At the first-ever Eastern States Championship at Road Atlanta, NASA announced that the next running of the event in September 2015 would take place at the legendary Virginia International Raceway. VIR is one of the oldest road-racing tracks in the country, but it nearly became a memory instead of the world-class facility it is today.

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Once a hub for the textile and tobacco industries, Danville, Va., is close to VIR, and offers a full complement of food and lodging.
Once a hub for the textile and tobacco industries, Danville, Va., is close to VIR, and offers a full complement of food and lodging.

History

Unfortunately, even the finest racetracks sometimes find themselves steamrolled over by “progress” when cities grow toward them and someone decides that they don’t want the glorious noise of money being turned into horsepower wafting into their backyard. Names such as Bridgehampton and Riverside loom large here, and there are many “ghost tracks” out there quietly crumbling back to nature. Luckily for us gearheads, Virginia International Raceway did not meet this fate. VIR was originally built just outside Alton, Va., in 1957, making it one of the first dedicated road courses in the country. The track hosted many amateur and professional events until it fell into disuse in 1974, and began a long, slow decline back to its natural state. In 1998, a group of investors who saw the potential of the track resurrected it, and after many years of tireless effort, turned it into a state-of-the-art motorsports country club. The track features cut-over roads, which allow it to be configured in many ways, and multiple events can be held at the same time using the different courses that can be created. VIR also was one of the first “country club” style racetracks, so there are a great deal of amenities onsite that you would not typically find at a racetrack.

Getting there

VIR is located on the Virginia-North Carolina border near the city of Danville, Va. The closest major airport to fly into is Raleigh-Durham, and the drive to the track takes the better part of 1.5 hours because the route you have to take is mostly either small-town roads or two-lane highways. If you are coming from the north, the route is a bit easier, but give yourself plenty of time to get there because most of the route involves taking some smaller roads where you can’t hit interstate speeds.

Staying There

The best bet, if you can swing it, is to stay onsite at the track. VIR offers many options here, with rooms at the Lodge, suites on top of the garages overlooking the front straight, and villas that are just off the racing surface on the south side of the track. If you can’t stay onsite, the nearby city of Danville offers many different hotel options that are reasonable and not far from the track.

VIR has three options for onsite lodging, including The Lodge, Pit Lane Rooms and the Villas at South Bend.
VIR has three options for onsite lodging, including The Lodge, Pit Lane Rooms and the Villas at South Bend.

Eating There

Again, because the track is a country club, the Lodge offers an excellent menu for the evenings and also includes fully stocked bars in Connie’s Pub and the Oak Tree Tavern. If you are in the mood for pizza, Aunt Millie’s Pizza in nearby Milton, N.C., is also a great choice and Danville has plenty of popular chain restaurant options. For local barbecue, there is the Checkered Pig in Danville.

Pub_1304 2011 Grand-Am VIR

Driving There

VIR is a real rollercoaster of a track with plenty of elevation changes, blind corners, and other challenges that keep you busy. The back straight and the front straight are both very long, and you should be able to go nearly “flat out” as you pin the pedal down the back straightaway.

However, both straights have tight corners at the end, so you will need to make sure you have plenty of brakes onboard to ensure you don’t get to meet a tire barrier up close and personal. Other signature corners include the Climbing Esses and the famed Oak Tree Turn where you nearly come to a stop before you shoot down the back straight. Sadly, the corner’s namesake oak tree fell two years ago after breaking at its base, and was removed this past season, but the corner is still there and tricky as ever. A recent repave and some runoff improvements have made the track as smooth as a billiard table and very fast, so make sure to pack a healthy serving of courage in your racing rucksack.

IMG_4522 2011 Grand-Am VIR
VIR is a demanding racetrack, with blind corners and elevation changes to challenge drivers in every NASA class.
VIR is a demanding racetrack, with blind corners and elevation changes to challenge drivers in every NASA class.

In terms of facilities, VIR has garages for rent, and tire service vendors will be on site for the Eastern States Championships as usual. VIR also runs a pro shop with all sorts of gear and souvenirs. Danville has a few car dealers and auto parts stores, and there are a number of race shops in the track’s Motorsport Technology Park, so getting blown-up cars fixed is not too difficult. There is also a five-eighths-mile go-kart track on site where you can challenge your pals to a proper kart race after the final checker flies on the main track.

What could be better after a day of racing than a little karting? VIR has a lighted kart track behind The Lodge on the northeast side of the track.
What could be better after a day of racing than a little karting? VIR has a lighted kart track behind The Lodge on the northeast side of the track.

So get ready for the next Eastern States Championships, and thank your lucky stars that VIR did not fall under the dozer’s blade or fade away into the history books.

The Facts

Virginia International Raceway

1245 Pine Tree Road

Alton, VA 24520

434-822-7700

www.virnow.com

 

Aunt Millie’s Pizza

249 Broad Street

Milton, NC 27305

336-234-0240

www.auntmilliespizza.com

 

The Checkered Pig BBQ

‪155 Crown Drive

Danville, VA 24540

‪434-793-7447

http://www.checkeredpig.com

 

Lodging

Blue Chip Racing Resorts (Onsite Lodging at VIR)

1245 Pinetree Road

Alton, VA 24520

434-822-7700

 

Sleep Inn & Suites

1483 South Boston Road

Danville, VA 24540

434-793-6090

https://www.choicehotels.com/virginia/danville/sleep-inn-hotels/va372?source=gglocaloz

 

Best Western Windsor Inn & Suites

1292 South Boston Road

Danville, VA 24540

434-483-5000

http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwestern/US/VA/Danville-hotels/BEST-WESTERN-Windsor-Inn-&-Suites/Hotel-Overview.do?propertyCode=47122&cm_mmc=BL-_-Google-_-GMB-_-47122

 

Holiday Inn Express Danville

2121 Riverside Drive

Danville, VA 24540

434-793-4000

http://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/danville/dnvva/hoteldetail?cm_mmc=GoogleMaps-_-ex-_-USEN-_-dnvva

 

Courtyard Danville

2136 Riverside Drive

Danville, VA 24540

434-791-2661

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/gsodv-courtyard-danville/

 

Comfort Inn & Suites

100 Tower Drive

Danville, VA 24540

434-793-2000

https://www.choicehotels.com/virginia/danville/comfort-inn-hotels/va367?source=gglocaloz

 

 

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Images courtesy of David Hungate/Virginia Tourism Corp and VIR