God’s Handprint

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Two tragic accidents in the early 1950s presaged the demise of the 6.6mile course, and by 1956 Watkins Glen had a closed 2.3-mile circuit; by 1961 it was home to the U.S. Grand Prix. The track hit hard times in the early 1980s, however, and lost the Grand Prix and all racing at that level. Corning Inc. came to the rescue and bought the track in 1983 in a joint venture with the International Speedway Corporation. Three years later cars were blistering around the renovated facility at the track’s Winston Cup event. To honor its half-century of automobile races, and in accordance with the local voracity for superlatives, Watkins Glen has dubbed itself the Home of American Road Racing.

All the honorifics get a little hokey, yes. But what’s truly superlative is that this one stretch of rural New York has a pretty good claim to all of them. Anywhere else the whine of a sports car, the sputter of a proto-airplane, and the chime of toasting wineglasses might sound cacophonous. But here these historical echoes harmonize well. And if you listen, and follow the reverberations back through time, you’ll hear the oldest and quietest sounds, the whispering of trees on the hills and the soft lapping of the eleven Finger Lakes, wielding the baton.

—Christine Gibson TO PLAN A TRIP