Road racing. It was a full weekend of road courses from cheap chumps all the way up the ladder to NASCAR.

Grand-Am and American Le Mans were at Road America which is interesting on several levels. The two series are combining for 2014 and running the same weekend showcased both series in action. They were still split over Saturday and Sunday but fans were shown both through the paddock, practices and racing.

NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup were racing Watkins Glen, the second road coarse on their schedule and the last for the season. There is still debate about a road course in “The Chase” but that is likely several laps away.

Grand-Am and NASCAR were given a bit of a shake for these races as Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas #14) was injured earlier in the week in a sprint car rollover crash. This left the #14 without a driver at “The Glen” and points hole where Stewart was (11th before Watkins Glen). The rush to fill that seat landed on Max Papis who is currently driving Grand-Am but also has time in Sprint Cup cockpits. That left Papis’ seat as a fill-in at Road America which put Kenny Wilden in as a co-driver with Papis’ usual partner, Jeff Segal.

How did the replacements run? Segal and Wilden put the AIM Autosport Ferrari into a GT Class 4th place. Max Papis drove Stewart’s #14 to a 15th place finish which, all things considered, wasn’t too bad as he started 29th.

Kyle Busch won at “The Glen”. BMW was the big winner at Road America as Starworks put theirs in for the Prototype Class and Turner put theirs in for GT. (more…)

“Third time is a charm” or perhaps things sometimes happen in “threes” or maybe it’s just luck…

Tony Stewart is out of the #14, Mobil 1 – Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet for Watkins Glen. That is certain. How many more races he could miss as the season runs closer to Richmond and “The Chase” is yet to be determined.

At Southern Iowa Speedway, Stewart was running quite well in his #14 sprint car when he slid into a slower car and went for an airborne tumble. The result was a smashed car and a broken leg. To be exact, he broke the bones in his lower right leg. (more…)

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…)

We missed some racing.

But then… We missed a lot of things…  Air conditioning, refrigeration, lights, computer, internet, television…

We were luckier than many as we had hot and cold running water. Natural gas for the water heater…  Some had no running water at all.

Yes. The storm along the eastern United States got us. The last thing on the television was qualifying from Sparta, KY. High winds shut it down. Bits of pop-up tents were flying around the infield and garage area sweeping up setup notes, driver caps and SPEED personality scripts. At the time that seemed a bit unusual. Unusual to the point that we checked online for the weather in the area of Sparta. It was a storm with an arc of color indicating heavy rain moving across Ohio and northern Kentucky.

“Hmmm – That is interesting” and “Wow” and “Sucks for them” were pretty much the thoughts at the time. (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…)