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Watkins Glen urban legend(?)

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  • Watkins Glen urban legend(?)

    I've come across a story about ISC's acquisition of Watkins Glen, from various online columns, blogs and forums (none permanent); and also word-of-mouth from fans at motorsport gatherings. The following is my recollection of how it usually goes:

    Not long after International Speedway Corp. purchased Watkins Glen Int'l, a truck pulled up the facilities and headed to a building that housed many priceless pieces of memorabilia--letters, books, photos, posters, checkered flags, trophys, and more, much of it autographed by the racing stars that have been part of WG's rich history since its beginning. Workers got out of the truck and announced that they were employees of ISC, and that the contents of this building were the sole property of ISC, and that these contents were headed to a landfill, because American motorsport's heritage was NASCAR.

    Employees of WG became aware of what was happening, and called the city's Chamber of Commerce. City fathers rushed to the track to stop it. After a physical altercation nearly broke out, law enforcement arrived to diffuse tensions. After negotiations, the track was allowed to keep the memorabilia, and some of it was the foundation for the Watkins Glen Motorsports Library.


    Is there any truth to this story? Large or small elements of truth? Or is it pure baloney? This story comes from the era of the height of NASCAR's popularity bubble, and its hubris, and fans' contempt for it. Just wondering.
    "Thank God for the fortune to be here, to be an American."--Alan Kulwicki, 11/15/92

  • #2
    Originally posted by dalz View Post
    I've come across a story about ISC's acquisition of Watkins Glen, from various online columns, blogs and forums (none permanent); and also word-of-mouth from fans at motorsport gatherings. The following is my recollection of how it usually goes:

    Not long after International Speedway Corp. purchased Watkins Glen Int'l, a truck pulled up the facilities and headed to a building that housed many priceless pieces of memorabilia--letters, books, photos, posters, checkered flags, trophys, and more, much of it autographed by the racing stars that have been part of WG's rich history since its beginning. Workers got out of the truck and announced that they were employees of ISC, and that the contents of this building were the sole property of ISC, and that these contents were headed to a landfill, because American motorsport's heritage was NASCAR.

    Employees of WG became aware of what was happening, and called the city's Chamber of Commerce. City fathers rushed to the track to stop it. After a physical altercation nearly broke out, law enforcement arrived to diffuse tensions. After negotiations, the track was allowed to keep the memorabilia, and some of it was the foundation for the Watkins Glen Motorsports Library.


    Is there any truth to this story? Large or small elements of truth? Or is it pure baloney? This story comes from the era of the height of NASCAR's popularity bubble, and its hubris, and fans' contempt for it. Just wondering. [sic]
    There is a degree of truth to the story. Look no further than to what happened immediately following Jim Trueman's acquisition of Mid-Ohio, to its parallels with actions you understand occurred at Watkins Glen and to materials that ended up incorporated into the IMRRC to see that such tales should not necessarily be considered wholly fanciful.

    A new broom sweeps clean. Sometimes people or institutions end up getting hurt. Sometimes the damage is irreparable.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by dalz View Post
      After negotiations, the track was allowed to keep the memorabilia, and some of it was the foundation for the Watkins Glen Motorsports Library. [/I]

      Is there any truth to this story? Large or small elements of truth? Or is it pure baloney? This story comes from the era of the height of NASCAR's popularity bubble, and its hubris, and fans' contempt for it. Just wondering.
      Why not just contact the IMRRC and ask? (since the IMRRC is the actual name of the "Watkins Glen Motorsports Library" )
      "Versions of a story that are more tidy, compact, and camera-ready should generally be viewed as historically suspect." - Jackson Landers

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      • #4
        Originally posted by editor View Post

        There is a degree of truth to the story. Look no further than to what happened immediately following Jim Trueman's acquisition of Mid-Ohio, to its parallels with actions you understand occurred at Watkins Glen and to materials that ended up incorporated into the IMRRC to see that such tales should not necessarily be considered wholly fanciful.

        A new broom sweeps clean. Sometimes people or institutions end up getting hurt. Sometimes the damage is irreparable.
        Thanks, but you can't leave me hanging like that. Do you know anything else about it? I never knew about issues at M-O when Trueman took over either.

        Originally posted by JThur1
        Why not just contact the IMRRC and ask?
        Solomon couldn't have said it better. I'll give that a try. Thanks to you (and editor) for straightening out the name too.
        "Thank God for the fortune to be here, to be an American."--Alan Kulwicki, 11/15/92

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        • #5
          It sounds like it has a bit of a TV script to it.

          This really wasn't at the peak of NASCAR's popularity the first Cup race was in 1986 and NASCAR wasn't nor did it have the reputation at that time of being the evil empire taking over all of motorsports as The Glen, purchased with Corning Glass was only the third track they bought after owning Daytona and Talladega. So that part doesn't make sense and why would they bother making one of their first moves emptying a building of memorabilia, even more so taking it to a dump?

