Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Weekend at Watkins Glen International Raceway

I’m still a little dizzy from the fumes inhaled at Watkins Glen International Race Course this past weekend, where Larry and I spent two days watching the U.S Vintage Grand Prix.  

It was a blur of MGs, Corvettes, Porsches, Jaguars, Mustangs, Ferraris, in every variation imaginable, and a ton of other cars I couldn’t identify.  Some went faster than others, but they all had one thing in common – the dedication and enthusiasm of the people who drive them, take care of them, and follow them around the country to various events.

Car racing has no real appeal to me.  This was a weekend for Larry.  WGI is probably most well known for its annual NASCAR race, but they have numerous other events throughout the year.  (Check out their schedule here.)

Not your typical race track, WGI is 3.4 miles long (for the long course) and includes a variety of turns.  Bleachers were stationed at various points, so you could go traditional at the front stretch grandstand and watch pit row, or sit at a corner and watch everyone brake into a turn (much like the Northway going into the twin bridges at rush hour).  

The stars of the weekend were the vintage cars.  It was a bit like stepping back in time to watch them, many from the early to mid-part of the 20th century, revved up and racing around the track.  The races were broken up into groups by vehicle:  small displacement production sports cars, pre-1973 formula cars, pre-war (which war, it doesn’t say, but I’m guessing WWII), GT cars, and a slew of acronyms that I never figured out over two days.

Brummmm! Brummmmm!
WGI is an expansive facility; our tickets were all-access, so we were able to go pretty much anywhere we wanted.  It meant we walked miles – miles – each day, but it was worth it to see how much Larry enjoyed himself.  We also hiked the equivalent of Mt. Marcy in bleacher stairs.  

Not being a NASCAR race, there weren’t tons of fans in the stands.  But the folks who were there, well, they love their cars.  Participants ranged from a few true backyard hobbyists to racers sponsored as much as Dale Ernhardt Jr.  From the classic car show to the motorcycle expo to the random string of classic VW buses, people were there to enjoy and share their passion.  Even in the garage, where drivers and mechanics were busy with all the intensity of a NASCAR event, folks took the time to chat and explain things and share a story or two.  

Garage row
One of the fun games to play, particularly in the garage area, was “Is That His Daughter or His Girlfriend?”  You get to use all your powers of observation and deduction to get to the right answer.  Sometimes an unassuming chat with one or both parties is necessary to come to your conclusion (Larry was particularly good at this).  Even then – who knows.

By the time we left Sunday, I had seen enough.  While Larry had me take his picture with every Porsche we passed on the way out, I was ready to stab myself in the eye with a spork.  But it was so worth it to see him enjoy himself.  

It reminded me of when dad and I would go to horseshows (as spectators, not competitors) all the time.  We dragged mom along once, and afterwards she said never again.  “You two have to stop and look at every horse, every bucket, every bale of hay, every eye hook in the wall,” she said.  Dad and I said, “Well, yeah.”

Payback is, well, you know.

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