Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved motorsports. I loved traveling to the local track with my family to watch the drag or stock car races, watching NASCAR and Formula 1 on television and sometimes, if I’m lucky enough, actually traveling to go see the different races across the country. And this past weekend, I experienced the opportunity of a lifetime, as I traveled to Elmira, New York to be a part of the Salhen’s 6 Hours at The Glen race at Watkins Glen International.
After meeting up with my parents and getting settled in at the hotel, I spent Thursday evening in the hotel’s lounge, where I met and visited with the Porsche North America race team. But after a few hours, I decided to hit the sheets, as I had an exciting weekend ahead of me.
Day 1: Friday morning is when it all began. My dad and I drove through the beautiful countryside to the IMSA credentials office at Watkins Glen International to pick up our race credentials for the weekend. As VIP quests of ZF Motorsports, our credentials allowed us in all areas of the track, even pit lane during the races. We spent a good 5 hours exploring the infield attractions that Watkins Glen had to offer, such as the Nissan Nismo race simulator, the Corvette Corral, the Paddocks (where all the race teams set up their trailers to tune the cars), the media center and of course, the Lamborghinis. Throughout the day, qualifying and practice sessions were held for each race class, so we relaxed and watched the action from 3 different grandstands in order to find the best view of the race. After receiving a good sunburn, we drove back to the hotel to pick up my mom and treat ourselves to some delicious soft serve ice cream from an adorable side of the road ice cream parlor we found on the drive to the track.
The evening was just as eventful. One of my UCM PR professors works for ZF Motorsports, so he was also at Watkins Glen for the weekend. We met up with him for a tour of pit lane during the day and for a delicious dinner at a local grille in Corning in the evening. I appreciated the dinner very much, as I learned a lot about the racing circuit and how to make a start in the auto racing industry.
Day 2: Saturday, we had a full itinerary. My day started early at 8:30 for the ZF Fan Reporter Video Shoot with driver Andy Lally. The shoot was actually a really incredible experience. I managed to do the entire video shoot in one take, but had to do some retakes for the ZF reporter. Meeting Andy was incredible – he was so down to earth and really easy to talk to, making this experience even better. Following the shoot, myself and my dad checked in for our IMSA “Hot Lap Experience,” which was absolutely amazing. A former driver took us around the 3.4 mile track in a BMW and wow, let me tell you, was it ever amazing. Hitting speeds of up to 180 mph, it gave me a whole new understanding and respect for race car drivers. And after that awesome experience, it just kept getting better, as we met Patrick Dempsey, actor and owner of Dempsey Racing.
IMSA had also given us unlimited access to their Paddock Club, an air-conditioned area to watch the race in comfort, while eating and drinking complimentary food and beverages, so we spent a good 2 hours in there. They also assigned us our own driver, Derek, who gave us a tour of the whole track. After a series of amazing experiences and meetings, we finally relaxed and watched the last race of the day – the Lamborghini class 50-minute race. The race was awesome to watch, as the cars hit speeds way faster than the previous cars we had seen.
After a long day at the track (over 9 hours), we made our way back to the hotel, where we met up with my mother for dinner (I had the best grilled cheese ever).
Day 3: Today was possibly the best day yet because ZF Motorsports and Alex Job Racing gave us an extra ticket so my mom could come to the track with us. And the IMSA people were just as hospitable, as they gave here access to the Paddock Club and gave all three of us another ride around the track in the BMW Hot Lap car. It was really nice to show her the track and everything we had experienced so far during the weekend. Because of our VIP credentials, we were able to walk through the grid on pit lane during the pre-race activities to see the cars up close and meet the drivers. But today was exceptionally nice since I didn’t have a schedule. We were simply able to sit back, relax and watch the race (and get a horrible sunburn).
Watching the race was absolutely incredible. It is so much different from any other racing series I have ever watched because four races are actually going on at the same time. They have the Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona series all running on the track for six hours. And if you pay close enough attention, you can tell which cars are driving past, just by listening to them shift. So getting to experience this different type of racing was a wonderful experience in itself.
Overall, my weekend at “The Glen” was one of the best experiences of my life and I’m so thankful for everyone at ZF Motorsports, IMSA and Watkins Glen International for making it such an amazing experience.
To watch my interview with Andy Lally, click here.