It’s a bit like taking a man who grew up in the city and cutting him loose out in the forest. He is out of place with no corner market to grab a latte and a muffin…

NASCAR races in a controlled environment. Essentially, it is an oval in a bowl surrounded by a cage. Take those same drivers and cars and drop them in an open field surrounded by forests and birds and squirrels and they are as out of place as the man with no latte…

They are still the same cars. Fast, loud, powerful, but out of their element. There is no wall to contain them. The rhythm of accelerate, brake, turn left is broken up into segments separated by blasphemous right-handed turns, trees, and a panoramic view that can reach for miles as opposed to five stories of grandstands.

It is the scenario when you take NASCAR race cars and put them on a road course such as that at Virginia International Raceway. The actual configuration of the driving surface is similar enough to scheduled courses at Sonoma and Watkins Glen to make it beneficial for teams to test here. However, the setting is unlike the sanctioned tracks. Sonoma is cleared away much more and Watkins Glen is surrounded by farming. VIR is set in open forests with rolling hills and a view that can reach the next county or even the next state.

Road courses do not have retaining walls hugging the pavement. They do not have giant, towering fences. The racing surface is more narrow. They are not flat with the only rise being the banking in left turn after left turn. Road courses rise and fall with the natural terrain through left and right turns with the only containment marked with rounded curbs.

NASCAR teams test at Virginia International Raceway for the similarities of driving the course. The suspension and tire setups for the cars and the technique of getting around fast for the drivers all come in to play. These courses are essentially designed for smaller and lighter sports cars which come from the manufacturer built for handling. NASCAR brings cars much heavier and are based on family sedans built for groceries, soccer shuttles and a comfortable ride to work.

The course at Virginia International Raceway is similar enough to allow teams to gather useful data for racing at sanctioned tracks. It is also much closer to teams’ bases of operations to make practicing cost effective. It is also legal under NASCAR rules concerning practicing. They are limited as to practice outside of schedules on sanctioned tracks.

Teams go to VIR to practice and gather data. The picturesque views are an added bonus. Teams and drivers may not have the time to notice the countryside.

But fans do…

Go racing at VIR. NASCAR testing has become an annual event and is open for fans to watch. They are not “racing” but you do see them driving without your view being restrained by a fence 30 feet high, buildings and haulers in the infield and some nut wearing beer cans on his head.

Some of the cars are grey. You see them make right-handed turns. You see trees. You can walk around as there is no assigned seating.

This is but one example. Go see real racing at VIR. American Le Mans, as an example. Sports cars of every variety racing fender to fender among the scenery of rolling hills.

NASCAR testing has been a novelty. Now, however, Virginia International Raceway is set to host a NASCAR sanctioned series for racing. The K&N Pro Series is racing in August. Stock cars will be rumbling and racing on the historic course at VIR. (See more info here)

It is getting more and more interesting to go racing at VIR! Visit online for the full schedule.

There is a place in Virginia that was built in the 1950’s for sports car and racing enthusiasts to gather and challenge each other and the terrain. Rises and turns made famous by names such as Carroll Shelby, Carl Haas, Bob Holbert and Paul Newman. The track was there in the early days along with Watkins Glen and Elkhart Lake.

The place fell off in the 1970’s but was given a second chance rolling into this century. In 2000, Virginia International Raceway was brought back to life with an upgraded facility and an open invitation for club and enthusiast racing. It wasn’t long before VIR was hosting Grand-Am, American Le Mans, SCCA, AMA and other varieties of sports car and motorcycle racing.

NASCAR has been testing road course racing here for several years but the haven’t raced. Until now… (more…)

NASCAR fans should have had plenty to be excited about at the road course for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 as there were spins, passes and plenty of challenges. For the end of the day at Sonoma Clint Bowyer managed his first win of the season and a first in 2012 for Michael Waltrip Racing.

However, the race also brings forth a few issues to toss around.

First and foremost is the idea of NASCAR on a road course in the first place. Many fans don’t seem to like it. We don’t understand that. This type of course offers a variety of terrain and therefore a variety of challenges to racing. It would certainly follow that those challenges would make for a more exciting race. Granted, the big oval speeds are not there but if all you want is speed then flip on NHRA for a few seconds and you’ll see 300+ mph.

As for the diehard traditionalists that want to insist stock cars turn left and anything else is blasphemous we would say to get over it. This is the same bunch that cried when Toyota entered NASCAR. This is the same bunch that chided the “Car of Tomorrow”. They still boo Jeff Gordon because of some perception that goes back to the #3 and Dale Earnhardt. (more…)

You would think the folks from MUFON should be getting calls from Southside Virginia as the area just east of Danville and a rock throw from the North Carolina line was occupied by “greys” and UFOs. The UFOs, or “Unidentified Fast Objects”, were hypothetically occupied and operated by NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series drivers. The “greys”, in this particular context, were often seen moving about in the larger groups of UFOs…

An invasion it may have been but it was not extraterrestrial. For several years, NASCAR teams descend on Virginia International Raceway and take over the rolling, countryside road course to test their ability to build cars that can, amazing as it may sound, turn right as well as left. This visit to VIR has become somewhat of a tradition as the season winds close to the road courses of Sonoma and Watkins Glen. NASCAR rules and regs do not allow teams to test set-ups at “sanctioned” tracks (as in the ones they will be racing on) except on specified times and days associated with the race schedule at that venue. However, there is no such rule concerning testing at a facility that is, in many ways, very similar to the sanctioned and scheduled  raceways.

Open the gates and man the flag stations, we’re making right turns in 750 horsepower machines that have the handling characteristics of a lead-lined brick. (more…)