The history of the fabled road course at Watkins Glen International was celebrated Saturday through the pages of two recently published books during a “Center Conversation Speaker Series” event held at the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen.
The first book featured was “Watkins Glen International,” co-authored by Michael Argetsinger and Bill Green and published as part of Arcadia Publishing’s new NASCAR Library Collection series.
Argetsinger has authored many motorsports books and is the son of Watkins Glen’s racing founder, the late Cameron Argetsinger. Green is chief historian for The Glen and the research center.
Another highlight Saturday was a talk by author Philippe Defechereux, author of the book “Watkins Glen, The Street Years, 1948-1952, Glory, Drama and the Birth of American Road Racing.”
Defechereux‘s book, released in 1998 as part of The Glen’s 50th anniversary season, was updated and re-released in 2011 by Dalton Watson Fine Books. The new edition contains many additional photos.
“Watkins Glen International” covers, mostly in photos and captions, the long history of The Glen, from the first races in the streets of Watkins Glen and the subsequent permanent track years up to and including last season.
Defechereux is a native of Belgium who now resides in New Jersey. His first edition featured photos and text exclusively concentrating on the first five years of street racing, starting in 1948, in Watkins Glen.
Argetsinger said the completion of his book was special as it deals with the legacy of the decades of racing at The Glen, a legacy started by his parents with support in 1948.
He called his parents, Cameron and Jean Argetsinger, a great combination.
“They were a wonderful couple and they just had this tremendous team ethic, and they had so many great friends and people who followed my father’s leadership,” Argetsinger said. “They didn’t do it alone.”
Argetsinger mentioned the contributions of the late Bill Milliken, who died last year at age 101. Milliken, from Williamsville, was part of the group that built the early racing efforts at The Glen.
“Bill and my father worked so closely together for so many years to make The Glen a success,” Argetsinger said. “They worked well together.”
As a young boy, Green attended the first street race in the village, and has been a big part of The Glen ever since. He is considered a walking encyclopedia on all things pertaining to The Glen.
Green has also written and edited other books. This was his first time partnering with Argetsinger on a book.
“I think when I saw the first race here on Oct. 2, 1948, I decided even as young as I was that I wanted to be involved with collecting things and keeping track of what was going on with the racing here,” Green said. “I started my history career, I guess, as a kid collecting the race programs.”
Defechereux was happy to have updated his book in 2011.
“In the last 13 years since that first book came out, many new things have been discovered like new photographs that needed to be updated because 13 years is a long time,” he said.
“Also I had the possibility of doing a brand new chapter about how many of the cars that raced in those amazing five years, the street years at Watkins Glen as we call them before the permanent Glen track was built, are now worth millions of dollars and have a high interest today among collectors, auction houses and fans of vintage sports cars.”
Also on hand at the research center observing the activity was Hamburg native Michael Printup, the current president of Watkins Glen. Printup addressed a few issues Saturday.
Last season The Glen ran its biggest annual event, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held each August, without the benefit of a title race sponsor. Since that time, a sponsor was signed for this year’s event. The race is now billed as the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen.
“Not having a title sponsor last year for the most part didn’t change how we do things and how we went about our business but having a title sponsor always helps,” Printup said. “That’s why we look for them.”
Also, in 2012, the track switched the race day of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen sports car event from a Saturday to a Sunday and increased attendance was the result. This season, the six-hour endurance event again will be on a Sunday, June 30.
“Actually the race fans asked us to switch it to Sundays because they said Sunday was a much better traditional race day,” Printup said. “We listened.”
The IndyCar Series last raced at The Glen in 2010 and many fans have been hoping for a return engagement. After the firing of former IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard last fall, a new regime has taken over, with Mark Miles serving as the CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of the IndyCar Series. Also this past week, veteran open wheel owner Derrick Walker became IndyCar’s president of operations and competition. Will these developments foster a series return to The Glen?
“I think probably the bigger thing besides Mr. Miles being in charge, I think the best thing for us is what Derrick Walker brings to the table,” Printup said. “He just took over working for Mr. Miles, so that’s really good news. Walker has been around and knows that we offer some of the best road racing in the world, so hopefully he’ll give me an opportunity to sit down with him and we can chat about the future. We’ll see.”