Virginia International Raceway

December 10, 2015
Djordje Sugaris

  • Virginia International Raceway Oak Tree

Though not among the most famous tracks in the USA, Virginia International Raceway is certainly one of America’s most interesting and challenging road courses.

Many map layout possibilities

It consists out of six possible layouts, but two are the most famous: the 3.27 miles long Full Course and 1.1 mile long Patriot Course, a-raceway-within-a-raceway. Also, Full Course and Patriot Course can be interconnected, creating the 4.2 miles long Grand East and 4.10 miles long Grand West Course. Full Course can also be shortened to North Course and South Course. A maximum of two courses can be ran simultaneously. Some of the famous bends include the Oak Tree, Climbing Esses and Rollercoaster, a bend similar to Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew.

Grand West Course, Virginia International Raceway track layout

Grand West Course, one of possible Virginia International Raceway track layouts shown on a map

The inaugural event at VIR had a legendary winner

The track was built in 1957 in Alton by a group of enthusiastic men from North Carolina. Gathered around an organization named Sports Car Enterprises, the group held the inaugural SCCA event. The event was won by the legendary racer and constructor Carroll Shelby who drove a Maserati 450S. After winning, Shelby famously told the press: “One lap at VIR is like a hundred at Watkins Glen.” However, the problem with Virginia International Raceway was that the challenging track was right in the middle of stock car territory, so it didn’t attract as many fans as it deserved.

Virginia International Raceway, VIR race course

Beautiful scenery of Virginia International Raceway

The Virginia International Raceway was closed in 1974

The VIR hosted SCCA, motorcycle and go-kart events, and one of the most famous races was the SCCA Trans-Am in 1966, an event which hosted several NASCAR legends such as Richard Petty and David Pearson. Afterwards, one bend got a new name – “The NASCAR Bend,” since stock car drivers had problems finding the perfect path through it. However, with the demise of the Trans-Am series, the track’s popularity stumbled as well and it was closed in 1974.

Virginia International Raceway oak tree

The iconic Oak Tree fell down on 2nd July 2013

Reopening of the Virginia International Raceway track

The reopening had to wait until the year of 2000, when it was revived by investors Connie Nyholm and Harvey Siegel. They started the work in 1998, widening and repaving the track, but keeping its original layout. In addition to that, Nyholm and Siegel transformed Virginia International Raceway into America’s first Motorsport Resort, a new and unique combination of racetrack, lodging, dining, spa, skeet shooting, pistol and rifle ranges, karting, and more. Enthusiasts from Virginia and North Carolina were thrilled to have VIR back on the map, and so did many drivers worldwide. After its reopening, Virginia International Raceway hosted the 2012 American Le Mans series when Klaus Graf set the new Full Course record of 1:35.434.

Virginia International Raceway, motorsport resort

Virginia International Speedway, America’s first Motorsport Resort

Home to many racing series

The Alton based road course now hosts IMSA United SportsCar Championship, as well as SCCA, ChampCar, NASCAR test days, etc. In addition to that, the track hosts many other events such as Gold Cup Historic Race and local club events. Whatever the future brings for this track situated in North Carolina, one fact will remain forever — the Virginia International Raceway is truly one of the most adrenaline pumping tracks in the world.

Video : What racing around VIR looks like

Address: 1245 Pine Tree Rd, Alton, VA 24520, USA

Phone: +1 434 822 7700

Official website:


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