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The first road races held in Watkins Glen, NY were conducted on public roads running through the town, beginning in 1948. However, in 1952, an accident resulting in the death of a spectator led to the races relocating to a new temporary circuit, in a wooded area southwest of the town. This layout was used up until the current permanent course opened in 1956.

Throughout its history, the track has seen various changes, including the additions of the Boot and the Inner Loop. NASCAR uses a shorter version of the track that bypasses the Boot.

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