Weekends are racing everywhere. As an example, a lot of eyes were on the wheels of NASCAR in New York at Watkins Glen. Sprint Cup stock car racing on a road course. As it was, amidst the twists and turns of The Glen, Joey Logano won the day as Kevin Harvick ran the tank dry.

Jump a bit south and another race on another road course was crossing the checkers as they were going green in New York. The differences between these races are many but the game is the same. Drive, go fast, pass who you can, get up front and try to stay there. The racing is often close, cars break and drivers push too hard and it either pays off or they go off. Racing is racing and the price tag is a matter of details.

Twenty-Four hour racing is not new but events like Daytona and Le Mans are full of big teams with big sponsors and international, seasoned professional drivers on the top of their series. The cars they race are on the razor’s edge of technology with the absolute best engineering and testing. It’s a little different when they race 24 hours at Virginia International Raceway.

At VIR the Optima Batteries ChumpCar Series take on the full course with cars and drivers from the daily grind. The same course that hosts the world class speeds of the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship drops the green flag on “every man” racing with cars that were built on a shoe string. Safety is the only real consideration for modifications with seats and harnesses, roll cages and other requirements to protect the drivers. The cars themselves are limited in the way in which performance enhancements can be made. The focus is on giving an opportunity to anyone who wants to go racing without having to spend a lottery fortune on the latest tech, power and engineering. The cars can be found anywhere and it will cost a bit to add the safety spec but it is quite affordable as far as racing goes.

Virginia International Raceway hosts the Chumps and the 24 hour endurance test of drivers and their machines. To see it is to believe it. Some of these cars look pretty nice and except for the numbers and some stickers you likely wouldn’t give them a second glance on the highway. Many look a bit like something you might find 17th down in the third row at the local salvage yard. It’s possible that is where some of them came from. It’s a fair bet a big bunch of them have parts from there.

ChumpCar racing is the essence of “run what ya brung”. The pit crew is your family or friends and the car is what you could find for a few hundred dollars. The performance is essentially what the car was when it was a “car”. It’s obviously a fun thing to say you are a “race car driver” and have the thrill of racing. It’s also quite fun to watch. Check the schedule at Virginia International Raceway and the ChumpCar World Series websites. The Chumps are scheduled to return for racing in December. Grab a jacket or grab a car and come join in the fun.

Optima Batteries ChumpCar World Series website

Virginia International Raceway website

Photos from Saturday at Virginia International Raceway with the Optima Batteries ChumpCar Red Line Oil 24 Hour Classic, including the big rigs of the ChampTruck series earlier in the day.

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ChumpCar and ChampTruck at VIR. August 8, 2015. Hi-Res digital images suitable for print are available by request / Donations accepted. Email  sales@missedgear.net  with subject VIR CHUMP Car #

 

Luck and distractions. It is all too easy to get distracted by this or that or chasing details for life or work. Luck comes through despite those distractions. Such was the case recently at Virginia International Raceway.
VIR recently hosted the Grassroots Motorsports Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge. It was scheduled for a Friday and I had not been to the track in a while so set myself up to check it out. However, I had completely overlooked that this was also the day to preview and introduce the racing and some of the drivers for the upcoming TUDOR United Sports Car Championship series and the Oak Tree Grand Prix.
Luck played out as I arrived just in time to work my way into the proceedings and catch most of the menu for one of the showcase events at VIR.
However, I think I missed lunch…
There was plenty of time for some up close Q&A with drivers with a Porsche, a Viper, a Lamborgjini, a Maserati and the Nissan GT-R / VIR track cars as the backdrop. The racing and paddock of the Grassroots Motorsports action was also filling the air and the track.
Drivers on hand included;
Andy Lally (#44 Magnus Racing Flex-Box Porsche)
Ben Keating (#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper). Keating was on the winning team in the GTD class at this year’s Rolex 24.
Spencer Pumpelly (#73 Park Place Motorsports, Vitamin-D-Pro Porsche)
Corey Lewis (Monster Energy Lamborghini Super Trofeo / Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge)
Liam Dwyer (#26 Freedom Autosport / Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge). It should be noted that Dwyer served in Afghanistan and was drastically injured losing a leg to a hidden explosive. The loss has not changed his hunger for racing as he drives with a special approved system and a prosthetic leg!
With the time on hand, which included catching some fine racing on the track with drivers from all over putting their Grassroots skills to the test, there was plenty to talk about with the drivers. From the challenge to the admiration of the track at VIR to the competition in the series so far. The track here offers grand and scenic countryside views which surround tight curves and fast straights. It is an interesting mix of history, skill and speed that kept these drivers talking. That sounds pretty basic but consider the classes and multiple series which make up the upcoming Oak Tree Grand Prix.
TUDOR Championship – GT Le Mans and GT Daytona multiple classes.
Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge – GS and ST classes.
Lamborghini Super Trofeo – The world’s fastest one-make series.
Maserati Trofeo World Series – World class racing on three continents
Porsche GT3 Cup – Back to VIR after three years.
Many of these support series have additional races scheduled for VIR to make up for weather at earlier events… So BONUS!
What else do you need to know about Virginia International Raceway? It is like a big, open park with a winding strip of pavement that offers world class motor racing. With the Oak Tree Grand Prix weekend of racing you’ll see Ford, Chevy, Dodge, BMW, Porsche, Ferarri, Aston Martin, Audi, Mazda, Nissan, Lamborghini, Maserati… It’s an automotive smorgasboard! The view, the speed, the lines, the variety…
Throw in the paddock which is open to walk through and see the teams close up. Autograph sessions with the drivers and a midway of exotics and presentations offer plenty to see off the track. Kids activities and food are also on the weekend menu. On the track the racing is also a different experience with freedom to move about with no assigned seating and racing so close you feel every turn.
The Oak Tree Grand Prix is a big weekend but not the only one. Also on tap for the rest of the season is NASCAR stock car racing with the K&N series, the Heacock Gold Cup Classic, Chump Car and ChampTruck, CCS Motorcycles and more. Go to just one event and VIR will become a favorite destination.
The Oak Tree Grand Prix is August 21-23. Visit VIR online for a full schedule and all they offer from fine dining to relaxation to driving. They even have a shooting range.
Find racing, and more, at VIR.

