrose – 129.491 mph, set in Aug. 2014.
  • 2008 marked the 60th anniversary of that first street race in Watkins Glen, and the Glen chose six Drivers of the Decade: Phil Walters (1948-1957), Graham Hill (1958-1967), Sir Jackie Stewart (1968-1977), Al Holbert (1978-1987), Mark Martin (1988-1997) and Tony Stewart (1998-2007).
  • For more information on Watkins Glen International, visit www.theglen.com.

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