The History of Watkins Glen International

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Watkins Glen International Raceway was the dream turned reality for law student Cameron Argetsinger in the late 1940s.  On October 2, 1948, the first post-World War II road race in the United States, “The Day They Stopped the Trains” began in the village of Watkins Glen.

In 1957, a year after the 2.3-mile permanent circuit was built, The Glen hosted its first professional race, a NASCAR Grand National Stock Car event.  The following year, true international competition began with a Formula Libre race.

The Glen hosted the first Watkins Glen U.S. Grand Prix in 1961 and so began a fall tradition that lasted through 1980.

After the expansion of the circuit in 1971, The Glen saw a wide variety of competition, including the Can-Am, Trans-Am, Six Hours, Formula 5000, and CART Indy Car Series.  The Glen hosted races won by great drivers including Mark Donohue, Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter, and Bruce McLaren.

The track closed briefly, due to financial difficulties, between 1981 and 1984, reopening on July 7, 1984 after Corning Enterprises purchased the track in early 1983, forming a partnership with International Speedway Corporation, resulting in Watkins Glen International.

By 1997, International Speedway Corporation bought out Corning Incorporated after Corning Inc. completed its mission to rebuild the race track and revitalize the Southern Finger Lakes Region.

This October will mark the 70th Anniversary of the track’s first race.  

For even more information on the history of Watkins Glen International, check out the History of the Glen at their official website, www.theglen.com.

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