© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dads, college guys get to test their rides at Watkins Glen

Monica Sandreczki
RIT student Chris McCann tinkered with his 1974 BMW up until four days before taking it out on the track. McCann says he likes to buy older and older BMW's.

It’s springtime (even if it doesn't feel like it) and you know what that means – racing season. Watkins Glen International speedway marked it opening weekend by opening its track to amateurs. The big weekend is the NASCAR race in August. But right now, it’s all about the amateur racing.

A few hundred New Yorkers came down to the speedway to drive their personal cars around the track. All it takes is $25 and a drivers license and you’ve got your ticket to ride.

So you’ll find a 25-year-old in a 1996 Honda Civic; a middle-aged man in a pre-retirement muscle car; even a few moms with mini-vans. No matter what, they’re all here because cars are in their blood. It’s a culture, as one guy put it.

Chris McCann is a graduate student in Rochester. He worked down to the wire to get his car -- a 1974 BMW 2002 -- ready to drive.

“The brakes weren’t working. That was the big thing," said McCann. "So I would just drive down the road and they would all of sudden just lock up and slow me down. It was really bad, so they haven’t been smoking since, so hopefully they won’t on the track.”

McCann is proud of this car. He’s done an engine swap, changed the clutch a few times; he’s ready to take it to the track for the first time.

“It’s nice being a gearhead because you have that balance between tinkering, which is so much fun. And driving, which is just as much fun.”

Credit Monica Sandreczki / WSKG News
(left to right) Rob, Dominique and Dan Zerrillo. Rob and Dan are brothers and have been racing against each other for decades.

Brothers Rob and Dan Zerrillo are also out today. They’re both dads now, but they have not lost their appetite for some friendly competition.

“That never goes away," said Rob. "That’s been going on for over 20 years now."

Dan said the two like to keep a scorecard wins and losses. He’s got a 2002 Audi and three kids in the back seat, including son Dominique, who's favorite part of riding in the passenger's seat is "going really fast."

But Rob’s car is a little different.

“I’ve got a 2013 Dodge Charger RT. I love it. I love it," said Rob. "This is my first time getting this car out on the track, so we’ll see how she likes it.”

Rob’s done almost no work on this car at all and said he'll win the brotherly competition.

Rob hops in the car. Adjusts his sunglasses. And speeds off ahead of his brother onto the track. After he gets back, he is glowing.

Credit Monica Sandreczki / WRVO News
Amateur drivers chat ahead of the ride on the track.

“That was FUN! Lot of fun noises out there. That’s the best way to describe that. There’s just a lot of cool noises out there," said Rob, who added that Dan probably beat him. "I think my younger brother got me on that. He’s more of the veteran on this track. I was trying not to be too ridiculous."

Dan’s son Dominique agrees that it was a rush.

"I kept like flying over here, my head kept flying over here. He’d slow down and then we’d be like zoom! It was really fun!" said Dominique.

For Dominique, a successful day at Watkins Glen.