Saturday Special: VIR Gearing Up For the Future
Thrilled to be part of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s inaugural season, Virginia International Raceway will be taking major steps to provide an enhanced experience when the unified series returns to the circuit next August.
“We are extremely pleased to be part of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship,” said track owner and CEO Connie Nyholm, pointing out that VIR was one of 12 circuits chosen for the new series after GRAND-AM and the ALMS ran a combined 26 events at 22 venues.
To get ready for 2014, the entire 3.27-mile circuit will be repaved and expanded by six feet in several key areas. Pit road will be widened, with room to be expanded if needed, while the start/finish line will be relocated closer to Turn 1.
In addition, the entire paddock will be repaved.
“We’re looking to have the IMSA teams come back to a proper paddock next year,” said Kerrigan Smith, director of track operations. “We’re also making changes to enhance the fan experience. For instance, the current start/finish line is out of the fans’ field of vision. By moving it, it will give the fans in our grandstands in Turn 1 a chance to see the finish.”
The track was last paved in 1999 in preparation for the circuit’s reopening in 2000. It will maintain the original 1957 configuration.
“It won’t change the character of the track,” Kerrigan said. “You have to remember, VIR was not drawn on a computer. ... it was designed back in the late Fifties by enthusiasts.”
The track added the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2013, although the ALMS weekend is the track’s largest annual event. The track reported advance sales for today’s race was significantly higher than last year.
“I saw Patrick Dempsey this morning, and he told me the competitors love racing the historic, natural terrain road courses,” Nyholm said. “He’s happy the new series will be coming here next year.”
VIR has other plans for the future, paving is the main priority.
“It really needs the repaving,” Kerrigan said. “We’re done doctoring it. We’re taking one bite out of the elephant at a time. Hopefully, every time you come to our track, you’ll see something new.”
“Something new” will eventually include a new oak tree to replace the iconic tree located on the inside of Turn 12 that toppled following heavy rains back in July. Circuit officials had the tree sent out tissue samples in hopes to eventually cloning the 200-plus year-old tree. However, they plan to replant it in a spectator area across from the original location.