WATKINS GLEN -- Michael Printup is enjoying an anniversary this weekend, even if he is much too busy at the moment to celebrate it.
Printup, a Hamburg native, has been the president of Watkins Glen International for a decade. This is The Glen's busiest weekend of the year as host of the annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event, which culminates Sunday with the running of the Go Bowling at The Glen race.
Printup arrived at The Glen as it's newly appointed president during the 2009 season and has been going strong ever since. While the fabled Finger Lakes region road course has undergone much growth under Printup's leadership, he says there is more to do.
"I tell you, that it's been 10 quick years," Printup said.
Printup was spotted all over The Glen's sprawling facility, addressing all aspects of hosting a Cup Series weekend.
"I can't believe it's been ten years since I arrived here," Printup said. "I was at Michigan International Speedway and I was officially anointed president at The Glen in May 2009. We had to wait a little bit. I was out here house hunting. Then on June 17, I came out after the Michigan race and voila, it began right then. I began commuting here to work until about August. I was here Monday through Friday and going home on the weekends until I settled here."
While many things have stayed the same since Printup arrived at The Glen, many things have been accomplished. As he usually does, Printup proudly and sincerely talks more about his management team's contributions to The Glen's success rather than blow his own horn.
"It's very humbling to talk about the accomplishments here since I've been here," Printup said. "My team does well working together each day to achieve our master goals. The one thing that's always been the concept at Watkins Glen that never needs a change from the traditional point of view is the track, the surface, all the racing elements.
"The quality of racing is great. Our true blood is road racing at it's finest. The team here of today is doing what the teams of yesterday did here. We just keep that ball moving and in the right direction. I think strategic planning is the best accomplishment of what I've done since getting here. We all recognized that we needed infrastructure, so we literally had to lobby internally and we've spent $56 to 57 million making this place better, even though I wish I had another $50 to 60 million because we'd make it even better.
"I think the best accomplishment with the team and myself over the last 10 years is the infrastructure improvements to the track to make it better year after year."
As is the case in any business, there are times when Printup wishes he had made different decisions or times when things could have gone a little bit better. He recognizes the fact that there is unfinished business.
"There's always those type of things where you sit back and apply the Monday morning quarterback syndrome," Printup said. "When we put up all the new grandstands back in 2010 and 2011, I wish that we repositioned a couple of them. We could have moved one here or there like the Bodine grandstand. We should never have replaced that one. We should have moved that, even back then, on the outside of the Esses.
"When the Glen Club building burned down in 2007 and then when I got here, I saw that it was replaced with a tent and I said that was ridiculous. You know, we were charging premium dollars for a tent experience. So we built the new Jack Daniels Club. I could kick myself in the butt for not advocating for that thing to be three times as large as it is because we can host 200 to 250 people in there. In that club, we could have easily had as many as 800-900 in there if it was built larger. We easily sell out before tickets even go on sale. So it's a popular place to be. Like this weekend, it's an all inclusive fan activity.
"But these are just a couple small ones I should have done differently as well a few large ones and I have a million very small things that I've screwed up on, but if you don't try things and take a few risks, you don't get anywhere."
For whatever the state of racing is today, all promoters realize that they must reach out to grow the fan base through capturing the youth market. The Glen has excelled in this key demographic element. According to research done within the International Speedway Corporation family of tracks, the numbers show that The Glen draws more youth (19 years of age and under) to their NASCAR race than other ISC-owned tracks on the Cup Series circuit.
"Within ISC, we are able to review all the research demographic and geographic data and fan attributes," Printup said. "We have special youth ticket pricing although we've altered it a little bit through the years since I've been here. Family friendly pricing is how we encourage the youth.
"A four-day youth ticket this weekend from Thursday to Sunday for youth 13 and under is $10. For 14-19 it's $20. You can't go to the movies and get popcorn for that.
"The parents have to pay for tickets, so let's be nice to the parents and keep the youth prices as low as possible so you can bring your kids and, even if they don't like racing, they may be off playing in the grass and at the campsite and the parents can still enjoy the races for this NASCAR weekend."
The Glen also has kid zone style playgrounds and youth associated activities throughout the facility this weekend.
"I think trying to hook in the youth when they are young is the goal of most sports but it's especially the highest among motorsports," Printup said. "I remember going to Holland Speedway and the Erie County Fair and Lancaster Speedway when I was growing up as a kid. Then I didn't touch motorsports for maybe another 10 to 15 years until all of a sudden I was back into it. So it is that now people can say that mom, dad, my uncle and others took me to Watkins Glen when I was a kid and many years later I'm back there as a consumer myself."
Even though Printup lives in Horseheads, which is not too far from his Hamburg roots, he gets home when his busy schedule allows.
"It's a little over two hours from my house in Horseheads to get to Hamburg and the drive is scenic, so I get back to Western New York whenever possible," Printup said. "Even though I promote speed at The Glen, I always obey the law and never speed on the highway back to my home where I grew up. I know it's always nice when I get back home every now and then."
Gragson places 9th in Zippo 200
For this weekend, one of Western New York's best known businesses, the West Herr Auto Group has entered the world of NASCAR Xfinity Series sponsorship. They sponsored the JR. Motorsports No. 9 West Herr Chevrolet driven by Noah Gragson. JR. Motorsports is owned by popular retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Gragson started 18th and placed 9th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Zippo 200 contested here on Saturday afternoon.
"It's been an honor and a privilege to carry the West Herr name on the car this weekend," Gragson said. "They're a pretty big deal. So for them to be involved up here at Watkins Glen as it's somewhat close to their home is great. They had people here this weekend and I hope I've been able to make them happy."
Austin Cindric won the Zippo 200 followed by A.J. Allmendinger and Christopher Bell. Allmendinger later was disqualified for a rear height violation, moving Gragson from 10th to ninth.