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NASCAR: Cheez-It 355 at The Glen trophy inspired by Corning Museum glass pieces

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On Thursday, August 7, Eric Meek of the Corning Museum of Glass demonstrated, and talked about, designing and making the unique glass trophy presented to the winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. Meek's demonstration of glassblowing and his quick tour of the museum showing relevant pieces that inspired the trophy's design, were made available to media ahead of the International Motor Racing Research Center's inaugural Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for outstanding contributions to motor sports presented this year to Chip Ganassi.

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Before the award dinner that took place at the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) in Corning, N.Y., about 30 miles south of Watkins Glen, media were invited to watch a hot glass show outside the museum where Eric Meek, who designed and created the blue and clear glass oblong trophy for Watkins Glen International, spoke to them about his creative process.

The main idea, he said, was to create a trophy that would highlight the fluidity of glass as a material and also suggest features of the region. Corning and Watkins Glen share a history in the upstate New York Finger Lakes Region, and he wanted the trophy to suggest that by its design as well. The fluidity of glass, for example, echoes the waterfalls that exist in the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park and elsewhere in the area. The basic design of the trophy, he said, would provide a shape that could be easily hoisted overhead by the victorious winner.

At the same time, the winner could enjoy a private revelation when he or she noticed the blue design that ran through the clear glass cylindrical-shape. The blue color inside matches quite closely the blue Armco barriers along the Watkins Glen International racetrack. Not only that, but the shape drawn down the length of the piece inside is in the shape of the historic track.

Glassmakers passed the trophy around to those present. This writer noted that the trophy is quite heavy, smooth, and easy to hold in the center. The crystal clear glass around the blue interior suggests water and movement, and the shape of the blue piece is recognizable to anyone who knows the outline of WGI. The outline is visible from the bottom as well as the top.

Meek explained that once the idea was conceived and designed, the actual creation of the piece took only about 45 minutes. Before that, though, the most difficult part of the design process was how to get the blue piece to match the shape of the track. At first, a plaster mold was used, but that didn't work. Finally, the designer settled on a steel mold to create the shape.

Blue bits of glass called frit were imported for the piece because CMOG presently works almost exclusively with clear glass. The trophy, however, was entirely conceived and made in Corning.

When originally looking for his design, Meek said he used a few pieces in the CMOG collection for inspiration. One such piece was a 1984 sculpture by contemporary artist, Harvey K. Littleton, titled "Red/Amber Sliced Descending Form." He said the cross-sectioned piece showing the form inside helped him think of putting the shape of the WGI racetrack inside glass.

Meek said he wanted the trophy to "capture the nature of the material" of glass but also to "capture the nature of the region."

The trophy is fairly tall and slender. Both its design and its material symbolize the close relationship that exists between Corning Museum of Glass and Watkins Glen International and between both of them to the scenic Finger Lakes Region of New York State where they are located.

The glass trophy will be awarded to the 2014 winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Cheez-It 355 at The Glen on Sunday, August 10.