Members of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority met at Virginia International Raceway on Friday morning approving a motion to appropriate the purchase of a used 2013 SUV for IDA use and moving through an update on finances — all tight and in line with last year’s numbers.
After taking care of business, it was on to the main attraction, an overview of Virginia International Raceway from VIR Chief Operating Officer Kerrigan Smith.
Smith, an eloquent advocate for VIR, offered board members an insight into what he called a “challenging few weeks” during which VIR raced to complete re-paving miles of asphalt roadway across the site. An original contractor, explained Smith, had failed to complete the job with due diligence, and as a result, VIR and the contractor are still engaged in a legal suit.
The good news, said Smith, is that VIR continues to be a major economic asset in Halifax County expected to draw more than 40,000 visitors over three days to upcoming international manufacturers’ races—drivers with million dollar rigs moving “small cities” across the state to compete at VIR.
Some visitors, said Smith, hunker down for hours at the raceway check-in gate just to get a look at the mega-buck convoys that keep showing up at VIR.
Smith told board members VIR CEO Connie Nyholm keeps VIR moving 370 to 380 days a year, an amazing schedule considering the need to cordon off calendar days occasionally for repairs and maintenance.
It makes for “a lot of after-hours maintenance,” said Smith, who quickly downplayed the notion that this kind of after-hours schedule might be above-and-beyond the call of duty.
“A lot of organizations use this same model — look at Disney Corporation, which almost never closes. When you realize how tight their schedule is and how much they do overnight, it’s amazing…” said Smith.
And VIR does it all with a pared down staff — 350 employees total, but only 50 to 60 full-time. Considering VIR offers visitors the use of 1,300 acres open 370 days a year, it’s testimony to Nyholm’s top-notch management skills and a work ethic like no other, said Smith.
The raceway, which began with a reputation as a first-class home track, then jumped to a reputation as a first-class national track, is now garnering international attention.
“Going global,” said Smith.
With race sponsors like Michelin and Nissan, the VIR brand has gone from national to global, luring manufacturers like Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, BMW and Audi to the glamorous complex to test and race vehicles most fans can only see on television or on the pages of a racing magazine, he added.
This weekend’s Michelin/GT Challenge-IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship stands to be a one-of-a-kind event, drawing top drivers from Italy, their wives, girlfriends and crews, to south-central Virginia—a chance for visitors and locals alike (Smith expects attendance to top 40,000) to mix and mingle in a venue not that far removed from Le Mans.
The action continues Sept. 17-19 when VIR hosts the CCS Cyclefest of Speed, a two-day tribute to faster-than-the-speed-of-light motorcycle racing.
Imagine, said Smith, close, side-by-side knee-dragging action as at least 100 contenders in different classes “separate themselves from the pretenders” for the season crown.
Smith told board members the 3-Gun Nation Championship and Shooting Sports Expo, scheduled for Oct. 8-9, is a unique event for VIR—a departure from motor sports focusing on competitors racing to outscore one another with shotguns, rifles and handguns.
Designed for expert shooters as well as novices, the two-day competition offers visitors access to a 1,000-yard range, a 12 and 20 gauge skeet range and a live-fire shoot house.
Visitors also can rent guns at the competition—Glock 19 9mm handguns and Smith & Wesson P 15 .223 rifles—and ammunition is available for purchase onsite.
Smith reminded members that VIR also offers visitors several different styles of lodging, from the upscale “Villas” to camping grounds, and casual to fine dining.
He mentioned the ongoing search for local hires to work as hotel/lodging staff, in the spa and restaurants and as “flagmen” (or women) on the tracks themselves—making VIR a reliable source of employment opportunities in Halifax County.
Car and Driver magazine, Smith told IDA members, has named VIR among the “top six road courses in the U.S.A.” – a number that left members of IDA smiling.