It was great to be back at a racetrack. My first vintage event of the year. It’s been far too long of a break for me. The Jefferson 500 presented by VRG proved to be the perfect reboot. It’s a can’t-miss event. Here are a few photos from Friday’s activities. The race review will follow in short order. Enjoy. TJ
A Conversation with Mark Steigerwald, Executive Director, International Motor Racing Research Center
By Terry Johnsen
Victory Lane Magazine, November 2022, Volume 37, No.11
Located just a few blocks from the first corner of the original grand prix course in Watkins Glen (New York) is the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC). You’ll find it tucked away on a quiet street, amongst large shady trees, adjacent to the local public library. Having attended many races at Watkins Glen International (WGI) as a spectator and while reporting on vintage events, I was surprised that a large portion of people I spoke with, both competitors and spectators, had either not known about IMRRC or had not taken the time to stop by and find out more about it.
So, with that in mind, I sought out the research center’s Executive Director, Mark Steigerwald, to have a conversation and learn more about it. He summed it up best by describing IMRRC as “a hidden gem”. I couldn’t agree more. The research center offers so much for anyone who walks through their doors. Whether it be historians, writers, racing enthusiasts, families looking for information on their racing heritage, or tourists to the Watkins Glen area, IMRRC has something for everyone. In other words, you name it they’ve got it! Our discussion touched on various aspects of the research center, how people can become involved, upcoming events, and even a teaser of exciting news for 2023.
Mark said The International Motor Racing Research Center came about through the collective efforts of Jean Argetsinger (wife of Cameron Argetsinger, the visionary who brought road racing to life in the post-war years of World War II), John Saunders (then President of Watkins Glen International), along with civic and community leadership, in their effort to mark the 50th anniversary of racing at Watkins Glen. The local public library was chosen to house the original holdings, and in 1998 ground-breaking took place to expand the collection to its current footprint of 5,500 square feet of space adjacent to the library.
Mark said his was a roundabout path in becoming Executive Director. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2000 with a master’s degree in Library Science. While at the track in 1998 for an event Mark heard about the creation of the research center and learned that it was part of the Watkins Glen Public Library. He saw this as a great opportunity and was able to fulfill his internship at the library. It was such a great fit that he stayed for eight years working at IMRRC. Mark described this period of his career as his most fulfilling. Later he saw the opportunity to return and was selected to his current position as Executive Director in 2021. Mark described his duties as being responsible for the general oversight of day-to-day operations. That puts in mildly, for the scope and depth of IMRRC’s holdings cover literally every aspect of motor racing both locally and internationally. Mark explained the research center is a library and archive, open to the public, providing research services to a wide audience. Along with its large collection of books, publications, and photographs there are exhibits of racing memorabilia, exciting historical films to view, all capturing the heritage of racing at Watkins Glen. There is also a racing car on display, ‘On The Grid’, in the center foyer. Throughout the year many historic cars have the honor of being placed center stage. The current car is a 1985 Mustang GTO, formerly driven by Canadian John Jones and Lyn St. James in IMSA competition.
The IMRRC website’s About Us section is entitled ‘Collecting, Preserving and Sharing History’. Mark noted they have a lofty mission, which in turn has driven a varied collection. The research center presents the story of racing history at a local level, along with each series that have participated at The Glen, such as Formula One, NASCAR, IMSA, IndyCar, and amateur sports cars. Mark noted they also oversee the management of the SCCA’s vast archive. He described the research center as a public-facing proven research service, adding “a service that is free”. For anyone interested in how they can go about using their services he suggested contacting Head Archivist, Jenny Ambrose, via email (email@example.com).
Mark noted IMRRC relies upon the charitable contributions of motor racing enthusiasts. There are many options to donate financially through various levels of membership, along with the donation of books and publications, and other racing memorabilia and materials. Mark says their staff is always looking to fill the gaps of the collection. The yearly car sweepstakes is an annual tradition and a great fundraising tool, which brings about recognition to the center, along with opening the door for further discussion of their cause. This year’s sweepstakes involves a 2022 IMSA GTLM C8.R Limited Edition Corvette! It’s a gorgeous car, silver with yellow racing highlights. It looks fast just sitting still! Mark noted there’s plenty of time to buy a ticket, via the website (www.racingarchives.org). The drawing is in December. Another featured fundraising event is the presentation of the Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for Outstanding Contributions to Motorsports, presented each year at the IMRRC Award Dinner. This year’s honoree was Mike Helton, Vice Chairman of NASCAR. Past recipients of this distinguished award have been Richard Petty (2015), Mario Andretti (2017), and Lyn St. James (2021), just to name a few.
