Wednesday, Dec 08

Always Becoming: VIR Continues Blossoming under Nyholm

Wednesday, Oct 06 451
By David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
 
 
In the words of noted motorsports buff Bob Dylan, “Never think you’ve arrived. Always be in a state of becoming.” 
 
Although it’s doubtful Mr. Dylan has ever set foot on the well-manicured grounds of VIRginia International Raceway, his words could have been the mantra of Connie Nyholm and Harvey Siegel as they went about resurrecting the fabled motorsports facility some 20 years ago after it had gone to seed in the 1980s and ‘90s.
 
Not content with restoring the iconic road course to mere serviceability, Nyholm and Siegel used the rebirth of VIR to create the country’s first “motorsport resort” featuring upscale lodging and dining, trackside condominiums and suites overlooking pit lane along with a go-kart track – even skeet shooting, pistol and rifle ranges – in a setting more akin to Augusta National or Pebble Beach than your run-of-the-mill racetrack.
 
Nyholm has continued enhancing the facility’s competitor- and spectator-friendliness –since Siegel retired from ownership, selectively widening and repaving all 3.27 miles of the track’s full course layout, paving the main paddock and adding dining and lodging options such that VIR now boasts no fewer than three onsite hotels.
 
And did we mention the adjacent VIR Motorsport Technology Park, home to some of America’s leading motorsports and automotive organizations, including Team Hardpoint, which will field the No. 88 Porsche for co-drivers Rob Ferriol and Katherine Legge in Saturday’s featured race at the Michelin GT Challenge, as well as the National Tire Research Center operated by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute?
 
“On the one hand, we started with a clean sheet of paper back in 1998,” says Nyholm. “On the other hand, you could say the other tracks around the country had a 20-year head start on us, and we were playing catch-up.” 
 
Suffice to say VIR caught up quite some time ago. Nor should it come as a surprise that competitors and fans alike will find significant improvements awaiting when they arrive for IMSA’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR this weekend, courtesy of VIR’s ongoing “infrastructure program.” Noteworthy projects include installing more robust catch fencing in Turn 1, completely new guardrails on the drivers’ right from pit out to Turn 1, and on the drivers’ right running from the exit of Turn 1 to Turn 3.
 
But if you think Nyholm and her staff believe these upgrades mean VIR has arrived, think again.
 
“We’re in the process of developing a master plan for VIR for decades to come,” she says. “We don’t start things we aren’t sure to finish, so we’ll make the projects public as soon as we are able.”
 
Like most tracks around the country, indeed worldwide, VIR took something of a financial hit during the pandemic, what with rescheduling and, at best, limited crowd capacity. If there was some relatively good news to come out of the last 18 months, it’s that the club component of VIR’s schedule has rebounded with a bang, with club activities up some 30 percent as amateurs enjoy the circuit’s wide-open spaces from behind their face-shielded helmets.
 
Now it’s time for the professional side of VIR’s calendar to follow suit.
 
“We’ve always looked forward to the IMSA weekend,” says Nyholm, “and this year’s (IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) race will be carried live on NBC. We hope the competitors and fans who are returning – some of whom have been coming here for 20 years – will notice all the improvements.” 
 
Tickets for the Michelin GT Challenge At VIR weekend are available at virnow.com. The two-hour, 40-minute WeatherTech Championship race, featuring the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes, airs live at noon ET Saturday on NBC. The Virginia Is for Racing Lovers Grand Prix, the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge two-hour race, streams live at 2:05 p.m. Sunday on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

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