Virginia International Raceway: A Racing Pilgrimage
The legendary auto manufacturer and 24-Hour Le Manns winner Carroll Shelby once said, “one lap at VIR is like a hundred at Watkins Glen.”
When the track opened in 1957, he, like many other influential racers, knew the racetrack as demanding and immediately attracted serious motorsport talent. The first official event held at the now historical and legendary racetrack was the SCCA races. Attendants for the events included notable figures like Tom Yeager and Bob Johnson, who won the fourth-ever SCCA Trans-Am race in 1966 in a Ford Mustang. Those present during the win were NASCAR stars Richard Petty, David Pearson, Curtis Turner, and Wendell Scott.
The raceway fell on hard times in the 1970s as America was grappling with a fuel crisis. The track also could not sustain large crowds like other notable raceways (Glen Watkins and Elkhart Lake).
The track, in disrepair, a once vibrant racing destination covered by weeds and flooded by wilderness and wildlife, appeared to mark the end of a racing era. Until Connie Nyholm and Harvey Siegel, investors from New York modernized the old, decaying track. They re-purposed it as a premier, world-class road racing circuit and destination with new lodging, amenities, and family activities.
The race circuit continues to make history. In 2013, when Siegel retired from track ownership, Nyholm became the first female majority holder to own and operate a racing circuit. The track continues as an internationally acclaimed racing destination.
Every year, racers worldwide make the journey to participate in racing events as racing enthusiasts become racing legends on the tracks pavement.
By Alex Fernandez