Mark described the solid foundational structure of the research center, led by the Governing Council that consists of notable professionals in motorsport, business visionaries, along with passionate leadership from the local community. Together they present a broad skill set of experience. The Drivers Council provides support through their experience and knowledge of the sport, and they also help lead the annual appeal for membership. The current driver’s council consists of Mario Andretti, David Donohue, Chris Dyson, Hurley Haywood, Scott Pruett, Brian Redman, Lyn St. James, and Rusty Wallace. That’s a Who’s Who list if there ever was one! The Historians Council provide advice and guidance on the collection, and includes motorsports historians, journalists, and authors. Mark noted one of the council members is the respected IMRRC and Watkins Glen racing historian Bill Green.
This year on November 4th and 5th, the Michael R. Argetsinger Symposium on International Motor Racing History will be held at the WGI Media Center. This will be the sixth collaboration between IMRRC and the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH). The event honors the memory of Michael Argetsinger, son of Cameron Argetsinger. Michael was a prolific author and passionate historian of motorsport who sadly passed away in 2015. The symposium is open to the public and is a must-see event for any motor racing enthusiast. This wonderful two-day program will consist of in-depth scholarly presentations from leading motorsport historians from around the world. 2022 will also be the first year the symposium will be live-streamed, via the support and technical expertise of Gran Touring Motorsports. The link will be available on the IMRRC website (www.racingarchives.org). Mark noted that Buz McKim, NASCAR historian, will give the keynote presentation, entitled “Moonshine and Its Connection to the American Auto Industry”. Having attended the symposium myself in the past, I can attest that it is a wonderful and enlightening experience. With the added feature of being live-streamed, it will hopefully reach an even wider audience. And for those who cannot attend or tune in live, recordings will be available on their website in the IMRRC live-stream archive for your viewing pleasure.
As we brought our conversation to a close, Mark stated “the future looks bright in a big way”. He noted there is an exciting announcement in the offing regarding expansion, adding “watch this space!” 2023 will be a big year for celebration, for it will mark the 25th anniversary of the research center and the 50th anniversary of racing in Watkins Glen. Along with these celebrations, the yearly Watkins Glen Grand Prix Festival in September will also highlight the 75th anniversary of Porsche and the 70th anniversary of Corvette. Mark hinted at the theory that Corvette’s creator, Harley Earl, may have drawn inspiration for the Corvette after attending a Watkins Glen Grand Prix, circa 1951. Having seen the foreign sports cars in action, Earl was believed to have said something to the effect of, “GM can do this!” The rest is history.
Finally, Mark stated the research center is open to the public, 9-5 Monday through Friday (with federal holiday exceptions of course). He invites everyone to visit the website, send an email, or just “Stop In!” IMRRC may very well be a hidden gem, but it’s also right before us all in plain sight. In addition, I encourage everyone to visit their Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube sites for all the entertaining, historical, and educational posts and videos that are available. IMRRC is an unbelievable and amazing resource that is there for everyone to enjoy.
The Grand Marshal for this year’s Watkins Glen Grand Prix Festival was none other than Al Unser Jr. He is a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner (1992 and 1994), a two-time CART IndyCar World Series Champion (1990 and 1994), a two-time IROC Series Champion (1986 and 1988), and the 1982 SCCA Can-Am Champion. These are just but a few of his racing highlights and achievements in an illustrious career.
I took this photograph at the 1986 Miami Grand Prix, which took place at Tamiami Park. It was just prior to the first practice session when I spotted him in the pits. He was just putting in his gloves. Afterwards he gave me a thumbs up! Unser Jr. went on to qualify 19th, and then won the race. 36 years later I was able to get him to sign it for me. It was worth the wait!
