Racing Loses a Giant
Cameron Argetsinger, the organizer of the first sports car race in the United States after World War II and the founder of competition at Watkins Glen, has died at 87.
Argetsinger's contributions to motorsports in America were virtually unparalleled. He was responsible for the first post-war road race in America, was a racecar driver, as a promoter and organizer was a visionary leader in developing professional road racing in America, was the first promoter successfully to bring Formula One racing to America, was later Executive Director of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and then Commissioner of the International Motor Sport Association (IMSA), and most recently was President of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen.
Argetsinger, a native of Youngstown, Ohio and a graduate of Cornell University Law School, created and organized the first post-war American road race at Watkins Glen in 1948. Having founded the race and organized the event, he drove his MG-TC to a ninth-place finish in the Grand Prix. Argetsinger remained active as a driver through 1960.
Argetsinger was the first race organizer/promoter to make Formula One Grand Prix racing a success in America. A strong and constant advocate for single-seater racing, he envisioned - from the first races in 1948 - bringing a true Grand Prix to America. He achieved that goal in 1961, when he brought the U.S. Grand Prix to Watkins Glen. The race prospered there for 20 years.
He was a strong voice for international and professional road racing during a period in the 1950s and early 1960s when the political tides were directed elsewhere. He received the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) award for the best organized Grand Prix in the world.
This was an era when promoters negotiated with each team and handled all details of transportation and logistical movement of cars, equipment and personnel. He had the complete trust and confidence of all the European teams and drivers, and settled everything on a handshake. Ultimately, he restructured the entire payment system to accommodate the needs of promoting a major event in America - and advanced many professional innovations essential to establishing the success that Grand Prix racing enjoyed in America during that period.
After leaving Watkins Glen in 1970, he was Executive Vice President of Chaparral Cars, then headed the SCCA until 1977, when he returned to his law practice in Montour Falls, N.Y. He was Commissioner of IMSA in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2002, accepted the position of President of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen.
"No one that I know in racing brought the same expertise and sense of organization and ethics as Cameron Argetsinger," said John Bishop, Commissioner of Grand-Am. "Cam did everything there was to do in racing, from being the pioneer road racing organizer, to top official, to president of a sanctioning body to commissioner of a sanctioning body. Nobody brought the breadth of experience that Cam did. Racing today has become a legitimate industry, and everyone who is involved in motorsports owes Cameron for his work as a pioneer in the sport."
He and his wife Jean have nine children, 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Two of his sons, Peter and Michael, also are racers and occasional Grand-Am competitors. Grand-Am