Watkins Glen: Steppingstone to “NASCAR IDOL”?





Maybe it’s because the track is a road course located in the hinterland of upstate New York far away from the “mothership” formerly in Daytona FL and now in Charlotte NC as compared to the other more traditional oval tracks around the country or maybe it’s because it has a budget where it is forced to do much more with a lot less than other tracks or it could be that the people that have worked here are just darned good at what they do but for whatever reason Watkins Glen has become a tremendous talent pool that seems to churn out a lot of great people that NASCAR and its parent company ISC have wanted to hire for their organizations over many years since the facility first joined the ISC/NASCAR family.


For instance, there’s the first president of Watkins Glen, hands down the most successful of all:  John Saunders, who is now the senior president of ISC, the parent company of the NASCAR and its racetracks around the country. The only people with higher positions in the organization are all members of the France family. Then there’s former longtime Watkins Glen director of communications J.J. O’Malley who is currently ISC Senior editor of publications and has written several auto racing books. Another Watkins Glen former director of communications, Julie Giese now holds the same position at Daytona international Speedway, the crown jewel of NASCAR. Another former president of Watkins Glen, Bryan Sperber, is now President of Phoenix international Raceway. Glen former alumni, Scott Rovn(pronounced like “town”) joined Sperber in Phoenix. At the Glen he served as Director of Sales and Marketing and now serves in the same capacity at PIR.  I’m not done yet: a former director of marketing and sales at Watkins Glen during the same time period, Roger Curtis, climbed the ISC ladder of success, one rung at a time: after leaving the Glen he moved on to a similar position at Richmond international Raceway then went on to California Speedway as the senior director of advertising promotions, sales and marketing plus ticketing operations. He is now president of Michigan international Speedway. Still another former Glen President, Craig Rust, is now President of Chicagoland Speedway.Scott Swimley Glen Ticket Sales Manager also made the trip to Illinois to assume the same position there.  Sales and marketing at the Glen also produced another success story: John Beckman transferred to Phoenix for a similar role, from there he was picked up by ”corporate”(ISC itself). Longtime Glen Public Address announcer, Al Robinson, a long-time contributor to Chris Economacki’s “Speed Sport News, also announces at Daytona and was once the PR director at Dover International Speedway, plus he was also in the same capacity in what used to be called the Busch North Series and relinquished that role when it became the Camping World East Series. Andy Santerre, a four-time consecutive champion of that series met his wife Sue in the Watkins Glen Media Center and she is now the team’s PR agent, putting her education and experience to work and is also team co-owner along with her husband all the while being great parents to two daughters as they push their team towards one day becoming a Sprint Cup series participant. Ernie Thurston, now director  of ISC emergency services, started out in a similar capacity for Watkins Glen; in addition, his “career” began as a volunteer firefighter for the village fire department. Nobody mentioned here needed to sing their way to the top since to my knowledge, none of these wonderful folks have any great musical talent, except for Mr. Sperber, who also plays a pretty mean acoustic guitar. I know because I’ve heard him!

(edited for additions:mjp 3/26/2010 4:42pm)