IRL chooses wrong way to treat Watkins Glen
Upon learning that the IndyCar series was dropping Watkins Glen from the schedule, Watkins Glen President Michael Printup was disappointed.
But, more than that, he was upset.
Upset with the reasons the series gave him for not returning in 2011.
Upset with the timing of the decision.
Upset with the way the race track had been treated.
Make no mistake, a look at the stands during the race on July 4 made it clear that the attendance wasn't what IndyCar, or Watkins Glen, had hoped it would be.
There are a number of factors that likely caused the attendance problems.
Part of the blame should go to the IndyCar Series, which has seen attendance at every track drop in recent years.
Another major factor was the beautiful weather on a Fourth of July weekend.
"Having the Fourth of July date always was a conflict," Printup said during a luncheon Friday to kick off the Vintage Grand Prix weekend. "That was one of the good things, we had come to a soft agreement with Randy (Bernard) to move the date up a week or two into late June.
"The race is a good draw, but I think with the great weather and the Fourth of July the lakes were a good draw as well."
Although a number of factors likely went into the attendance being down for the race, Bernard and the IndyCar series put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the track.
"I'm frustrated," Printup said. "I know how passionate our fans are, especially the local fans. And, I'm frustrated with the way it was handled. I'm frustrated with how Randy said we didn't promote the race enough."
Since the series came to the track in 2005, Watkins Glen has worked to get the drivers involved in events, and even connect with other sports to draw their fans in. They have had drivers make trips from Rochester to Binghamton and many places in between.
"We are disappointed they think we didn't promote the race," Printup said. "The truth is we spent nearly as much to promote this as NASCAR. If I could have one thing, it would be a couple of million more. I'd love to do more to promote it if we had the money, but we did everything we could."
While Printup knew that losing the race was a possibility, there was little he could do to try and find a replacement race to put on the schedule next year.
Watkins Glen found out they were off the schedule on Thursday, long after they would have had to work with other series to get a race. And, while Printup had an idea this could happen, the same scenario unfolded a year ago, only to see the race wind up on the schedule in the end.
"We will find an event to add to the schedule next year," Printup said. "It may not be a race, or a big spectator event, but we will find something to add to the schedule."
While Watkins Glen will not be able to add a big race to the schedule for 2011, they hope something else may be added in the future.
Perhaps IndyCar will one day be back at the Glen, or perhaps the track will find another event to put on the schedule.
"For 2012 there is a better chance to try and add something," Printup said. "It would be great to get the (NASCAR) truck series, and there is always independent Nationwide races. Arca is out there as well."
Printup is anxious to talk with NASCAR and see about getting one of those series to come to the track in 2012, and he knows which one would be a big hit.
With Chemung, N.Y. native Todd Bodine leading the points standings, Printup knows the truck series would do well at Watkins Glen.
"No question that would just be a grand slam up here," Printup said. "The leader is banging it out of the park. Right now I'm going to start talking to NASCAR and see what happens."