Keeping it local: Dawn Burlew eager to begin new role as track president of Watkins Glen International

Dawn Burlew smiles as she poses for a photo.
Photo courtesy of Sean Lukasik

Dawn Burlew always held a passion for Watkins Glen International. Following The Glen’s purchase by Corning Enterprises — a subsidiary of Corning Inc. — in the early 1980s, Burlew saw firsthand how much of an economic driver the historic track brought to the local community.

Now, Burlew will have the chance to continue that passion at the fabled road course. The track announced on Friday that the Southern Tier resident will take over as track president and assume her new responsibilities on Jan. 3, 2024.

“I wish I could come up with one word, but I really can’t,” Burlew said. “I’m ecstatic. I’m just thrilled to be able to have this opportunity because, as you know, they don’t come around very often. These positions don’t open up, and it’s right here, literally, 20 minutes from where I live.”

Burlew — the first woman to hold the position — takes over for Michael Printup, who served as track president for the previous 15 years and is now with Parella Motorsports Holdings (PMH) as president of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA).

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Hometown ties come aplenty to strengthen Burlew’s connection to the 2.45-mile road course and the surrounding community. Born in nearby Elmira — 23 miles south of the track — Burlew graduated from Horseheads High School and attended Cazenovia College and Keuka College, with the three institutions 17 miles south, 90 miles east and 30 miles north of Watkins Glen, respectively.

Burlew’s local roots continued at Corning Inc., where she worked for 40 years and helped lead the company’s New York State affairs and initiatives to support, promote and advance economic sustainability in the region.

Burlew’s history in the motorsports realm is sure to help ease her transition into the role. Burlew serves as a member of the governing council of the International Motor Racing Research Center located in the Village of Watkins Glen and is additionally a member of other regional committees, including the Business Council of New York State, Chemung County Chamber and Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council.

These experiences, Burlew says, will only help acclimate her to the new role that much more.

“I think probably one of the biggest assets I bring to it is relationships with the local, state and regional folks that really support what the track is doing as a whole and our tourism,” Burlew said. “So I think that’s probably if I was to look at it, that would be one of the things that I bring to it, is I have those relationships already, and they’re pretty long-seeded.”

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NASCAR will continue its annual tradition of frequenting The Glen this season as part of the Cup Series slate. However, 2024 will bring a newfound twist – the road course will mark the second leg of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 16, scheduled for Sept. 15 (3 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).

To say the track is due to be involved in exciting postseason times is one thing. And for Burlew, the opportunity to jump right in — at her home track, no less — is one worth the excitement.

“I think the changes, you know, change is always hard, but change can be good, and I think moving to the September, the later timeframe, I think, could be a benefit,” Burlew said. “We may lose some because of school things and other family activities, but I do think that we may pick up some of our fans as well, moving the date, but I do think that it could be a benefit, and we’ll just be ready for that.

With strong local ties and an even stronger drive to enhance them, Burlew will look to make the most of her new title both in the present and future.

To Burlew, continuing to prioritize the local side of the business will be as important as ever.

“I think that the team at the track is critical to the success of the delivery of our events, and the majority of them are also team members,” Burlew said. “… All those team members are also folks that have been part of our community, and I think that just shows how much people are committed to delivering the events that NASCAR expects and a level of delivery that they expect.

“And I think that is beneficial by having a team that is knitted in the community as myself has been. I think that’s very beneficial.”