Watkins Glen International – Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Watkins Glen International 2790 County Route 16 Watkins Glen, NY 14891
Year Opened: 1956
The 6 Hours of Excitement
The Wakins Glen 6 Hours began in 1948 at the famed road course in the finger lakes region of New York. Since then, the race has attracted some of the greatest racers in all of motorsports, across a wide variety of manufacturers. Now, the race is a staple of the 4th of July weekend, a beacon for race fans in New England who want to spend their summers immersed in the sound and spectacle of speed.
Food & Beverage 4
Watkins Glen International has a lot of food vendors, with most of them located in the main paddock and fan zones near the front stretch. Those fans looking to visit the outer parts of the track may have slimmer pickings than those watching the finish line.
That said, the choices in the fan zone are pretty varied, ranging from BBQ to burgers and hot dogs, with other options like gyros and tacos also available. Food trucks also line up inside the paddock area.
Watkins Glen International is located in New York’s finger lakes region, making the facility a beautifully located sports venue. The area is full of beautiful trees, meaning fans can find some shade in the hot summer sun. In addition, the track is laid out to be one of the fastest road courses in North America, if not the world, making the on-track action some of the most exciting in all of sportscar racing.
For a raceway filled with history (the track regularly hosts NASCAR, SRO World Challenge, and Trans-Am, and has also hosted the likes of IndyCar, Formula 1, and others in the past), you cannot help but feel like you’re witnessing yet another chapter when you attend the 6 Hours of the Glen.
The track itself is about 5 minutes south of the town of Watkins Glen, nestled on the southern shores of Seneca Lake. The town is beautiful and quaint, but lacks proper hotels and popular chain restaurants. Nonetheless, there is plenty to do and see here.
For those willing to drive, the town of Ithaca is just a half hour east, where you can find hotels, restaurants, and shopping in the same town that is home to Cornell University. For lodging, the historic Seneca Lodge and the Falls Motel are two of your closest options, and for food, Seneca Harbor Station and Nickel’s Pit BBQ are two popular destinations. In addition, sightseers routinely flock to Watkins Glen State Park for stunning hiking through a canyon of waterfalls, as well as Lakeside Park to watch the stars rise over the waters of Seneca Lake.
The fans at Watkins Glen International are once again a cross-section of sportscar racing diehards. The 6 Hours is a race of endurance and skill, and most of the fans on site have been coming since they were kids. New York racing fans are among the best in the country, and know how to throw a great party – the camping grounds are full all weekend long, and the fans know who to cheer for when the race is on the line.
The biggest downside in getting to Watkins Glen International is its relatively isolated location – the nearest major highway is I-86 to the south and west, at least a 40-minute drive. Traffic can back up, as the roadways in and around the track are all one lane each way. During heavy race days, however, the traffic is opened up to be one way only heading in or out of the track.
Once at the track, parking is plentiful all around, and navigating the track’s tunnels, bridges, and walkways can be daunting, as the facility is rather large. Track maps are placed throughout the venue, though, making getting from place to place a little easier.
Return on Investment 5
The Watkins Glen 6 Hour race is a hallmark of the sportscar racing world. One of the four North American Endurance Championship races, winning this race is a big deal in the sport. The weekend also features several warm-up races before the big event, which means fans will have plenty of time to see some great action on track throughout the weekend.
This is the perfect weekend summer racing getaway for the whole family if you want to mix the great outdoors, camping, and exciting summer sports.
There are always several autograph sessions throughout the weekend for fans to meet their favorite drivers in each respective series. The track also has several fan zones to get you up close and personal with show cars, as well as to pick up some free giveaways. Fans can also wander the paddock area for free, giving you a great look at the teams working away at their machines.
The Watkins Glen 6 Hour race is one of the best racing traditions in North America, if not the world, and being held at historic Watkins Glen International is no doubt a part of what makes the race so great – the track is fast, the fans pack in the facility, and the action is top notch. This is a must-see race on any sports car racing fans’ bucket list.