Watkins Glen: Friday thoughts

IndyCar commentary — By on July 2, 2010 5:36 pm

(Originally posted by Steph to Planet-IRL.com.)

It’s not often that Google Maps can’t be trusted with travel time estimates, but it failed me today — an estimated four-hour drive was closer to six, which saw me arrive in pit lane about half way through this afternoon’s practice session. Unfortunately, that session was the only IndyCar-related track activity today, so I missed about 50% of what I came for!

But at least I now know how to get here and am all checked in and oriented. And, as it turns out, I’ve still been here long enough to put together some preliminary thoughts.

Off the top: this place is gorgeous! I’ve often heard about how scenic the Finger Lakes area is, but I’ve never actually made it down this way. It’s sort of a blend of the lakes-and-trees scenery that can be found a couple of hours north of Toronto with the wine region that can be found an hour or so south — which means that I have access to those things a little closer to home and have never made it quite far enough to take in the surroundings here.  It absolutely looks like it’s worth the trip, though. It would make a fantastic long weekend getaway, and under different life circumstances I would happily tack a few days onto this race weekend and make an extended vacation out of it.

But it was while pondering this on my way down here that the light bulb went on about why holding this race on the July 4th weekend is a bad idea. (This may not be news to anyone but me — I can be a bit slow sometimes. But bear with me.)

Initially, my feeling was that the Independence Day long weekend was a perfect time to hold a race at a great camping track like this. A weekend full of racing and camping with family or friends with an extra day at the end to make it home sounded ideal. However, after spending the days leading up to this fighting overbooked local hotels requiring minimum stays, and after fighting the long weekend traffic to get down here (my experience wasn’t nearly as bad as others had, either), it dawned on me that this area is a huge tourist draw on its own, race or no. The fans who are happy to camp are fine once they manage to get here, but when you consider that we’re forcing the fans who aren’t able to camp or aren’t interested in camping to battle against those just touring the area as well as other other race fans (not to mention that the Series and media personnel take up their fair share of the local accommodation), it might just be enough to keep a number of people away. This event has historically been bounced around the calendar, which is a shame, and it was starting to look like it had found a home on this weekend, which it turns out is also a shame. It would be ideal to find this race a reliable weekend of its own away from the Independence Day festivities. Let’s hope that can be achieved before the plug is pulled for attendance or other issues, and let’s give this weekend to a track in a less-frequented area that would benefit from the influx in traffic.

Anyway, as was suspected, Twitter access will be very touch-and-go this weekend — cell service at the track is spotty at best, but I’ll do what I can. The tweets that I do manage to get through will be found @99forever. To compensate, I’ll be sure to thoughts here as well, daily at a minimum.

Tomorrow’s goal is to spend some time walking around the facility and getting a feel for the different vantage points and the amenities available to fans — and to provide on-the-ground coverage of the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Firestone Indy Lights practice and qualifying sessions as much as possible.

More tomorrow.