Cameron and Jean Argetsinger inducted into “Legends of The Glen”
Michael Printup, president of Watkins Glen International, announced Saturday that Cameron and Jean Argetsinger are the newest inductees of the “Legends of The Glen” Class of 2009. It was the hard work and dedication of Cameron and Jean Argetsinger that brought road racing to Watkins Glen, N.Y., for the rebirth of the first sports car road race in the United States after WWII. The now late, Cameron R. Argetsinger developed the original 6.6-mile circuit through the streets of Watkins Glen, and later served as the executive director of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix committee. Jean Argetsinger accepted the award, and was joined by her sons, J.C. and Peter Argetsinger, as well as her daughters-in-law.
“What started in 1948 as a lark is a major industry now,” said Jean Argetsinger. “Cameron and I have been so proud of what racing has done for the community, and for what Watkins Glen has come to mean to the sport. Cameron’s first interest was as a competitor, and despite becoming best known as an organizer and promoter, he never lost his driver’s perspective and enthusiasm.”
“It is with great honor that I am able to sit here today to recognize the Argetsinger’s as pillars of our community and the track,” stated Printup. “It is though their original vision of racing in the streets that began WGI’s racing legacy as one of the most premier road courses in the United States.”
Cameron R. Argetsinger, a Youngstown, Ohio native, dreamed or racing through the streets of Watkins Glen due to the area’s tough terrain. He hoped to design a circuit similar in spirit to the course in Nurburgring, Germany. In 1946, he joined SCCA as a subscriber and in 1948 joined as a full-time member. He spent the winter of 1947 laying out the Watkins Glen street course. On October 2, 1948, Watkins Glen hosted its first SCCA race. By 1950, the event had an estimated crowd of 125,000 spectators. In the early events, Cameron not only acted as race chairman, but was also a competitor. He competed in the 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1953 Watkins Glen Grand Prix races, recording two top-ten finishes and a best finish of 5th overall in the 1953 event.
After a fatal accident in 1952, the Argetsingers and Grand Prix Committee agreed that for racing to stay in Watkins Glen, it would need to move to a safer circuit. Cameron, then a member of the Board of Directors of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation, began working immediately to move racing to an enclosed circuit. A 4.6-mile temporary course opened in 1953 and was used until construction finished on a permanent course in 1956. The permanent course was a 2.3-mile circuit, which has since been expanded to the 3.4/2.45-mile variation that is Watkins Glen International today. In 1958, Argetsinger was names Executive Director of the Grand Prix Corporation. The Argetsinger family was also instrumental in bringing Formula One Racing to Watkins Glen International in 1961. Following a disagreement with the board, Cameron Argetsinger stepped down as the executive director of the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation in 1969.
After he stepped down from the GP Corp., Cameron held a variety of leadership positions in motorsports, many of which focused specifically sports car racing. The family remained instrumental in Watkins Glen’s racing heritage by establishing the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen, NY. The research library, which opened in 1998, is focused on the history of racing in the village of Watkins Glen. Cameron died on April 23, 2008, just as the village of Watkins Glen was preparing to celebrate its 60th anniversary of racing.