fbpx
Favorites

© 2022 BVM Sports. Best Version Media, LLC.

Favorites

Watkins Glen open again, optimistic for NASCAR weekend

Watkins Glen open again, optimistic for NASCAR weekend
NASCAR Watkins Glen Auto Racing - AP Photo/John Munson

The roar is back at New York’s Thunder Road.

Three months after its opening day was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic, Watkins Glen International is hosting car clubs again as NASCAR weekend looms in mid-August.

“Everybody is excited about getting back in the saddle. I know we are,” track president Michael Printup said. “We had some people on furlough and we were able to bring back almost every single person, so that’s good. It’s good to get the activity going, get the track hot.”

Car clubs returned to The Glen two weeks ago and Printup expects the car club schedule will quickly be booked through Nov. 1.

And that would be a very good thing.

“It’s been pretty quiet,” Printup said. “When you think about car clubs, we turn those track rentals three times a week. You’re changing 150 to 400 drivers a week that are driving the economy and this community. It’s sorely missed.”

WGI is a major economic driver in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. NASCAR weekend has sold out five straight times. Attendance figures are not released by the stock car organization, but local officials peg it at over 90,000 annually since 2015. Judy McKinney Cherry, executive director of the local Partnership for Economic Development, figures the track’s economic impact is at least $275 million annually, based on the most recent study.

Printup figures that number might be down as much as 75% this year. “It’s a pretty big number,” he said.

Downtown Watkins Glen businesses have been hit hard.

“It’s been a challenge, there’s no question about it,” said Scott Bell, general manager of the Harbor Hotel, which has remained open during the pandemic. “We’re seeing occupancy levels that can’t even be explained. We don’t create the demand, we support the demand, so to have the track open and car clubs coming in, there’s a pulse back in the region, which is wonderful to see.

“It drives the economy, no question about it. We need all cylinders churning in order to capture whatever we can the rest of the summer.”

Most of the schedule at Watkins Glen has been shuffled. IMSA’s annual sports car endurance race, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, was moved from late June to the first weekend in October and now has been switched to Labor Day weekend. The Sports Car Club of America’s Majors Super Tour, originally slated for June, and the Finger Lakes Wine Festival in July have been postponed until 2021.

Untouched so far is NASCAR. Its Cup and Xfinity series are slated to race Aug. 15-16, perhaps before thousands of fans.

Printup said WGI’s proposal to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be to allow only people from the state and within 150 miles of the track to attend.

“We think we have a pretty good plan on being able to allow a limited number of fans,” Printup said. “We know that to ask him to bring fans from outside the state was probably going to be a big stretch.

“It’s all about social distancing, temperature takes of every fan,” Printup added. “We can social distance them in the grandstands. We have plenty of those.”

And surely plenty of space to spread out. WGI covers more than 1,800 acres, one of the largest of the 12 tracks NASCAR owns.

“We could probably get 30% to 50% (capacity), but I think to be reasonable we’re going to have to probably bring that number down just to make the governor and his team comfortable,” Printup said. “If they get 30,000 at Bristol (in mid-July), that’s probably the outside of what we could do.”

So far, the coronavirus has barely touched Schuyler County, surrounding the track. Only 14 cases among its 17,800 residents had been documented by late June, with no hospitalizations and no deaths.

The county is one of the most vulnerable economically in the region because it relies heavily on tourism, McKinney Cherry said.

“Because the season doesn’t really get rolling until late May, we were in a better position than other communities because many of our businesses were still in hibernating when the mandatory closures occurred,” she said. “This community is one that can probably handle visitors coming in because they are taking safety very seriously. … Any small sniffle that they (WGI) have creates a cold for the rest of us in the community.”

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Get local sports news direct to your inbox

Originals

more
Top PG Robert Dillingham chooses Kentucky

Top PG Robert Dillingham chooses Kentucky

The latest prep prospect to change his collegiate destination is Robert Dillingham, who committed to…

Noah LaFine proving upside as Vanderbilt baseball commit

Noah LaFine proving upside as Vanderbilt baseball commit

Noah LaFine committed to Vanderbilt and won a state championship at Archbishop Hoban as just…

Ranking the Big Ten football coaches going into 2022

Ranking the Big Ten football coaches going into 2022

Who are the best football coaches in the Big Ten?

Carson Pickett’s historical USWNT debut with a limb difference

Carson Pickett’s historical USWNT debut with a limb difference

Carson Pickett makes history as the first player to play for the USWNT with a…

Sean Stewart brings family pedigree to Duke

Sean Stewart brings family pedigree to Duke

Sean Stewart will get the opportunity to suit up for the Blue Devils.

Giannis, Thanasis Antetokounmpo portrayed by Agada brothers in ‘Rise’

Giannis, Thanasis Antetokounmpo portrayed by Agada brothers in ‘Rise’

Disney’s ‘Rise’ tells the story of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokoumnpo’s path to the NBA…

Mike Grier to become first Black NHL general manager

Mike Grier to become first Black NHL general manager

Mike Grier is set to add to that history as he becomes the first Black…

Jace Arnold joins Badgers as highest-rated 2023 recruit

Jace Arnold joins Badgers as highest-rated 2023 recruit

Jace Arnold is the highest-rated football recruit to commit to the Wisconsin Badgers.

A look back at the 2020 Tampa Bay Rays

A look back at the 2020 Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays came into the 2020 season with high expectations for themselves and…

Notre Dame commit David Lally looking toward MLB future

Notre Dame commit David Lally looking toward MLB future

David Lally had a tremendous career at Grand Blanc that included a state title and…

Louisville commit Zion Rose concludes special junior season

Louisville commit Zion Rose concludes special junior season

Zion Rose is one of the top Class of 2023 players in Illinois and one…

Eric Brown’s journey from 0 offers to 2022 MLB Draft prospect

Eric Brown’s journey from 0 offers to 2022 MLB Draft prospect

Eric Brown put his faith in God and now he is a potential first-round MLB…

Mitchell Robinson back with New York Knicks: Instant reaction

Mitchell Robinson back with New York Knicks: Instant reaction

Mitchell Robinson is back with the Knicks after agreeing to a new contract. Here is…

Mark Johnson looks to climb the mountain again with Wisconsin

Mark Johnson looks to climb the mountain again with Wisconsin

Mark Johnson will look to add to his historic resume in his 20th season as…

Ryan Niblett ready to bring track speed to Texas football

Ryan Niblett ready to bring track speed to Texas football

Texas Longhorns’ four-star WR commit Ryan Niblett will team up in Austin with No. 1-ranked…

Future Badger Paytn Monticelli now a two-time Gatorade POY

Future Badger Paytn Monticelli now a two-time Gatorade POY

Two-time Gatorade Wisconsin Softball Player of the Year Paytn Monticelli is continuing her career with…

Bobby Portis returning to Bucks on four-year, $49 million deal

Bobby Portis returning to Bucks on four-year, $49 million deal

After being an integral part of the Bucks’ championship run in 2021 and having a…

Kevin Durant requests trade from Nets; Which team lands KD?

Kevin Durant requests trade from Nets; Which team lands KD?

Kevin Durant has requested out of Brooklyn to set up one of the biggest trades…

Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks: Instant reaction

Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks: Instant reaction

Jalen Brunson is finally a Knick. Here is everything you need to know:

Nick Van Exel is perfect for Trae Young, Dejounte Murray

Nick Van Exel is perfect for Trae Young, Dejounte Murray

Nick Van Exel, a fan favorite point guard from his time in the NBA and…