To start… We’re not completely familiar with all that was, or is, going on at Natural Bridge Speedway. For that matter, we’re also not completely familiar with “dirt track” racing. It is a different animal. It is, in general, a slightly feral version of racing. The skill set is different. The cars are either completely different or, under the skin, built a bit different. They drive loose. They drive sideways. They drive a little wild.
This time last year (2022), Natural Bridge was… ? Well, our understanding was that the track was having some issues. Promotion and follow through on race day was getting a bit casual. Some of the basics of the facility had fallen to the back burner. There were ramblings of complaints from car counts to payouts to officials and general confusion. Fans were hit or miss and getting more missing as social media, fact or fiction, set the scale.
Then July happened. Someone made a bold and brash bunch of statements and promises. Essentially, this person decided that a bunch of money (allegedly) to fix this or that and promote the place and do a grand event with a truck show and big racing would be the thing and it was going to happen in a matter of days.
It did. And it didn’t. However, some attention was brought forth and there were some discussions, some exchanges and some attention. We have no idea of all that happened behind the curtain and behind the doors. Whatever it was, the result has been a bit of a rescue from life support.
The remaining bit of 2022 pushed through. There was some instant attention paid to the bits that needed it to simply run the place. The off season was spent with fixing this or replacing that or building or buying more that was deemed essential. The folks who had stepped in stood fast on what they wanted to do for the fans, the drivers and the racing.
Welcome 2023. Racing went on in April. The weather played some tricks but the folks at NBS adjusted and pushed forward. Changes and updates over the winter showed the results and many soft spots that still needed attention were addressed. We made some plans and made a visit for the first Saturday of May.
Now… Here’s the meat of it. The change from July 2022 to May of 2023 is just short of amazing. In no way are we implying that Natural Bridge Speedway is some sort of showplace. However, based on what was there then to what is there now, it is a viable space for organized racing and, with it, a pretty good setting and wallet-easy show for the fans.
General clutter is mostly cleared out. The concession stand has been given attention with upgrades as needed and expanded variety. The track access has been upgraded with race staging and entrance designations. The speaker system is working. All of the signal lights were active. On track communications seemed to be viable. Sponsorships were in place with visible banners and audible acknowledgements on the speaker system. The show on the track was lively and flowing and the main late model event was nothing short of crowded.
This and more, behind the scenes in organization and attention, was evident when looking. These upgrades were done by a few dedicated people who threw their backs in for the fans and for the admiration of the history of this racetrack. Their efforts have been noticed by fans as social media admiration is quite high. Drivers and teams have also given a general “thumbs up” on racing there. It is miles from where it was a dozen months ago.
Is there more to do…? In short… Yes…
However, if the progress now is an indicator they can make a big dent in those issues if this momentum stays on. Most of it is something most fans will not notice. The infield needs some love. The raised viewing platform has been stabilized. The bathrooms are working, it seems. However, the infield concessions needs to be either liquidated and made useful or gutted for another use. Yes, the fix on the fan area concessions was required. No question, the fans come first, but… Those that are the show need the love now. Some access to food and drinks in the infield would be welcome.
The scoreboard… Yes, we know it is not as simple as replacing some lights and plugging in some wires. It has to be integrated with track scoring and transponders and computers and yada, yada, yada….
There are still some general appearance issues. As an example… The front stretch, infield side fencing could be straightened and set upright. Yes, it is a nit-picky detail even if it is, as it is, a convenient open for start/finish photos. It is visible from a fan viewpoint. It detracts. Pull the poles, set them vertical and re-pull the fencing with a “photo hole” for the start/finish.
A general trash pull from the infield. A lot has been done. A LOT has been done. Additional trash cans might help.
The website… It is shown on the online promotion images. However, “naturalbridgespeedway.net” is not active. Yes, Facebook goes a long way but a website is a parking spot for all of that information that stays constant.
Bottom line… Is Natural Bridge Speedway worth your visit? Yes, it is. They are working hard to put on a good show all the way around. They have some hot events on the schedule mixing in with scheduled weekly racing. Race fans are missing out if they don’t check out this little bit of historic red clay down the road from that oddity rock formation giving the area a name.
Racing results from May 6, 2023:
Street Stock: 1st – Ben Hamilton, 2nd – Scott Hostetter, 3rd – Jesse Murray
Rookie: 1st – Aiden Brogan, 2nd/3rd – Max Link / Taylin Tyree
Sportsman: 1st – Jonathan Wolfe, 2nd – Mike Ayers, 3rd – Roger Rohrbaugh
Pure Stock: 1st – Mac Ayers, 2nd – Sam Hamilton, 3rd – Jeremy Fox
Late Model: 1st – Justin Williams, 2nd – Joe Leavell, 3rd – Jesse Quick
Exhibition / Show racing included: Virginia Vintage Racers & Powderpuff
Photo Gallery – Natural Bridge Speedway – May 6, 2023