Photo: Chris Owens/ INDYCAR

Event Preview: The Indycar Grand Prix at The Glen

By Frank Santoroski, Staff Writer

This coming weekend the Verizon Indycar Series will race at Watkins Glen International for the Indycar Grand Prix at The Glen. The event is slated for September 2-4, 2016.

About the Race

The Indycar Grand Prix at the Glen is round fifteen of sixteen for the Verizon Indycar Series in 2016. The event is held on a natural terrain road course, one of six such races on the schedule.

The original version of the 2016 Verizon Indycar Series schedule had this weekend scheduled for the Grand Prix of Boston, but a number of issues caused the cancellation of that event. Indycar’s Jay Frye and WGI’s Michael Printup worked together to put together the race at Watkins Glen at the eleventh hour, much to the delight of the road racing faithful.

This will be the tenth race for Indy cars at Watkins Glen, but the first since 2010. The 2010 event was won by Team Penske driver, Will Power, who is solidly in contention for the 2016 Championship.

The race will consist of 60 laps for a total race distance of 204.18 miles. Standard road course qualifying procedures will apply.

Support races include action from the Indy Lights Series and the Ferrari Club of America.

About the Track

Watkins Glen International is a 3.40 mile natural terrain road course with eleven turns and more than 140 feet of elevation changes.  The track also has a ‘short course’ that bypasses the area of the circuit known as ‘The Boot’ and measures 2.45 miles around. The Verizon Indycar Series will utilize the long course, commonly known as the ‘Grand Prix Course.’ With a combination of high-speed straightaways and challenging corners, the facility has been a mecca of North American and International road racing for nearly seven decades.

Located in the picturesque Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, the Village of Watkins Glen first began hosting races in 1948 on a 28-turn temporary circuit on public roads. The early racing surface was primarily cobblestone, but sections of it were covered with wooden planks.  In 1956 a permanent course was constructed, measuring 2.35 miles. The circuit quickly gained prominence and, beginning in 1961, it became the home of the United States Grand Prix for Formula One.

The track received a major renovation in 1971, with the boot section being added, and several of the existing turns being reconfigured. In addition to the USGP, the circuit also hosted another high-profile event, the Six Hours of Watkins Glen for Sports Cars.

In 1980, the track fell onto financial hardships which led to the cancellation of the Formula One Race. Alan Jones, in a Williams car, won the final F1 race held at The Glen. Within a year the track filed for bankruptcy, leaving its future in jeopardy.

After seeing very little use for two years, and falling into a state of disrepair, the track was purchased by a partnership between Corning Enterprises and the International Speedway Corporation in 1983, giving it a new lease on life. International Speedway Corporation maintains ownership of the circuit to this day.

Under the new management, the aging facility has become completely modernized, fueled by a successful NASCAR Sprint Cup event held in the summer. The circuit currently ranks as a state-of-the-art racing complex with all of the amenities one would expect. The most recent modification to the course layout came in 1991 with the addition of the inner loop, a bus-stop style chicane going into turn five. In 2015, the entire racing surface was replaced, resulting in record speeds when the Indycars ran a tire test in June.

Like many old tracks, The Glen is seeped in racing history both on and off the track. The list of Watkins Glen winners reads like a who’s-who of motor racing legends. Many aging Grand Prix drivers are also happy to share stories of the wild post-race parties that became commonplace at the nearby Seneca Lodge.

With the return of the Verizon Indycars, the current schedule at Watkins Glen also features IMSA, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY series’, and the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix.

Event History

When the CART Series split from USAC in 1979, the inaugural season for the new series featured one road race, held at Watkins Glen on the short course. The Kent Oil 150 was actually the first Indycar race that I ever attended as a youth, and that experience is largely responsible for my love of Indycar racing today. Bobby Unser won the race that day, and the CART series continued with an event at the Glen through 1981 when the track filed for bankruptcy.

It would be 24 years before Indycars would return to The Glen. The Indy Racing League first added road racing to their all-oval series in 2005 with The Glen being one of their first choices. Scott Dixon won the first IRL race in upstate New York, starting a string of three consecutive Watkins Glen race wins for the New Zealander.

In 2009, the late Justin Wilson scored the first Indycar victory ever for the Dale Coyne team in a dominant performance where the Brit out-dueled both Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe.

With the addition of some of the existing CART tracks following the 2008 reunification, Watkins Glen disappeared off of the Indycar series calendar after 2010. The recent fiasco in Boston, combined with the addition of Jay Frye, who has ties with the International Speedway Corporation, to the Indycar staff, made the return to one of North America’s finest road racing venues a reality. Earlier this month, the 2017 Verizon Indycar schedule was released with Watkins Glen maintaining the early September date and a multi-year deal signed.

About the Field

The 2016 Verizon Indycar field represents one of the strongest, talent-packed, top-to-bottom lineups we have seen in years.

22 drivers will take the green flag at Watkins Glen. Of those, three are former winners at the historic circuit. Scott Dixon has three wins while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power have one victory apiece.

The current season points leader is Simon Pagenaud, who drives the No. 22 Chevrolet for Team Penske. Pagenaud holds a 28 point lead over teammate Will Power coming out of Texas.

Sixteen of the entered drivers are Indycar race winners, six have won championships in IndyCar or CART/Champ Car, and six are Indy 500 winners. Three of the drivers will be contending for rookie of the year honors: Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly, and Max Chilton. Rossi currently leads that group by a decisive margin after taking a win in the Indianapolis 500, an event that paid double-points.

Drivers in the series represent eleven different countries around the globe, making it a truly international field.

About the Series

The current Verizon Indycar Series was born out of the Indy Racing League, which absorbed the rival ChampCar World Series in 2008. In the years since the reunification, the series has seen slow, but steady growth.

Over the past several seasons the racing produced by the series has been second to none, and the Championship battle has gone down to the final race.

Without the benefit of a gimmick like the Chase, the Verizon Indycar Series has produced enough close racing and drama to satisfy the racing fan.

The positive growth in recent years bodes well for the Series that is owned by Hulman and Company. The centerpiece of the series is the Indianapolis 500, which celebrated its historic 100th running this season.

Teams in the series use a common chassis, the Dallara DW-12, named in honor of the late Dan Wheldon, who did much of the development testing of the car. The chassis has aerodynamic components that differ according to the engine manufacturer.

Chevrolet and Honda are the engine partners for the Series with each supplying a 2.2 Liter V-6 turbocharged engine to the teams that are capable of producing over 700 hp at 12200 rpm. All cars in the series run Firestone Firehawk tires.

Where and When to Watch

Tickets for the Indycar Grand Prix at The Glen can be purchased here. General Admission tickets for adults are $75.00 on race day, or $90.00 for the weekend. Tickets for children are just $15.00 for teens, and $10.00 for 12 and under.

Television coverage will be provided by NBC-SN.  Race coverage will begin at 2:00 pm EST on Sunday September 4. Practice and qualifying will also be televised on Friday at 11:00 am EST and Saturday at 6:00 pm EST.

Other coverage options include Sirius XM radio (Sirius:209, XM:212). Timing and scoring can be found at www.indycar.com and fans can keep up with all of the action on the Indycar Mobile app provided by Verizon Communications.

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A life-long racing enthusiast, Santoroski attended his first live race in 1978, the Formula One Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen. Following graduation from Averett College, Santoroski covered the CART series through the 1990s and 2000s for CART Pages and Race Family Motorsports in addition to freelance writing for various print and web sources. He produces a variety of current and historical content for Motorsports Tribune and serves as the host for the weekly radio broadcast,Drafting the Circuits,

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