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“The First Turn Meets the Cultural Turn” at the International Motor Racing Research Center

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Joan Newton Cuneo, circa 1911 behind the wheel of a Knox Giantess. Image courtesy of Wilmington Historical Society.

Since 2015, the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC) in Watkins Glen, New York, has annually presented the Jean S. Argetsinger Symposium on International Motor Racing History, covering a wide array of topics relevant to racing’s past. Now renamed in honor of her son, Michael R. Argetsinger, the theme of the 2017 symposium, taking place from November 9-11 at the IMRRC, is “The First Turn Meets the Cultural Turn,” with presentations covering street racing in Havana, Cuba, pioneering women of motorsports, and more.

Saturday’s keynote address, presented by Dr. Elsa Nystrom, will center on the life and career of Joan Newton Cuneo, mirroring the title of Dr. Nystrom’s recent book, Mad for Speed: The Racing Life of Joan Newton Cuneo. Women in Racing, presented by Dr. Nystrom and Pat Yongue, will follow, with the afternoon’s other preentations including Anne Cecile Rose-Itier, Overcoming Gender Barriers and Earning Legitimacy by Competing and Winning by Francis G. Clax and Speeding Through a Man’s World: Women Sports Car Racers in the 1950s and 1960s by Jeremy R. Kinney.

Still image from the film, Havana Motor Club.

The symposium begins on Thursday evening, with a showing of the film Havana Motor Club from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Following opening remarks on Friday, the morning session will dive deep into the film with Cuban Street Racing Closeup: A Critical Analysis of the Documentary Movie ‘Havana Motor Club’ by Tom Adamich. Following lunch, the afternoon will be devoted to stock car racing, with It’s Alive! Monster Energy’s Attempt to Revitalize NASCAR’s top Touring Series presented by Dr. Mark D. Howell and Invaders and Invasions: The 1963 Motor Trend 500 at Riverside by Daniel J. Simone.

Though aimed at historians, professors and graduate students, the sessions are open to all and are free to attend. Of this year’s sessions, Don Capps, chairman of the Society of Automotive Historians International Motor Sports History section, said,

That motorsport history is a nuanced, complex topic reaching far beyond such items as race data and tales about personalities and events is beginning to finally be understood. That the cultural aspects of motorsport are now finally being brought into focus and discussed is, in great part, thanks to those who have participated in our previous symposiums. The door is now cracked a bit wider for those in academia and for independent scholars to explore this topic in great depth.

The keynote presentation, as well as those that follow, will be live-streamed on the IMRRC’s YouTube channel, and on For a complete schedule of this year’s presentations and events, visit