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Larry Ott: Head of Research Center Weidemann gets crash course

Some may find it intriguing that the individual hired to oversee the daily activities of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen and fulfill its mission of preserving motorsports history no real history of his own in that area.

That, however, is no impediment to Thomas Weidemann, the new executive director of the center.

Weidemann, of Montour Falls, says he possesses the necessary organizational skills, has a staff and is undergoing a daily fast read concerning many aspects of the motorsports world. The Racing Research Center is home to one of the world’s largest collections of materials representing the history of all motorsports and venues.

Weidemann enjoyed a four-decade career in the world of performing arts, including the last 30 years as executive director of the Clemens Center in Elmira.

“I’m very new to the world of racing but I followed it a bit generally in the past,” Weidemann said. “But my skill sets are honed in general on organization, development and fund-raising.

“When I learned that the position was available at the research center it appealed to me for a couple of reasons. First was the geography. I live in Montour Falls, which is just south of the Village of Watkins Glen, and I’m in Watkins Glen quite frequently. Secondly, when I heard of the opportunity I contacted the people that were doing the hiring at the research center. I told them up front that I had a small knowledge of racing but I believed I had the skills that would be most helpful to them.

“Plus, I’m 66 years old now and have been involved in the world of performing arts for just a little over 40 years. I was looking for a fresh opportunity and the research center was different but I could still utilize all the same skills at the research center that I used all those years in the performing arts industry.”

So far, according to those involved, Weidemann has fit in nicely.

“I guess you could say I’m getting a great dose of racing history here at the research center every day primarily through osmosis I think,” Weidemann said. “I’m surrounded by racing history every day. The real gift that is here is the fantastic staff and the high depth of racing knowledge they have.”

What are Weidemann’s goals and visions as he moves forward in his new position?

“I’m not going to put my individual stamp on this center,” he said. “Rather I’m taking a look at the projects that the research center’s governing council has in mind but has not had a chance to put into motion yet and I’m going to move these forward and get them done.

“I presently have a few main objectives. The first is to hire a head archivist. Next is to develop a plan for future expansion of the research center. Third, I want to create a general higher level of communication between the research center and our donors and contributors.

“Also I want to sign agreements with the collectors around the country and world that will help us expand our collections.”

The International Motor Racing Research Center will host its biggest annual function June 30 when it honors renowned international motorsports personality Roger Penske with the third annual Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for outstanding contributions to motorsports.

Penske, who is celebrating his 50th year in motorsports, will be honored in a dinner at the Corning Museum of Glass. The late Cameron R. Argetsinger was the founder and organizer of the first races at Watkins Glen almost 70 years ago. This is the third annual Argetsinger Award presentation, with the first two recipients being Chip Ganassi and Richard Petty.

“The response to this year’s dinner has been great,” Weidemann said. “Our ticket availability is capped at 300 and they are all virtually sold out. You don’t have to be involved in motorsports to know who Roger Penske is.”

The research center is open year round and charges no admission. The 5,000-square foot facility contains a reading room, media room and exhibits. It is home to more than 3,000 books, race programs, motorsports periodicals, race posters, drawings, sanctioning bodies’ records and paintings.

Also on site is more than 3,500 racing-oriented films, documentaries, feature movies, biographies, home movies, early films of racing at Watkins Glen and other tracks.

The center also hosts its popular speaker series and a historical race car is always on display on the center’s main floor.

Get more information on the cener at