Memorial Day Weekend – It is a big traditional race weekend back on track from the 2020 Covid schedule shake up. NASCAR is back in familiar territory after going swimming at Circuit Of The Americas. Charlotte and the Coca-Cola 600 are on for Sunday, May 30. Earlier in the day, the Indy 500 takes the track for the tradition back in its place for the day before Memorial Day.

These are the big races that catch people with watch parties and cookouts or even bigger weekends with fans at the tracks in Charlotte or Indianapolis. However… It’s 2021 and we have DVRs and digital replay. If you really want to see the big ones on TV, but have something else to do at race time, hit record and your Monday is there for play back. As for something else to do…? Perhaps some local racing would be the fix.

Bottom line… There is some good racing at tracks across Virginia. (Tracks across the Country, for that matter) It’s not just that local tracks need the support or the local drivers need the fans in the seats, it’s about racing. It’s about the fact that racing at Charlotte or Indy is, at the most common denominator, just like the racing at your local track. The cars, the sounds, the drivers that make local stars and the teams and sponsors that support them are all a part of it.
The largest part is you… The fans that love racing in all of its forms and styles. With that, Memorial Day Weekend offers everything from local to really big national racing events. Fans will have no shortage of options. Go racing!

Take away two wheels. Add a bit of leather. Throw in a touch of insanity. Keep the speed.

What you have now is Moto America motorcycle racing. One of their weekend rounds made its way around the turns of Virginia International Raceway. It’s mid May and Virginia is opening up for spectator events. Outdoor events like motor racing are prime examples of open area seating which still allows the opportunity for distancing and masks if going inside. With other Virginia short auto tracks already holding events, this was a first for open fans and the 2021 spectator season at VIR.

Three things to take away from the Moto America weekend. First of all, motorcycle road course racing is a fantastic watch. It is fast and colorful and full of variety. The classes of bikes range from high pitched screamers to rumbling power pushers. Watching these riders throw those bikes into the turns at speed seems to defy the laws of physics. Even if you haven’t ridden a motorcycle, chances are you’ve had something on a string and wound it in a circle. You know that the thing wants to fly off. You see a tiny patch of rubber holding all that force at severe angles and just get sucked into the magic that holds it on the road. These riders throw the weight from turn to turn with only hands and body keeping it in control. Motorcycle racing is on the edge from green to checkers. When that edge gets crossed it’s time to let go and take a tumble. Racing is dangerous and riders do go down. It is amazing to see them walk away from a tumble like this!

For this weekend, they raced the “North Course” which makes a right turn up the hill just after the cross over bridge. This makes a 2-1/4 mile course which the racers covered in less than 90 seconds. This makes an average speed over the distance at greater than 90 mph. The straights and mainlining through the “esses” were much faster! A BIG “Thank You” to Moto America and VIR for having us!

The second is the fan experience at VIR. For viewing a motorsport event, there is a lot to take in at this track. Compared to a traditional race track, for NASCAR or Late Models as an example, there are bleachers or seating around the track. You are pretty much watching from where you sit from start to finish. At VIR, the fans are free to roam most of the course. There are only two sections that have fencing beyond standing height. 90% of the course offers the fans a view without a fence in front of the sight line. For fans with cameras, VIR is a great place for getting photos of the action. You may see vested photographers inside the gates but there are plenty of angles along the fencing for fans to get great photos. (Many of the photos in our gallery were shot on the “fan side” of the fence.)

The paddock area is also open for fans to walk through to see the bikes (or cars) being worked on and see the riders (or drivers) just hanging about. VIR offers access and race action viewing from practically every angle.

And, the third… Virginia International Raceway has been praised by everyone from Carroll Shelby to Paul Newman to the hosts of the original BBC “Top Gear”… It is a beautiful, tree lined bit of racetrack that has everything for racers and fans… Except (and someone has to say it) a proper outlet for basic food. Granted, the Oak Tree Tavern offers a marvelous dining experience, however, it is not located for direct fan access during events. The paddock area dining is severely limited by size, scope and speed for the numbers of fans that can be there. On Saturday, during Moto America, with lines 30 deep they were ready to stop service shortly after 2pm. To be fair, it is our understanding that the Pagoda dining area is farmed out to a third party service and has operating hours to 2pm. They are slow, ill prepared for the volume and a bit pricey for what they offer.

Our advice, for what it’s worth… Get on the phone and find some good reputation food truck services with a variety of flavors and get them parked around the fan areas of the track. Make the fans happy with some food offerings without giant lines so they can watch the races they came to see. Take a percentage or whatever those deals are. Get happy fans and make some money. To quote Jeremy Clarkson of “Top Gear”… “How hard can it be?”

For fans… Virginia International Raceway is a race experience all its own in Virginia. The variety of events and views is like nothing else in the State. Plan ahead, however, and pack some sandwiches, or some pre-cooked hot dogs, or stop and get a pizza to go… Put your beverages in a cooler and enjoy the day of racing without the food lines.

