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The Official Watkins Glen Thread


loumindar
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Good morning fellow Chumps and greetings from Watkins Glen International. This is Lou Mindar (Brother Lou) and I’ll be your eyes and ears this weekend for ChumpCar’s very first visit to this historic road racing circuit.

Today is a practice day for the Optima Batteries ChumpCar World Series. Cars are currently going through tech and the track will go green at 12:00 noon ET. More than 90 cars are registered for the two 7.5 hour endurance races this weekend.

This weekend’s schedule looks like this:

Friday Practice: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Saturday Race #1: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm

Sunday Race #2: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm

Note: All times are Eastern Daylight Savings time

The weather for today’s practice is cool, windy and raining. The temperatures are in the low 40’s and it has been raining on and off (mostly on) all morning. This should make for an interesting practice.

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History Lesson #1

Racing started at Watkins Glen on October 2, 1948. That very first race was held on the streets of Watkins Glen, including both paved and dirt roads. That race, known as “The Day They Stopped the Trains,†was the very first road race held in the U.S. following World War II.

The current closed course was built in 1956 and the track hosted its first NASCAR race in 1957. That race was won by stock car legend Buck Baker. The following year, Watkins Glen ran its first international event when the track played host to the Formula Libre series.

Formula One came to Watkins Glen for the first time in 1961 for the U.S. Grand Prix. The inaugural race winner was Innes Ireland. Winners in following years included such greats as Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart Nikki Lauda, and James Hunt.

In 1971, the track was expanded and welcomed other race series, including Can-Am, Trans-Am, Formula 5000, and CART. Winners from those series include Mario Andretti, Mark Donohue, Jody Scheckter, and Bruce McLaren.

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Cars are on track making laps, but the rain and wet track are keeping speeds down. We've had a couple of minor spins, but nothing too bad so far. At the moment, there are only 8-10 cars taking advantage of the practice session. As cars make their way through tech, I expect we'll see more cars on track.

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Thanks for the updates Lou, really wish I was there !!!!! Is timing and scoring going to be used today or just for the race. As of now see nothing as far as that goes ? Know it's wet but still curious as to who's doing what ? Oh well I always have you ! :) Keep the info coming ! and thanks !

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History Lesson #2

Watkins Glen fell on hard times when they lost their Formula One date following the 1980 U.S. Grand Prix. The track struggled for another year, but ultimately closed down after the CART race in 1981. For the next two years, Watkins Glen played host only to amateur racing events and ultimately fell into disrepair. The track was purchased in 1983 by the Corning Glass Works, and Corning formed a partnership with International Speedway Corporation (owner of Daytona International Speedway) to run races at the circuit.

The track re-opened in July 1984 and the first race run was an IMSA Camel Continental endurance race that was won by Al Holbert, Derek Bell, and Jim Adams. NASCAR returned to Watkins Glen in August 1986 when Tim Richmond won the first Bud at the Glen. In 1991, NASCAR Champion (and past ChumpCar driver) Terry Labonte began an impressive streak of winning four NASCAR races at Watkins Glen in six years, including three consecutive races from 1994 through 1996.

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History Lesson #3

Did You Know? – Davy Jones set the fastest road course single lap record in 1992 at Watkins Glen when he qualified for the pole of the IMSA Camel Continental IX with an average lap speed of 150.334 on the 2.45 mile short course.

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For the most part, drivers are behaving themselves today. We have about 40 cars on track and, with the exception of a few minor incidents, the practice has been clean and uneventful. However, the track is drying and speeds are increasing. We have two hours left in the practice, so stay tuned.

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History Lesson #4

Watkins Glen was originally built in 1956, but the track has seen a lot of changes over the years. The first major change occurred in 1971 when the track was lengthened and the facility was expanded to accommodate more race series and larger crowds.

In 1992, the back straightaway was reconfigured and the Inner Loop was added. These changes increased the overall length of the track to 3.4 miles. The short course was lengthened to 2.45 miles.

The big change in 1997 was off-track, when the International Speedway Corporation (owner of Daytona International Speedway (ISC), Talladega Speedway, Darlington Raceway, and Phoenix International Raceway) exercised an option in their agreement with track owner Corning Glass Works, and took over sole ownership of the track. Corning’s goal when they originally bought the track was to rebuild the race track and revitalize New York's Finger Lakes Region. With that goal accomplished, Corning stepped back and ISC took over.

In 2005 major improvements were made to spectator areas around the track. Upgrades were made to the track itself in 2006, including repaving turns 1, 5 and 6, as well as improving drainage around the course.

At the end of the 2007 season, the old Press Tower was demolished and was replaced in 2008 with a state-of-the art media center. 2008 also saw the addition of two pit boxes, bringing the total to 43 pit boxes.

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