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Auto Racing

Watkins Glen International

Cars are still on track

The racing season has ended, but cars are still on track. Take advantage of the best way to see this legendary road course and join us for one of our daily Thunder Road Tours at Noon and 5 p.m. Drive your vehicle around the Grand Prix circuit for just $25 per car.  See or visit The Shop at 2 North Franklin Street in downtown Watkins Glen for details.


Watkins Glen International, the birthplace of American Road Racing, celebrated 60 years of heart-pounding history in 2008. Today, the Glen hosts the NASCAR Series, Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen, as well as the US Vintage Grand Prix. Watkins Glen International is also home to the Finger Lakes Wine Festival.


Law student Cameron Argetsinger dreamed of bringing European style competition to the village where he spent his summer vacations. He drew up a challenging course that encompassed asphalt, cement and dirt roads in and around the village of Watkins Glen.

The dream became reality on Oct. 2, 1948. For five years, the top names in American sports car racing visited the small village and huge crowds came out to watch them race.

Competition moved to a temporary course in 1953, and 2.3-mile permanent circuit was built in 1956. The following year, The Glen hosted its first professional race, a NASCAR Grand National stock car event won by Buck Baker over Fireball Roberts.

The circuit itself was expanded in 1971, as the 1970s brought a wide variety of competition to The Glen, including the Can-Am, Trans-Am, Six Hours, Formula 5000 and CART IndyCar Series. Race winners included many of the top names in international motorsports, including Mark Donohue, Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter and Bruce McLaren.

Alan Jones' victory in the 1980 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen marked the close of an era. Financial difficulties led to the Watkins Glen date being dropped from the Formula One schedule and as a result, the bankrupt track closed following a CART race in 1981. Over the next two years the track fell into disrepair, hosting only a few non-spectator SCCA weekends.

Corning Enterprises, a newly chartered subsidiary of Corning Glass Works, purchased the track in early 1983 and formed a partnership with International Speedway Corporation, forming Watkins Glen International. The Glen reopened on July 7, 1984, with Al Holbert, Derek Bell and Jim Adams winning the inaugural Camel Continental at the renovated facility. On Aug. 9, 1986, fans witnessed Tim Richmond's triumph at the return of the Cup Series.

In 1991, Terry Labonte won the first NASCAR Busch Series race at The Glen, beginning an impressive streak of four wins in six years, including three consecutive wins from 1994 through 1996. His three-year win streak ranks him with other Watkins Glen three-time winners: Formula One ace Graham Hill, sports car drivers Al Holbert and Derek Bell and Cup driver Mark Martin.

The 1992 season saw a major reconfiguration of The Glen's back straightaway. The addition of the Inner Loop increased the length of the long course to 3.4 miles and the short course to 2.45 miles. The new turns enhanced competition while adding quality spectator viewing.

In 1997, International Speedway Corp. became sole owner of the historic road course, exercising a stock option buy-out of Corning Incorporated. The sale completed Corning's mission of rebuilding the racetrack while revitalizing the Southern Finger Lakes Region.

Thunder Road Tours

Give yourself a taste of what road racing is all about through our tour program, Thunder Road Tours. What is a few laps around New York's Thunder Road really like? How about this:

Follow the pace car down the frontstretch into the Ninety, twist, climb and claw your way up through the Esses and onto the backstretch, braking as you hit the Inner Loop and navigate the Carousel turn, then drop off the face of the earth into the depths of the turn-heavy Boot, climb your way out into Turn Ten, regain your senses and make a run for the finish line.

If you are up for the challenge, then make your way to The Shop in downtown Watkins Glen to purchase your tickets ($25 per car). Then head up to Watkins Glen International and take a tour in your own vehicle. From May through October, The Glen will be offering tours that include three paced laps beginning at 12 PM and 5 PM each day. Tour dates are subject to track availability and schedule and motorcycles are prohibited.

To get your tour pass, stop by "The Shop", the official retail store of Watkins Glen International, located at 2 North Franklin St. in the village of Watkins Glen. Or, for more information, give them a call at 607-535-2338.