Moto America was a great “Welcome Back” event for fans at VIR. Motorcycle racing is a different animal than racing with a full set of four wheels. It is fast and fun to watch. The season does not currently have any more motorcycle events but schedules change. For now, the next event is GT World Challenge. This event will offer world class sports car racing with exotic race cars from manufacturers such as Porsche, Lamborghini, Mercedes, BMW, McLaren, Aston Martin and more…

Check the full fan schedule HERE and enjoy our gallery from Moto America at VIR!

Where to go for racing this weekend? Your options are kind of wide open for May 21-23… However, you might want to pack the sunscreen for the day events. It’s forecast to be quite a burner. Beyond that, make sure you have some gas. (If it were up to us, we’d throw every resource at finding the ransomware perps and drop a little gift on them courtesy of the US Air Force… But that’s us…)

(Oh… We’d also save some left-over Covid toilet paper to highlight the yards of every idiot that put gas in plastic bags, storage totes and Tupperware. Face it, you’re dragging us all down with your stupidity…)

Late Models, Super Stocks, Dirt Mods… They are all running! Highlights for the weekend are on two wheels this weekend. Virginia International Raceway is hosting Moto America with 3 days of high speed and low leans on the road course. This is the first open fan event of the season for VIR! Virginia Motorsports Park is straight-lining it with XDA Drag Bikes.

Dominion Raceway, Motor Mile Speedway, Langley Speedway and Lonesome Pine are hosting Late Models, Sportsman, Super Trucks, UCars and more. Motor Mile even has NASCAR Champion and Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace hosting and signing autographs!

Virginia Motor Speedway, Wythe Raceway and Natural Bridge are slinging dirt with side by side, sideways action. The dirt tracks are hosting great events with some of the best racing in Virginia!

It does not matter what style of racing you prefer or where you are located… There is racing within your window of opportunity. It is forecast to be a little warm this weekend so hydrate, gas up and go racing!

The folks behind Moonshine Capital Promotions have been busy at Franklin County Speedway. Circumstances allowed some profile events slide into the Callaway hills in 2020 and pushed some momentum into 2021.

The SMART Modified Tour ran the little 3/8 mile oval on Saturday, May 8. This little place has survived controversy and, at times, a bit of ridicule. However, history is being put in the mirrors with successful and popular events being hosted. Following the Modified race returns and the popular CARS Tour in 2020, The SMART Tour came in with a lot of promise.

Fan response seems to show real support for the efforts at Franklin County. Modifieds on small tracks ia always a fun watch. The SMART Tour also has NASCAR Hall of Fame and Cup Champion, Bobby Labonte, as a series regular. Current NASCAR Cup driver, (JTG Racing #37) Ryan Preece is also on for most, if not all, including Franklin County.

Popular regulars from Eastern and Southern Modifieds are also on the tour to make a great show on their short track schedule. For added fun, Franklin County ran Stock-4, Mini Stocks and an “Any Car” race.

The main event, the Kenny Minter Classic presented by Hannabass & Rowe Collision Center and Smart Chevrolet, went off as expected. There were lead changes, some spins, some hits and broken attrition. In other words… Good racing “Modified” style!

Brian Lofton and Burt Myers were on the front row at the start, followed by Bobby Labonte and Jason Myers with Chuck Hossfeld and Ryan Prece in row 3. Six more rows of drivers ready to challenge for 110 laps were also throttled up for the green.

As the Minter Classic approached the last 20 laps the intensity began taking its toll. The #2 with Preece and the #07 with Dennis Holden spun or touched or clashed or did something in, or around turn 3 (we were in turns 1 and 2… so not sure… but…) and both were brought to the pits with front wheels missing or badly bent into grotesque artwork.

The last 10 laps had two…? Three…? Restarts… To cover, let’s just say “multiple”…

Labonte, Burt Myers and James Civali were racing hard up front and pushed or touched which resulted in Labonte going from contention to several cars back. Myers and Civali also battled on the restarts which allowed John Smith in the #24 to take the lead on the final lap and across the checkers.

Top Five: John Smith, James Civali, Jason Myers, Frank Fleming, Chris Fleming

Labonte finished 7th, Burt Myers in 8th and Ryan Preece finished 12th with a broken car that was actually a loaner from Joey Coulter. (We can only imagine that phone call… “Joey… It’s Ryan… Uh… You’re car is broken… I’m off to Darlington… Love ya – Thanks!!”

*Ryan Preece is actually a pleasant fellow and likely left a lovely note with the broken #2 in the hauler with a signed blank check…

The first Stock4 race of the evening was taken by Chris Amos. The Mini Stock race was won by Robert Strmiska. The second Stock4 race, following the Modified main, was also won by Chris Amos (We think. We were having a hot dog and fries…) The “Any Car” race was run away with by what appeared to be a 5th gen Camaro that had a front end collision on it’s record…

End of the day…? Franklin County Speedway and Moonshine Capital are raising the bar on the events at this little track back in the hills of Callaway, VA.