Back again for my favorite racing weekend of the year, in beautiful and historic Watkins Glen, New York. We were blessed with perfect weather, endless cars, sights and sounds, and plenty of beer and delicious local food. The activities kicked-off on Friday with the downtown Grand Prix Festival celebration. On Saturday and Sunday we headed up to the track for the SVRA US Vintage Grand Prix/SpeedTour. Here are a few photos, with more to come. Enjoy! TJ….2022
Labor Day weekend (Saturday) with nothing planned, so on a whim to attend the car show in Charles Town, West Virginia. Just about an hour away from home. I had heard good things about the car turn-out at earlier events, so I decided to give it a look-see. I’m so glad I did. There were so many well-prepared roadsters and hot rods, powered by lots of TLC. Here are a few shots from a stroll down Washington Street. Enjoy!
Summit Point Motorsports Park, Summit Point, WV – May 10 -15, 2022
Story by Terry Johnsen
It’s the middle of spring and the destination this week is beautiful West Virginia. The sun is peeking through the clouds, the trees and flowers are in full bloom, and the air is filled with the sounds of sports cars. Where else could this be but the comfortable and welcoming surroundings of Summit Point Motorsports Park. And like clockwork, Vintage Racer Group (VRG) has once again set-up shop for the annual Jefferson 500, their marquee event.
A full schedule lay in store for the VRG participants. Starting on Tuesday, May 10th, the week includes large rig load-in, registration, technical inspection, a driving school, practice sessions, and a detailed and instructive track walk. Qualifying and the first of the sprint races take place on Friday. The morning of Saturday, May 14th begins with the second set of sprint races, with the afternoon highlighted by seven group feature races. The Jefferson 500 weekend concludes on Sunday with three morning enduros and two afternoon “all-comers” sprints. If you’re a racer and want to find value for money and time well spent, this is the event for you.
In the days leading up to the event, advanced weather forecasts predicted a high percentage chance of rain throughout the weekend. This may have discouraged some racers from attending, but still a healthy field of over 230 entrants arrived for the Jefferson 500. Thankfully the forecast improved significantly, and rain gear was only needed sparingly. Vintage Racer Group set the line-up for competition with the following groups: Wyer Cup (Group 1) IMSA/SCCA 2.5 Class B Reunion Racers, Cunningham Cup (Group 2) Big Bore, Marlboro Cup (Group 3) Small Bore over 1.3L, Lola Cup (Group 4) Small Bore under 1.3L & Formula Vee, Donohue Cup (Group 5) Production & Special through ’60, Charlie Gibson Trophy (Group 6) Sports Racers & Non-FFCS Open Wheel, and the Phil Hill Cup (Group 7) Formula Ford Challenge Series.
Brian Walsh, Group 1/IMSA RS – 2.5 Challenge racer was selected as this year’s Jefferson 500 Grand Marshal. Brian told me that VRG wanted someone from within their racing fraternity to lead the festivities this year. He was honored to be asked and proud to represent “the common racer” for the VRG community. Brian said he started the IMSA RS – 2.5 Challenge Reunion Racers category about seven years ago, and it has quickly become a VRG event favorite. Brian’s father, Jerry Walsh, was a very successful driver in IMSA back in the 70’s when the RS Class first started, and Brian has continued the legacy of this very popular category.
Brian brought plenty of color and a distinctive 1960’s ‘flower power’ flair to his duties as Grand Marshal. It was very easy to spot him in the paddock because he was decked out in psychedelic tie-dye apparel from top to bottom. Brian wore tie-dyed pants, a flamboyant Jimi Hendrix Experience shirt, and a large Alice in Wonderland top hat with buttons and colorful ribbons. His enthusiasm for the honorary role of Grand Marshal showed no bounds. Brian said he enjoyed being part of VRG from the first event he participated in. He noted the VRG crew always have a smile on their face and are very approachable and helpful to anybody who asks for assistance. He likes the fact that there are no million-dollar cars. Brian noted everyone is on the same playing field, and they all hang out together at the end of the day, just like family. He said the atmosphere of the paddock reminds him a lot like what IMSA used to be when growing up with his dad.
