Kyle Busch may be enjoying a streak of good luck, taking his fourth victory in the last five races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series on Sunday, July 26 at the Brickyard 400, but over the weekend, fans and members of the Sportcar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) found a little luck themselves when they were given a sneak peak at the trophy either he or one of his colleagues will take home from Watkins Glen International (WGI) in a couple of weeks. The NASCAR Cheez-It 355 at The Glen runs August 7-9.
At the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) in Corning, New York, on Friday, July 24, fans and SVRA members viewed the complete process in making the glass trophy now said to be coveted by stock car drivers across the country. The trophy, presented at WGI this year only for the fourth time, was designed by glass artist Eric Meek.
“We wanted a world-class trophy,” said Michael Printup, President of Watkins Glen International, in speaking to a near full house in the new, 500-seat Hot Glass Studio at the museum. The piece created at Corning is “one of a kind.”
Meek explained the origin of the design, which is a tall, cylindrical form of clear glass with the shape of the WGI track running all the way down inside it. The track design encased in clear glass is the color of the famed WGI light blue guardrails. Meek wanted the design to represent both the world-renowned racetrack as well as the geography of the region. The clear glass on the outside reminds him of the waterfalls of Watkins Glen State Park.
The audience witnessed the creation of an entire trophy from start to finish. Meek said that it can take up to 15 tries to make “one or two good ones.” The process takes less than an hour, but it involves a team of several glassmakers. The blue section is formed first in a jig that dictates its shape. Several more layers of clear glass are then gathered and swirled around it.
Each gather of glass from the hot furnace creates more size and weight on the piece. When finished, the trophy weighs about 20 pounds. At one point in the process, a “waist” is shaped into the cylinder to give the driver a place to hold it high in victory. The base of the piece as it is presented to the winning driver is a piece of sandstone like what is found in the gorge at Watkins Glen State Park. The two best pieces made are presented in Victory Lane at the NASCAR race — one trophy goes to the driver; the other goes to the team.
The evening event, which was part of the Glenora Wine Cellars U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by Welliver, also included a car show where historic, vintage, and show cars drove down Rte 414 from Watkins Glen to Corning to be on display for the evening outside the museum. SVRA members were greeted by a reception at the museum and viewed the actual NASCAR trophy to be presented this year.
When completed, the glass trophy being made in front of the audience was placed in a special oven where it would take about 24 hours to cool. As the audience applauded the obvious work and skill involved by the glassmaking team in choreography with one another — and working with a material heated at any time from 1000 to 2000 degrees — Meek commented, “We think this is the best trophy on the NASCAR circuit.”
If this is so, the best trophy may be said to be given at the best track in the series. Watkins Glen International was named “Best NASCAR Track” by a USA Today poll of fans and readers this year.
Only time will tell which driver will take home the glass trophy this year — Kyle Busch took one home in 2013. Maybe this year he will have a pair of them for his mantle, or a perhaps a first-time winner at WGI will take it home instead.
Historic/vintage racing activities continued at WGI throughout the weekend. For more information about SVRA membership or events, the NASCAR Cheez-It 355 at The Glen at WGI or further programs and activities at the Corning Museum of Glass, consult their websites.