Also on a positive note… Thank you for bringing the infield restrooms at least to the point of being rebuilt by the 1990’s fixtures from the Habitat ReStore to replace the trough that had been there since 1968…

The hills of Franklin County are roaring out for fast laps and big name racing at the Hannabass & Rowe Collision Center – Kenny Minter Classic 110. But first… A little background…

Things seem to be a little brighter for a place that had fallen back and was laps down. Newer facilities were keeping up with changes but Franklin County Speedway was barely holding on. Folks in the area know the stories and some might even know the real story. The facility had made a hole and seemed ready to fall into it… (That’s one of the stories…)

There was a fellow who could see beyond what was there and remembered times of what used to be. Crowds, racing and a bit of a reputation were a part of the history. Langley Austin took it all in with a plan to put things in motion. Like a driver with a banged up race car in the garage, he began to fix, paint, hammer and build. He needed a little time, a little luck and more than a little money…

As it turned out, luck gave him some time. 2020 came in with some events in the works and was quickly put back off track. Covid-19 came in and shut things down everywhere. This, however, gave Austin some time to do some basic work around that track that took more muscle than money. Without events to plan and work around, he was able to make a good push on fixing some things instead of just throwing duct tape on it. He put the time to good use and was even able to get some events on.

Some of those events had some real impact. Late Model drivers were drawn in as larger tracks with larger footprints were dark. He brought Modified drivers in from around the region with good racing and publicity. The Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour ran there in 2020. All of it was done with CV19 restrictions in place and limited capacity. As luck would have it, the small track was making some waves with events that, realistically, would not have been there at all if not for the circumstances of a pandemic.

Langley Austin is no stranger to racing. His RACE22 website is a regional racing staple of track news around the southeast region and beyond. He knows Franklin County Speedway as well as anyone having grown up in the area, attending races as a kid and later working there. Austin has the gears in motion with Moonshine Capital Promotions taking the momentum of what was 2020 and pushing it forward. He’s not alone in his efforts. His wife, Kimberly, is just as involved as he is. It’s possible she is the real brain power in the deal and he is there for the lifting…

Luck and time. A bit of cash flow in the mix has made for some more improvements and basic fixes. All of which leads to this weekend and the SMART Modified Tour.

The SMART Tour is bringing NASCAR Hall Of Fame driver Bobby Labonte. Current NASCAR Cup driver Ryan Preece is racing. Well known Modified drivers like Burt and Jason Myers, Jeremy Gerstner, Brian Lofton and more will be on track. Matt Hirschman and rookie Caleb Heady have won this season. Ryan Preece raced and won at South Boston last month. Local champion Dennis Holden is getting behind the wheel.

Getting Franklin County on the SMART schedule is a big deal. Langley Austin has been busy turning the luck and hard work of some profile events in 2020 into some real traction for the 2021 season.

If it’s been a while since you’ve made the trip to Franklin County Speedway, this is a good weekend for it. You might be a little surprised by some of the changes. You will see some NASCAR stars and some good racing.

NOTE!! There are still mandates in place. Face masks are still a thing. Distancing in the stands is still a thing. Respect of everyone and staying safe is always a thing. Race with care!

Penske team mates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano both had wild rides at the Geico 500.

Logano was caught up in the touch and spin pinball that happens at Talladega with the speed and thin margin for error collide. The #22 got around and caught air after a touch from a loose Denny Hamlin in the #11 and Ricky Stenhouse in the #47. Several other cars took damage but it was Logano in the air. The car tumbled and rolled and came to a stop wheels down in the grass.

Logano was OK but a bit outspoken on cars still able to spin and fly. He mentioned spoiler height as a possibility to keep cars on the ground and later interviews looking forward to the new car for 2022.

Brad Keselowski was in the mix but it was the final lap when it came into play with the #2. Keselowski led just one lap, the one that really counts, and took the checkered flag. 27 drivers were noted in the lead throughout the race but it was Keselowski at the end.

Next up, NASCAR rolls into Kansas.

Denny Hamlin seemed to be on the verge of taking a 2021 season win at Richmond. He bagged stage 1 and stage 2 and led for most of the race. It came apart on a restart with 10 laps left.

Alex Bowman managed to get by Hamlin to put the #48 in Victory Lane. Hamlin came in the second slot and Joey Logano, who also had a good late race run, came in third. Denny and the FedEx team still top the points with rather consistent Top 5 runs into 2021. Racing takes NASCAR south to Talladega this weekend.

For local Virginia tracks, the options for race fans to catch some hot laps is still wide open. Motor Mile Speedway hosts the Southern Ground Pounders this weekend. They ran South Boston last week. Motor Mile will also run Late Models, Super Stock, Mod-4 and U-Car.

Wythe Raceway is on the dirt with Wythe Eye Pro Modifieds and several support races. Virginia Motor Speedway is also running the dirt with Late Models, Sportsman and Modifieds. Dominion Raceway hosts Late Models, Dominion Stock and other series. Natural Bridge is running their show this weekend, as well.

Local track action across Virginia continues to show green flags. Attendance may still be limited with some restrictions still in place but the vaccine pace is up with warmer weather on the way. Check your track and put some racing on your schedule!