The 2022 Jefferson 500 Feature Races took center stage on Saturday afternoon, running in reverse order, with the Group 7/Phil Hill Cup taking the grid just after the lunch break. A brief but heavy shower began to fall just as the cars started their formation lap. At the drop of the green flag a stream of rooster tails roared down the front straight. Miraculously the field of 24 starters made it through the first lap with no one going off course. At the mid-point of the race Eric Langbein (#41) driving a 1971 March 719 took the lead and held on for the win, with Mike Agnifilo and Joseph Griffin in close pursuit. Langbein continued his unstoppable charge, having won the two Group 7 sprint races as well.
Next to take the track were the Group 6 sports racers for the Charlie Gibson Trophy race. The last of the weekend’s precipitation fell in the early laps, but eventually the sun broke through the clouds which dried the track out quickly. John Thompson (#14) piloting his 1991 Lola T91/90 took advantage of the improving conditions and dominated the race, just as he had in the two weekend sprint races. Dave Handy finished in second with Nate Scigliano rounding out the podium. They put on a heated battle early in the race, swapping positions multiple times.
The Group 5/Donohue Cup race proved to be a battle of the Lotus Super Seven’s. There were five lead changes in the final seven laps of this epic dual. It was incredible! Michael Kaleel (#126) and Adolph Battifarano (#2) battled tooth and nail, back and forth, crossing the start/finish line tied with four laps to go. Kaleel ultimately prevailed taking the checkered flag ahead of Battifarano, with Timothy Richie (#94) finishing with a solid third place in his Mazda Miata.
Peter Uzdavinis (#25) led every lap of the Group 4/Lola Cup race, driving his 1964 MG Midget. He drove comfortably out front and was never challenged. There were two black flags thrown during the race, one being for a “stray spectator on track”. You don’t hear that call often. Luckily the misguided fan was corralled quickly, and the race continued. Peter Carroll (#55) cruised to a second-place finish, while Steven Hirschtritt (#64) held off a persistent Jon Clerk (#1) for third position.
The Group 3/Marlboro Cup race was won by Henry Frye (#28) in his 1968 Triumph TR250. Frye completed the Group 3 sweep by winning the two sprint races as well. TW Herren (#29) hounded Frye and stayed close throughout the race for a well-deserved second place finish. Further back was a splendid contest between Mike Moore (#167), Scott Janzen (#63), and David Biegert (#1) with Moore leading the pack across the line for third position.
One of the most dominating performances of the weekend was put in by Jim Scott (#755), driving his 1973 Porsche 911. Scott easily won both Group 2 sprint races, and then sailed to a win in the Cunningham Cup race. Scott Kissinger (#202) looked poised for a solid second place finish but had to pull in for a late pit stop, dropping him out of contention. Todd Angel (#12) made it a Porsche 911 1-2 finish, with James Pettinato (#90) bringing home third in his BMW M3.
The Saturday feature races concluded with the running of the Group 1/Wyer Cup for the IMSA-SCCA 2.5 Class B Reunion Racers. Grand Marshal Brian Walsh threw the green flag, unleashing a field of 27 starters hurtling down towards turn 1. The race for the lead quickly became a Datsun vs. Fiat battle between Steve Byrne (#3) and John Baucom (#86). Baucom hounded Byrne lap after lap, until four laps from the end when he made his move and took the lead. Brian Walsh later told me that he heard Baucom’s engine missing as he passed the starters tower to begin the last lap. Walsh said it was only a matter of time before Bryne got him, and sure enough it was Steve Byrne who took the win in his 1970 Datsun 510. Despite finishing second, Baucom showed his speed by taking fastest lap of the race. David Porter (#58) finished third.
The Jefferson 500 weekend concluded with three Sunday morning enduros. Joseph Griffin (#23) drove his 1975 Van Diemen RF75 to win the Dan Gurney Enduro (Groups #6, #7 – open wheel only). Kenny Williamson (#27) piloted his sleek 1969 Nerus Silhouette for the win in the Bill Scott Enduro (Groups #3, #4, #5). The Brian Redman Enduro (Groups #1, #2, #6 – closed wheel only) was won by Dave Handy (#59) behind the wheel of his 1988 Swift DB2.
