What If They Gave A Funeral…And Nobody Cried???

Its demise was met with cheers, rather than any kind of sadness. Demolition of the media center at Watkins Glen International, first built between the 1970 and 1971 season, began “officially” on Wednesday, December 19, 2007. When I arrived just after 2 pm on Wednesday, preliminary work had aleady been done. In recent years, the outdated structure had become a huge target of (especially) the NASCAR press corps, who bemoaned its age, lack of amenities and looks. There was no question that it needed to be replaced as time had passed it by. It had become for WGI track president, Craig Rust, a constant source of embarassment and, quite frankly, an eyesore. So it is no wonder that he took great delight in wielding a backhoe bucket into the building as a ceremonial “first swing”.

Afterwards, media and staff members that had gathered for the occasion were invited to take their own swings into the building with sledge hammers–and nearly everyone did, including myself. Here, WGI Director of Communications Eiron Smith “winds up”…

One-by-one, others took their shots–WGI Media Relations Coordinator, Ryan Lake…


WGI Media Center Coordinator Mike Green…

Longtime announcer Al Robinson…

WGI track historian Bill Green…

And, “Corning Leader” motorsports editor, Chris Gill, among other members of the media, took shots…

For me personally, there was a tiny bit of mixed emotions. Sure, I know the building had outlived its usefulness and it had to go. But this track is special to me–I witnessed my first professional road race here in 1969, (the Can-Am series stop) and have been attending at least one race at WGI since then. When the track became insolvent in 1982 & 1983, I missed it terribly…so much so, that I travelled all the way up to Mosport Park Ontario, just to get my racing “fix”. When it was first announced that WGI would be back starting in 1984, I wasted no time in volunteering for the media center–THIS media center. Plus, the third floor “crow’s nest” announcer’s booth (far right topmost window in this picture) was the home of my first “professional” start as a motorsports announcer in the mid ’90′s.



Then, I started to think about the truly great racing legends who have visited the old WGI Media Center over the years. So many, in fact, that its almost unfair to try to name them all. (And not just NASCAR; remember, WGI was the “home” of the USGP Formula 1 race from the ’60′s to the early ’80′s). Here’s just a few that have raced here and walked into that building–Foyt (A.J., Larry, A.J. Foyt IV), Andretti (Mario, his F1 title in 1978 was huge for the Glen that year, along with Michael, John, Jeff & Marco), Donohue (Mark & son David), Gurney (Dan and son Alex), Rahal (Bobby & son Graham), Scheckter (Jody and son Tomas), Bell (Derek & son Justin), Fittipaldi (Emerson & Christian), Unser (Bobby, Al Sr. and Al Jr.), Mears (Rick & Casey), Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Phil Hill, Bruce McLaren, Denis Hulme, Hurley Haywood, Peter Gregg, Davy Jones, Elmira native, the late Bob Snodgrass…I could go on and on. Same thing with the most well-known names in NASCAR–Petty (Lee, Richard, Kyle & Adam), Earnhardt (Dale Sr. & Jr.), The Bodines from nearby Chemung NY (Geoff, Todd, Brett, Eric & Barry), Waterloo’s Mike McLaughlin, Allison (Bobby, Davey & Clifford), Labonte (Terry & Bobby), Parsons (Benny & Phil), Wallace (Rusty, Mike, Kenny & Steven), Busch (Kurt & Kyle), Waltrip (Darrell & Michael), Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Robby Gordon, Ernie Irvan, Mark Martin, Ricky Rudd, Jimmy Spencer, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards–again, the list seems endless. Even NE modified drivers like Reggie Ruggiero, Ted & Mike Christopher, Tim Connolly, the Blewetts, the Pasteryaks, Jerry Marquis, Mike Stefanik, Jamie Tomaino, Eddie Flemke–all raced at the Glen at one time or more in their stellar careers. And nearly all of them visited the first floor of the media center as it was the “social center” of WGI along with its normal duties as the workplace of the media. If you were a part of the racing community and you wanted to meet someone, chances are pretty good you met them on the first floor of the WGI media center.

Progress, it has been said by some, is like a signpost on a long journey. It tells us where we are going while reminding us where we’ve been. This old building could tell some pretty fantastic stories if it could talk. Now, a new building immediately behind the current location will add to the collection of stories, both true and untrue. The old WGI media center is history…and for most, that’s a good thing…

Mike Paz, Motorsports Announcer