GALLERY – TUDOR Oak Tree Preview – Grassroots Motorsports Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge

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It’s just down the road and many don’t know it is there. Some very famous people have visited and praise it. It is Virginia International Raceway.
This year alone the most famous badges from iconic motorsports have turned laps. Exotic sports cars to American muscle…  VIR is a showcase of motorsport.
Yet many still raise a question over what and where it is. Like its more famous racing cousin up the road in Martinsville, there is history. Martinsville has names like Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. VIR has names like Carroll Shelby and Paul Newman. Also, like the NASCAR icon, there is racing this weekend.

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While Martinsville is hosting the Sprint Cup and the CHASE for the championship VIR will be hosting a 13 hour enduro known as the Charge Of The Headlight Brigade.. You may not recognize the drivers but that does not change the challenge or excitement of racing from the morning well into the night.
The field of cars is wide open with variety and intensity. The SCCA drivers and teams are all there for one thing. They want to survive the long day and go for a win.
Yes, it is real racing. The course is open and rolling and with Autumn colors coming into play the backdrop will be spectacular. The racing at VIR is set to start off the grid at 9:00AM Saturday and the checkered flag will fly at 10:00PM.
It is even possible to catch action at VIR, roll up the road and check out the NASCAR trucks at Martinsville and be back at VIR for many more hours of racing into the night. Plus, you still have the CHASE to catch back at Martinsville for Sunday.
Virginia International Raceway is located just East of Danville. Is it worth it?
Yes.

Maserati. There is a colorful history to the name assigned to some very beautiful automobiles. There is engineering. There is luxury. There is prestige. There is racing.
It is the racing, and the history, which was the focus at Virginia International Raceway with the Maserati Trofero MC racing series. The racing was fierce. The history was iconic. It was all brought together as part of the TUDOR Sports Car Championship over the weekend of August 22-24.

masi_line_virVirginia International Raceway has been referred to as a Heaven on Earth by Paul Newman. Neil Young sought out the facility for some testing of a converted hybrid 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible. Patrick Dempsey has been racing here with Grand-Am and currently, as recent as this same weekend, with the TUDOR Sports Car Championship. The three stars of the original Top Gear UK, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, have visited VIR as a playground for any auto enthusiast. The stars of NASCAR regularly test here.
Perhaps, for racing and automotive history, one of the most famous names to roll through the hillside at VIR is Carroll Shelby. Not only did he visit and drive here but he also won here. It wasn’t just any win, either. It was the win of the opening feature race of the new track in August of 1957.