A final set of ‘all-comers’ sprints concluded the Jefferson 500 weekend. Frank Del Vecchio (#13) won the closed-wheel sprint in his 1981 Van Diemen RF81, while Gary Jebsen (#41x) took the weekend’s final checkered flag in his 1962 Volvo P1800 in the closed-wheel sprint.
As the cars pulled off into the paddock and the track went silent there was a familiar sense of calm in the air, like at the end of a family reunion. Throughout the week friendships were renewed, laughter and conversation eased the soul, and good racing satisfied the competitive spirit. VRG once again put on a first-class vintage racing event, amongst the beautiful surroundings of the Summit Point Motorsports Park. The Jefferson 500 is truly an experience not to be missed. Mark your calendars for 2023!
It’s been too long since my last post. To be specific it was the US Vintage Grand Prix in September 2021. Time to get busy again! So, this past weekend I traveled to Summit Point (West Virginia) for Vintage Racer Group’s Jefferson 500.
I always start any race weekend with a walk around the paddock. There’s nothing like seeing the cars up-close-in-person. And it’s always fun to say hello to the drivers and crew along with the many friends I’ve developed over the years.
Here’s just a few pictures from the paddock. The race review is coming soon. Enjoy!
Time for a look back at the Watkins Glen Vintage Grand Prix weekend (September 9-12, 2021). Here’s a few photos from the Grand Prix Festival in town on Friday and SVRA vintage event up at the track. Enjoy!
Victory Lane Magazine, October 2021: Volume 36, No. 10
The Village of Watkins Glen is set in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of New York. Located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, this area offers so much enjoyment for visitors and vacationers alike, to include the breath-taking views and hiking trails of the state park, a wide selection of wineries and craft breweries, along with other activities such as boating and fishing. But to a race fan, the mention of Watkins Glen brings about fond memories of sports car grand prix racing through the streets during the late 1940’s and early 50’s, and then at its permanent home on the outskirts of town with the development of Watkins Glen International in 1956.
The best source of up-to-the-minute tourist information is of course the Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, centrally located at 214 N. Franklin Street. It’s a beautiful facility. Enter and you will be met with a warm welcome from the friendly and knowledgeable staff. But then treat yourself and glance to your left, for you’ll see a magnificent mural. The colorful montage of speed perfectly captures the history and essence of competition at Watkins Glen International, depicted through five historic cars from various disciplines of motor racing.
I first became aware of this work of art in late 2015 while on a wine-tasting vacation with my wife. I made a mental note to find out more about it and how it was created. It took a little longer than I expected, but I was finally able to arrange an interview with artist Stephen Oosterling via FaceTime in the weeks leading up to this year’s Watkins Glen Grand Prix Festival. Here’s a summary of our conversation.
Stephen grew up in Rochester (New York) and has fond memories of attending races at Watkins Glen. We discussed at length our favorite memories of going to races and our love of The Glen in particular. His first Formula One race was the 1976 US Grand Prix. Stephen was a big fan of the Tyrrell 6-wheeled car, and when he saw it roar by for the first time he said, “this is it!” He was hooked. Stephen said he misses the crisp early mornings at the track, drinking coffee, while watching the morning haze fade away with the rising sun.
Stephen started drawing stop signs at the age of three, which then evolved into anything mechanical to include cars, trains, and airplanes. He enjoyed cars the most, and said he just started drawing like crazy. Stephen added he would sometimes get in trouble at school, drawing cars when he should have been doing his class assignments. His parents supported his artistic passion, and always allowed him to express himself through art. Stephen said, “they didn’t care if I spent time drawing, as long as I got my schoolwork done on time.”
Stephen attended art school and then became involved with the printing industry, specializing in full color printing, and in particular the prepress functions. He noted, “I became very familiar with computers, and the more I used them the more I wanted to use my hands to paint and draw. Art was a good outlet.” Stephen recalled stopping by an artist’s tent during a 1994 vintage event at The Glen. He learned that many of the artists did freelance work for Road & Track magazine. He thought, “that would be kinda neat, so I had a long conversation with them and realized I could do that.” That led to Stephen working with Jack Webster and Classic Impressions, an auto art gallery, and assisting him at various vintage events.
