Watkins Glen, N.Y. -- In what's becoming a rarity these days, we have a confimation instead of a cancellation. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to throw a wrench into this summer's sports schedule, we're still a 'go' for the Glen this August.
"We're ready," said WGI President Michael Printup this week. "I always say we're ready, but we're really ready this time because we've had a little diversion here."
Printup is referring to the six-week virus-induced delay in opening the racing season at Watkins Glen International. It's also created a void in the sports world that will finally be filled next weekend when NASCAR ends its hiatus and resumes the 2020 season.
Four Cup Series races are scheduled in an 11-day span from May 17-27, but all four will be run without fans in the stands. NASCAR has announced it's committed to running a full 36-race season while following strict guidelines from the CDC.
Of course, that could mean the Glen grandstands will be empty for the circuit's annual visit this August 16, and for a guy who's spent the last 25 years watching races at sold-out speedways, that would be surreal.
"It would be scary," said Printup. "We could probably sell helicopter rides so people could get up there and look at it. It would be weird."
Bizarre maybe, but better than another cancellation, he says, for a track that's had NASCAR racing the last 34 consecutive years, and for the millions of racing fans in New York and around the globe.
"If we can get it on TV, we'll still go down that route, I think that's what the fans want."
The first starting of the engines of the 2020 season at the Glen is slated for May 22 when one of the Northeast's sports car clubs rents out the pavement. Then, Printup says, things will finally start to feel like they're getting back, pardon the pun, on track.
"Just having Porsche clubs out there and BMW clubs, just that would be exciting right now," he said, "because obviously it's a pretty lonely facility, it's 1800 acres of pure emptiness right now."
While celebrating his 11th anniversary as track president this month, Printup is looking to fill the emptiness with sports car club rentals. He's also talking to seven local school districts about possibly allowing their high school graduates an opportunity to take a spin around the asphalt next month.
The first so-called "spectator" event on the docket is scheduled for the end of June, followed by the deadline in early July to decide whether or not it'll be safe to have the fans inside for the main event in August. Whenever the turnstiles open, whether it's this summer or next, Printup's primary objective is simple.
"Safety, safety, safety first. We don't want to be a contributor to the rise of this virus. We don't want to further this pandemic any further than it's gotten."