Friday, March 11, 2011

"Like A Moth" / 1961 Watkins Glen Grand Prix

At a swap meet a few weeks ago, I noticed something kinda' weird. Shuffling by one of the vendors, I felt like a moth being sucked towards a burning light at midnight. There "it" was, under an elderly, frail gentleman's tent, resting inside one of his protective glass cases, I spied a primary-colored, old water transfer decal. However, not just any old decal, this was some 50 odd years old, a decal of the '61 Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. I asked if I could take a closer look. As the case slowly creaked open with the help of his shaking hands, the decal was set free into my fingers. I began to remember those "mini-art" paintings that decorated the car windows of travelers back then ... as to proudly say, "I was there." The owner started to reminisce with stories about the younger than him Dan Gurney and getting his autograph. He spoke in a tired soft voice about flag working a corner at that race. He kept this as a souvenir, never installing it, fearing the car it was placed on would pass. He uttered, "You seem to have taken' a liking to it." I responded, "I love it, it's cool." I had to have it!

The deal was struck...it was mine. Then it hit me, what was I going to do with it? Would I put it on a car? No, what would be the point, neather I nor my car had been there. He had been the caretaker of it, keeping memories of a time long past, of younger days in his youth. It was decided, it would come home and rest in one of my display cases. I would now become the caretaker and have the opportunity to tell the story of his passion for that time in his life.

Watkins Glenn Grand Prix decal ...1961

The first races in Watkins Glen were initiated by Cameron Argetsinger, whose family had a summer home in the area.

After two less than successful US Formula One events in 1959 at Sebring and 1960 at Riverside, promoters were looking for a new venue for an American Grand Prix in 1961. Just six weeks before the scheduled date for another Formula Libre race that fall, Argetsinger was tapped to get Watkins Glen ready to host the final round of the Formula One World Championship instead. While many of the necessary preparations had already been made for the Formula Libre race, new pits were constructed for the F1 Grand Prix according to the European style of pit boxes with overhead cover. Seven American drivers participated, and the race was won by British driver Innes Ireland with American Dan Gurney second.


'73 Ticket image,via.

The United States Grand Prix at The Glen quickly became an autumnal tradition as huge crowds of knowledgeable racing fans flocked to upstate New York each year amid the spectacular fall colours. It was long known around the world as the home of the United States Grand Prix, which it hosted for 20 consecutive years 1961 to 1980.

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