Stephen said he was approached by Watkins Glen International in 2000 for a poster and program cover for the Bosch Octoberfest race. This was his first paying gig. That then led to additional artwork for the track over the next few years. Stephen noted that after a 2012 project he had a conversation with WGI President Michael Printrup, who asked him what he thought about doing a mural. He responded that he had never done a mural but was up for the challenge. Michael explained that WGI was part of the Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce, and that a new visitors center location was being built downtown, and that they were seeking a 10’x15’ mural as a featured display. Stephen sought the advice of noted local artist Bob Gillespie, known for his large racing murals outside of Glen Mountain Market Bakery & Deli in Watkins Glen, about how to approach such a large project, figuring cost, time, paint, etc. Stephen said his proposal for the project was accepted, but the main question was whether it would be completed by Christmas time (2012). He assured Michael it would be.
Stephen said he and Michael came up with the basic layout and selection of cars. The previous year Tony Stewart and Lewis Hamilton had participated in the Mobil 1 NASCAR/F1 car swap at The Glen. So, the NASCAR Chevrolet Impala (#14) of Tony Stewart was selected. Next, they chose the Target Honda IndyCar (#9) of Scott Dixon, four-time winner at The Glen. The glory days of Formula 1 racing is represented by Francois Cevert in the Tyrrell Ford/Cosworth (#6). Cevert was a fan favorite, the winner of the 1971 US Grand Prix, and was tragically killed at The Glen in 1973. No racing imagery for The Glen would be complete without the iconic Brumos Porsche 911 (#59) of Hurley Haywood representing the legacy of sports car racing at the track. And lastly, the mural acknowledges the history of endurance racing by featuring the All-American Racers Toyota Eagle GTP (#99) of PJ Jones/Juan Fangio II. Stephen noted his original concept drawing included the Lowenbrau Porsche 962 of Al Holbert. But Michael pointed out the track was sponsored by Toyota. Stephen responded, “so I said that’s great we can use Dan Gurney’s GTP car instead.”
Stephen said the project was completed over the course of six weekends. His son Alex (15 years old at the time) assisted throughout the project, along with the wife of Stephen’s best friend, local artist Amanda Ebert, for one day. They worked all day on Saturday’s, sometimes on Sunday’s as well. He began the large project using a grid layout system, drawing the entire mural on separate sheets of paper, then assembling the artwork on the wall, finally transferring the image to a pencil outline. The wall designated as their canvas was originally painted with flat indoor latex. Acrylic paint was the medium of choice used for the mural. Stephen chose this medium because of the great range of colors and ease of clean-up. When they completed the project Stephen said that he and his son signed the painting in purple in the bottom left corner. This was a nod to Enzo Ferrari, who signed all his official documents and correspondence in that color. They finished on time in December 2012 as promised, just before New Year’s.
In retrospect he said,” It was a huge honor for me to be chosen by the Chamber of Commerce and WGI President Michael Printup to do this mural. I am very thankful for the opportunity! It was something out of my comfort zone since I had never done a mural prior to this. I am pleased to be a small part of the racing history of Watkins Glen. The Glen has always felt like a second home for me. I have so many great memories of the town and the track: my first Grand Prix on a sunny but very cold October 10th, the grand reopening in 1984, the International Motor Racing Research Center. What’s really important are the people: the businesses, the fans, and management of the track and its operations. I hope it will be enjoyed for many years to come.”
Stephen’s mural is a magnificent tribute to the history and legacy of racing at Watkins Glen International. The artwork captures the speed and aesthetic beauty of the cars and brings the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center public space alive with excitement. I spoke briefly with Watkins Glen International President, Michael Printup, who said “Stephen did such a wonderful job…it tells a story”. He added that it has become a fixture at the Visitors Center, and that many people have said “they better never change it!”
Following the mural project, Stephen continued with his auto racing themed artwork projects and has now expanded his interests with wildlife art. His drawings include songbirds, owls, puffins, along with butterflies and flowers using color pencil as the medium of choice. The images jump with color and vibrancy, bringing to life the passion of his artwork. Examples of his fine work can be seen at: www.stephen-oosterling.pixels.com