shelby_vir_480Now…. Guess what he was driving. Go ahead…. Guess…
Did you say “Maserati”…? Good for you! In fact, it was a Maserati 450S.
Now, here we are in August of 2014. 57 years since Carroll Shelby drove a Maserati to victory at the inaugural race and the track is filled from the Oak Tree turn to the roller coaster to the esses with the roar of Maserati Trofero.
This was truly a special visit by Maserati. Not only was it 57 years since Shelby won in a 450S in 1957 it was also the only North American race of Maserati Trofero. The only one. The previous race was at Silverstone in the UK. Before that they ran at Spa in Belgium and their next races are in China and Abu Dhabi. In that mix they packed and shipped 20+ GranTurismo Trofeo MC racing cars to the United States as drivers and technicians flew over to drive and maintain. Imagine the logistics! All of that, and more, to drive and race on a hillside between Danville and South Boston in Virginia.
I spoke to some of the drivers. After all, here was an opportunity to get a world view of a racetrack I have been to many times. I know the American opinion from movie stars, drivers and historic automotive icons. The American opinion is that Virginia International Raceway is a beauty, a beast, a fun and unique rolling bit of payment tied to USA racing history. The European opinion…? They loved it.
The technical aspect of driving the terrain, the long straight into downhill twists, the hard “U” turn off the front stretch, the uphill esses, the speeds… I definitely was left with the impression they truly enjoyed racing there. Most of these opinions were pulled from comments with passing drivers in and out of the Masi paddock and showcase area and some of the folks directly involved with the event. It was confirmed, however, through a discussion over breakfast with drivers Barrie Baxter and Michael Cullen. Michael reflected on the track following the lay of the land rather than changing the grade to match a track design. He liked the speed and the challenging turn sections. Barrie was in awe of the countryside setting with the trees, the views and technical strip of raceway pavement as it tied it all together. He said, from the driver’s seat, VIR compared highly to European styles of racing.
The respect and reputation is well deserved at VIR and the opinions from drivers’ first visits with Maserati certainly adds to the adoration.
The weekend at Virginia International Raceway was full of racing tied to the TUDOR Sports Car Championship. The badges represented were simply amazing. Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Audi, Ford, Chevy, Mazda, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and yes, Maserati.
It was Maserati, for this visit to VIR, which made this weekend shine. I am always amazed at the little things that come around that turn out to be something special. During a previous visit I learned that the Folks at VIR were asked by Maserati of North America about agencies or contacts who might be able to help locate local hostesses for the drivers and guest area for the Trofero events. As it turns out, I did. I photograph a lot of racing but also have some connection with fashion and model photography. Through this I was able to put some well-spoken, intelligent and attractive women in touch and trackside with Maserati of North America / Maserati Trofero. Marcella Smith and Sarah Aesy were there to welcome, assist and direct visitors inside the Maserati guest pavilion. It was a pleasure to be able to be involved in this way with such a prestigious company and a very pleasant group of people.

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The weekend proved to be very enjoyable. The racing was fast, close and always fan friendly. This particular event at Virginia International Raceway will always stand out because of this connection, brief as it may be, with the fine people we met with Maserati.
Jesenia, Olaf… I Thank You. Especially as, quite likely, I made a nuisance of myself with that extra visit for the hand-carved steak lunch…. and air conditioning… and Perrier…
…and Thank You, Barrie. Saturday night at Oak Tree Tavern… I think that is all that needs to be said…

SEE FULL GALLERY – MASERATI TROFERO at VIR

Bristol. Matt Kenseth took the win. Keselowski had an incident. Kahne couldn’t quite make the move. Jimmie Johnson just had a flat out bad day. Fortunately for him he could afford it.

Two races remain, Atlanta and Richmond, before “The Chase” is set. Minor miracles need to happen for some while Johnson, Bowyer and Kenseth can relax even though Bowyer has yet to log a win for the season. Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch are practically in and would need major setbacks over the next two to jinx it. Dale, Jr., Kahne and Biffle just have to finish well to hold their spots, for the most part.

Bubbles and longshots include Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. along with the likes of Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Jamie McMurray…

We’re not going for selective alliteration… We promise.

Actually, none of the above is really the point at all. It just so happens it is top tier NASCAR racing the same day (night, as it were) as the entry level series we actually attended. While the Sprint Cup drivers ran for the shrinking availability of Chase points at Bristol, the K&N Pro Series East was packing it in at Virginia International Raceway. It was this race, the first road course for the “East” series, that had us out in the countryside of southside Virginia rather than fighting the traffic around the Tennessee – Virginia border. (more…)

Two weeks. The state of Virginia is on the eve of two solid weeks of racing and it is as diverse as it is tense. NASCAR closes in on Richmond International Raceway for September 7-8 and the checkered flag will determine the championship “Chase” field.

The following weekend should be just as tense as points are close for the contenders in the American Le Mans Series which is making a first appearance at Virginia International Raceway. Following VIR, they will close the season at Road Atlanta so time is short to gain points for championships which sums up to good racing.

This is two weeks in Virginia which could make or break season hopes for both NASCAR and ALMS. Race fans could, and should, take a look at both events. (more…)

Has racing become too “predictable”? We hear it sometimes… Lap after lap… Left after left… Yeah…

We had an opportunity to check out a fairly new series of racing over the weekend of August 11-12 at Virginia International Raceway. “Chump Car” racing puts a lot of folks behind the wheel and on the track with real racing and, compared to NASCAR or other national series, little investment. It is grass roots racing with a “run what you brung and have some fun” attitude.

The premise is basic. Get your hands on a cheap car. Throw in the roll cage and basic safety stuff so you don’t damage yourself. Leave the engine and suspension alone for the most part. Go to a drivers’ meeting and get the rules and such for the day and “go racing”!

How simple is that? Anybody can race as long as their car falls inside the fairly loose regulations. The goal is fun, safety, and clean competition. (more…)