The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen started off on schedule on a golden, sunny afternoon on Sunday, June 29, at Watkins Glen International (WGI). The green flag started the world-renowned endurance race at approximately 11:10 a.m. local time.
Pre-race activities included an Open grid-fan walk at historic WGI where spectators could walk the grid that was occupied by both cars and drivers just minutes before the start of the race. A sunlit June afternoon warmed visitors as they posed for pictures by race cars, some of which resembled spaceships more than they did the average family sedans or SUVs that brought spectators to the track.
Some teams hired models to pose in front of their cars on the grid, but more teams honored visiting military in uniform by asking them to stand for pictures next to their expensive machinery. Spectators – adults, children, and families with babies and dogs -- wandered up and down the lane, peering up into pit boxes, checking out the view of their grandstand seats from pitlane, or otherwise enjoying the rare experience of being so close to the cars, teams, and control centers of an international professional racing event.
Once the grid was cleared, and following an invocation by Rev. David Fife, Doug Allen, principle singer for the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey team, sang the Canadian and American national anthems. Honorary starter, Joe Sahlen and Grand Marshal, Olympic medalist bobsledder Steve Holcomb, gave the command for the drivers to start their engines.
Soon after that, the announcer directed everyone’s attention to the skies where several Golden Knights, some trailing swirls of pink smoke, parachuted into an area beside Turn 1. Watching from behind the stands in the paddock, U.S. Army personnel in camouflage cheered on their parachuting comrades spot-on landings. One leader could be heard quipping in the way the branches of service often like to do with each other, “The Navy is out on Seneca Lake, still looking for the race track.”
Watkins Glen International President Michael Printup said in a news conference with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo that this year the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen had a “record attendance,” and that camping had nearly doubled. The golden weather certainly had a help in those numbers, at least in same-day ticket sales over the weekend.
Once pre-race activities and ceremonies took place, the race proper was underway.
Alex Cawley, Sports Director at WETM-TV in Elmira posted on his Twitter feed, “I'm not saying who, but someone in the press room just asked how long the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of The Glen traditionally takes. #forreals.”
The track had warm and sunny weather to offer racers in all classes for their competition on Sunday, but as fast as the sophisticated race cars can go, that doesn't mean they could make the six hours of time go by any quicker. This was an endurance race, after all, and as all racing teams know -- "to finish first, one first must finish."