          The second part of the story you can craft a better scenario. Like. Some longtime fans, employees, former employees, participants etc. knew of the memorabilia stored at the track, coveted it and heard of the sale. They cook up the story about being ISC employees there to empty the building and take all the junk to a landfill. They aren't going to admit that they want it all because it's valuable. This is meant to confuse the track people who know of the sale but likely not much more. They rent a truck, show up and try to take all the memorabilia for themselves. If the cops get called the crew probably can't show a work order and before somebody on the scene can get in contact with ISC they back off and say the bosses can straighten everything out later and they take off empty handed.
          "You can't arrest those guys, they're folk heroes"
          "They're criminals"
          "Well most folk heroes started out as criminals"

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          • #6
            Originally posted by dalz View Post
            I've come across a story about ISC's acquisition of Watkins Glen, from various online columns, blogs and forums (none permanent); and also word-of-mouth from fans at motorsport gatherings. The following is my recollection of how it usually goes:

            Not long after International Speedway Corp. purchased Watkins Glen Int'l, a truck pulled up the facilities and headed to a building that housed many priceless pieces of memorabilia--letters, books, photos, posters, checkered flags, trophys, and more, much of it autographed by the racing stars that have been part of WG's rich history since its beginning. Workers got out of the truck and announced that they were employees of ISC, and that the contents of this building were the sole property of ISC, and that these contents were headed to a landfill, because American motorsport's heritage was NASCAR.

            Employees of WG became aware of what was happening, and called the city's Chamber of Commerce. City fathers rushed to the track to stop it. After a physical altercation nearly broke out, law enforcement arrived to diffuse tensions. After negotiations, the track was allowed to keep the memorabilia, and some of it was the foundation for the Watkins Glen Motorsports Library.


            Is there any truth to this story? Large or small elements of truth? Or is it pure baloney? This story comes from the era of the height of NASCAR's popularity bubble, and its hubris, and fans' contempt for it. Just wondering.
            I lived in Corning for 23 years and visited The Glen and the IMRRC many times. The story you recount is similar to what I’ve been told. I suggest you talk to Bill Green at the IMRRC as, I believe, he was involved. Corning Enterprises sold its share to ISC in ‘97, so that’s the time frame for these events.
            Last edited by flatlander_48; 11-18-2020, 12:57 AM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Z28 View Post
              It sounds like it has a bit of a TV script to it.

              This really wasn't at the peak of NASCAR's popularity the first Cup race was in 1986 and NASCAR wasn't nor did it have the reputation at that time of being the evil empire taking over all of motorsports as The Glen, purchased with Corning Glass was only the third track they bought after owning Daytona and Talladega. So that part doesn't make sense and why would they bother making one of their first moves emptying a building of memorabilia, even more so taking it to a dump?

              The second part of the story you can craft a better scenario. Like. Some longtime fans, employees, former employees, participants etc. knew of the memorabilia stored at the track, coveted it and heard of the sale. They cook up the story about being ISC employees there to empty the building and take all the junk to a landfill. They aren't going to admit that they want it all because it's valuable. This is meant to confuse the track people who know of the sale but likely not much more. They rent a truck, show up and try to take all the memorabilia for themselves. If the cops get called the crew probably can't show a work order and before somebody on the scene can get in contact with ISC they back off and say the bosses can straighten everything out later and they take off empty handed.
              No. I heard about this around 2000. Pretty sure this didn’t happen when the partnership between ISC and Corning Enterprises started. When I heard about it, it was told like it was a pretty recent event; not 1986. I believe this happened when ISC took over full ownership: 1997.

              Also, remember that NASCAR is in the business of sanctioning and promoting stock car events, not Formula 1 or sports car history. Anything from those eras had no meaning for them...

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              • #8
                Well, I am only the chair of the Historians' Council at the International Motor Racing Research Center and have spent countless hours with my good friend Bill Green as well as with Cameron, Jean, Mike, and J.C. Argetsinger as well as others associated with the founding of the IMRRC (which began as the Watkins Glen Motor Racing Research Library, one of my roles also being part of the name change) such as John Bishop, file this under Urban Myth and baloney. Yes, there were discussions regarding the disposition of the material held at the track when ISC took over ownership of the facility, but all that was resolved during the negotiations regarding the sale. Some of the material did end up at the Library, but actually very little -- there was no confrontation or threat to dump stuff at the landfill; the material was apparently split between the former owners and the ISC Archives with some ending up at the Library.

                The core of the initial holdings of the Library/IMRRC were the books and other material that had been part of a special collection in a section of the Watkins Glen Public Library -- the head of the library board being Jean Argetsinger. That collection was then supplemented by generous donations and other acquisitions.

                And, yes, I have heard the many versions of this tale no end of times....

                H. Donald Capps
                President, Society of Automotive Historians
                Member, Historians' Council, IMRRC
                And so we beat on, boats against the current, drawn back ceaselessly into the past ... F. Scott Fitzgerald
                Ever have the feeling that the rest of the world is a tuxedo and you're a pair of brown shoes? ... George Gobel

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                • #9
                  A big thank you to Mr. Capps for setting the record straight. Fascinating how a yarn like this can grow legs. Hopefully this thread is referenced when this tale comes up elsewhere and makes a dent in factual knowledge, but the experts know how that goes....

                  So it sounds like The Glen actually had a unusual amount of interesting memorabilia? I never hear about a stash of neat stuff in any of the barns at Road America....
                  "Thank God for the fortune to be here, to be an American."--Alan Kulwicki, 11/15/92

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