New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Watkins Glen International (WGI) on Saturday, June 28, holding a press conference in the Media Center at the track. Accompanied by WGI President, Michael Printup and International Motor Sport Association (IMSA) President, Scott Atherton, Cuomo used the opportunity of the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen to launch the new "Ultimate Road Trip" campaign, part of the "I Love NY" initiative promoting tourism throughout the state. In that effort, he also debuted a new television commercial featuring Robert DeNiro.
The governor said that it was a "pleasure on a personal level" to return to Watkins Glen International again this summer. Cuomo visited the upstate New York track last August during the NASCAR Cheez-It 355 at The Glen and drove the course.
Last year, he used the opportunity to unveil a statewide campaign in cooperation with cell phone companies, to deter distracted driving by all state citizens and visiting drivers, but particularly by young people. This year, the governor used the sports car race weekend to encourage tourists to visit upstate New York and not just New York City.
Saying that this is the first big event of the WGI season, Printup commented that it is an international field with international press.
"Record attendance today," Printup said when introducing the governor. Camping is almost doubled, he said, and he referenced the governor's trip last year, welcoming him back again.
Gov. Cuomo said, "It's always a pleasure to be at Watkins Glen. There's so much history here. If you're at all interested in road racing. It happened here first. This is an international icon of road racing, Watkins Glen."
"It's also a very important asset for the State of New York," Cuomo said. He indicated that about 300,000 people visit Watkins Glen each year. "So, that means it's very important from an economic point of view for this entire region of the state," he said.
"Anything we can do to help Watkins Glen is not only a pleasure but also smart for us from a business point of view. Tourism is big business for the State of New York."
He said that the state government has been investing heavily in tourism, especially upstate.
"A lot of people don't know about upstate New York. They hear 'New York,' they think New York City. New York City is great -- 50 million tourists a year -- but we actually have more to offer than just New York City."
He said that the state was launching a new ad campaign starting today. Visitors can be confused by the size and diversity of New York State, he said, so the campaign is designed to help people understand the entire state and what it has to offer better.
"The Ultimate Road Trip," he said will utilize road signs, phone apps, computer downloadable resources, mapping software, etc. that "makes New York State probably the easiest state to visit."
He said the new initiative puts together tourism guides that describe and assist with assets of the state such as its history; a "taste of New York" -- featuring state cuisine and wines, etc. -- and "I Love NY" attractions, like Watkins Glen.
The governor showed the first commercial for the "Ultimate Road Trip" campaign and said that it was "inspired" by his visit to Watkins Glen last year. The ad featured Robert DeNiro who said in the commercial that New York is his home, a great place to visit, and now it is an easier place to visit.
IMSA President Scott Atherton said that he was impressed that the governor showed his support for the track by his presence on a racing weekend.
"Whoever made the decision to choose Watkins Glen as a cornerstone for that campaign," he said, "It's spot on." He said that it would not only drive more people to the racetrack but it would also encourage people to visit the entire region.
He also pointed out to everyone that on Sunday the race would be broadcast live on FoxSports1 across North America, on other channels in Europe and elsewhere, with what he described as a "six and a half-hour video postcard from upstate New York." He was aware that many of the TV crews had been going out in places far beyond the racetrack and will show imagery of the area to the viewing audience.
"It's an honor to have you here," Atherton said to the governor. Referencing a 15-year gap when IMSA was not racing at the Glen, he said, "It's a thrill for us to be back here."
The Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen features five different sports car series over the weekend. The keynote six-hour endurance race takes place on Sunday with the green flag dropping at 11:10 a.m. local time.