Since its inception in 2014, the annual International Motor Racing Research Center Award Dinner has quickly established itself as the marquee event of the center's year.
Around 300 dignitaries from the motorsport world gathered for the fifth edition of the annual function last Thursday at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning.
The highlight of the dinner is the presentation of the Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for Outstanding Contributions to Motorsports. This year's honorees were Jim France and the France family, the founders of NASCAR and other motorsports endeavors.
Past winners include car owner Chip Ganassi in 2014, NASCAR legend Richard Petty in 2015, car owner Roger Penske in 2016 and legendary driver Mario Andretti last year.
The award is named in honor of the late Argetsinger, who brought road racing to Watkins Glen in 1948. The IMRRC, a one-of-a-kind center, is located in Watkins Glen and collects, shares and preserves the history of all genres of motorsports.
"This dinner has created our brand in the motor racing world," said Tom Weidemann, the center's executive director since January 2016. "More than any other event or activity that we've undertaken, this dinner has established us in the international motor racing market."
The dinner takes much planning and preparation that begins well in advance. Sahlen's Packing Co. of Buffalo is one of the dinner's sponsors.
"We will begin debriefing in about two weeks when we start working on next year," Weidemann said. "And then it really kicks into gear right after the first of the year. Right now, we can seat 300 for the dinner, and we generally seat 300 people. This is part of why this is our flagship event."
This season not only marks the 70th anniversary of racing at Watkins Glen but also is the 20th anniversary for the IMRRC, which opened in 1998 in conjunction with the 50th year of racing at The Glen. The IMRRC will host an event Oct. 6 at the center, "Racetoberfest," with activities still being planned to commemorate both anniversaries.
"I'm not going to reveal all the secrets now about our upcoming celebration in October," Weidemann said. "We've got a lot to celebrate so stay tuned."
Weidemann says the IMRRC, which is open to the public, is still growing and developing. The center's hours are available by visiting www.racingarchives.org.
"The center is still gaining steam," Weidemann said. "We are taking in collections. We've got a wonderful archivist in Jenny Ambrose. Her staff has been doing an amazing job getting things categorized and cataloged. We're real excited."
Also on the schedule is the Michael R. Argetsinger Symposium on International Motor Racing on Nov. 9-10. The event is co-sponsored by the Society of Automotive Historians.
"We have papers coming in already from all over the world to be presented at that weekend symposium," Weidemann said. "There's a lot coming."
Hamburg native and Watkins Glen International president Michael Printup is part of the IMRRC's governing council.
"It's amazing how big the IMRRC award dinner and the Argetsinger Award have become," Printup said. "Sometimes you do these dinners and you've got to be careful because sometimes they may wane in interest, but this dinner is not waning. It keeps growing.
"So it's great being associated with Cameron Argetsinger here and the trophy and the presentation and the Argetsinger family and everybody that brought in racing in 1948. If it wasn't for them we wouldn't be sitting here talking about the track at Watkins Glen International today. They started it (the racing) in the streets of Watkins Glen in 1948 and now we have the most beautiful road course in the world right here in the Finger Lakes Region of New York."