Mustang, Mazda, Porsche, BMW, Corvette, Acura… Racing on a track with twists, turns, up and down grades…

You might immediately bring to mind the 12 Hours of Sebring… And you would be right. Throw in Cadillac, Lamborghini, Lexus and Aston-Martin with some exotic prototypes and you could fill the IMSA field at Sebring.

However… On the same weekend in March, a paddock full of enthusiast racers gather for club racing at another track a little further north. The track is also on the IMSA schedule but later in the year. (A little later than originally scheduled because of Le Mans… )

Virginia International Raceway, just along the border with North Carolina, is filled with many of the same manufacturers running with IMSA, even if the model years are a little older. The National Auto Sport Association and the March Madness gathering brings club racers of the Mid Atlantic Region to VIR. The drivers are the owners and they take their track time seriously and push the racing they do with the same dedication as the “pros” do. They may have a day job on Monday that is distant from the racing life but the weekends the club gathers are their holidays.

They tune their own cars, trade performance tips and upgrades and take part in course classes to improve their laps. Once the tests and registration and course instruction is done, they line up on the grid and race. There may not be big payouts or national media and sponsorships but the thrill of door to door racing and a shot at the checkered flag and some trophy thrown together from bits in the back of a garage is enough.

This is grass roots love of speed and the cars that bring it. Virginia International Raceway is host to several clubs and similar events throughout their schedule. Practically anyone can come with a car and race. Granted, there are safety items the car must have and the driver must pass some basic racing classes for rules, etiquette and skill to run with other cars but the door is there to drive through.

You might want to have an understanding spouse or a bit of a cushy bank account. Perhaps both. Racing is not the cheapest weekend but it also is not the most expensive. Plus, different clubs have different classes of participation so there is likely a spot for your budget.

The Twelve Hours Of Sebring is pretty big. However, It’s not big enough to keep these NASA club drivers out of their cars when the green flag waves. Some of them may catch the last few hours of Sebring on TV but it’s more likely it will be on in the background as they recall their own day at the wheel with their fellow drivers.

Virginia International Raceway hosts IMSA in October. Between now and then, there is room for the clubs to have lots of laps on the same pavement. Go racing.

Event / Track images gallery. *Note: For official NASA Mid Atlantic photos for purchase, contact Tae Tyson at Flat Out Images or Tony Politi at Politi Pixels. Images below are reference / editorial only.

They haven’t pulled the caution flag just yet. Racing is getting underway but covid is still lingering and the fog that comes with it is still pulling the strings. Vaccines and masks are a combination that will be with us for a whie…

The changes and cancellations of 2020 are also pulling at the 2021 schedule. This was highlighted with a schedule change for Le Mans. The historic 24 hour race was moved to August from the original June dates. That change put a possible strain on the IMSA racing schedule as Le Mans pulls some of the IMSA drivers over the pond to the European show.

The mid to late season of the IMSA WeatherTech schedule has been altered to allow for these drivers and teams to be open for Le Mans. The Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway and the finale Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta have been moved to October and November.

The VIR event is now set for October 8-10. The Road Atlanta season closer is now to run November 10-13.

Get those phones and computers on task for changing your dates and hotels! Racing is on for 2021 but keep on track for changes as they may come at any time.

Daytona is throwing a lot of “firsts” at us for 2021. The Daytona Cup Road Course wraps a month of racing in Daytona, going back to the “Roar” and Rolex for IMSA in January to the Clash, the Duels, the 500 and this, the road course. This year the schedule is Daytona times two for NASCAR points races to start as just one “first”. (Back to back Daytona 500 and Daytona Road Course one week later)

Of course, Daytona hosts the “first” points races for IMSA and for NASCAR.

IMSA-Rolex 24 and Wayne Taylor Racing. Yes, it was a third win for WTR but… 2021 marks the “first” year running an Acura powered DPi (Switched from Cadillac).

Kyle Busch won his second Busch Clash – but his “first” scheduled race with new crew chief Ben Beshore. (Beshore subbed for a few races in 2017)

Alex Bowman grabs the pole in the Daytona 500 – His “first” points start in the #48 replacing retired Jimmie Johnson (*Bowman had the pole in the #88 in 2018).

Michael McDowell makes his mark with his “first” Cup win at the Daytona 500.

Ben Rhodes gets his “first” Daytona win, and his “first” year of 2 wins, and his “first” 2 wins in a row – All at Daytona for the Camping World Trucks to start the 2021 points season.

Ty Gibbs wins his “first” Xfinity start – Xfinity Daytona Road Course.

Christopher Bell won the Daytona Cup Road Course – His “first” Cup series win.

Now… After a month of racing… We leave Daytona. However, the next race is still in Florida – At Homestead Miami. (A “first” for Homestead to immediately follow Daytona…)

The ROLEX 24 at Daytona marks the beginning of the American racing season. Their are 49 official entries across 5 classes. The BMW Endurance Challenge, set for Friday (January 29) features 42 entries. With all of these cars, a world-wide list of manufacturers and a who’s who tag on world class drivers, it is often difficult to follow.

To help, Andy Blackmore Design offers a top notch showcase of the cars and the drivers. The ROLEX 24 / BMW Spotter Guide for IMSA is a must have to follow along. The art is detailed, colorful and informative. The Blackmore Spotter Guides have been a premiere display for quite a while and available online at spotterguides.com.

We can focus on details of Balance Of Performance or which body style favors aerodynamics or if Jimmie Johnson will drive a Cadillac faster than Chase Elliott or how fast AJ Allmendinger can run from the driver door to the broadcast booth… But why…? For many, none of that matters. Watching some good racing and having an idea of what is going on is much more important.

The Spotter Guide helps. All of us are not caught up with every spec and every driver’s family tree. Watching some sexy cars make turns and getting a little drama out of the personalities is just fine with us.

Visit Spotterguides.com to get your PDF copy for the ROLEX 24

Hey Virginia Race Fans!

…and North Carolina, for that matter…

Don’t go anywhere! There is more racing to be had this weekend! Richmond International Raceway put on a good show. Despite rain they held out and ran all 400 laps for the last race to the Chase with the Federated Auto Parts 400.

This weekend, however, Virginia International Raceway hosts the American Le Mans Series! On course as well are the IMSA GT3 Cup, Playboy MX5, USF2000 and the Cooper Prototype Lites series. Sports cars. Fast, sexy and ready to race… (more…)