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Raceway Looks Ahead To Promising Future

Back in the day, VIR attracted some of the world’s and country’s best known professional racers. After it was closed in 1974, few people felt that the roar of powerful racing engines would be heard there again.

Thanks to New York real estate developer Harvey Siegel and Connie Nyholm, a Martinsville native who ran a real estate company in New York, those sounds are again being heard.

This weekend, America’s top road racing series, the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, a series that features the world’s top professional road racers and the fastest and most powerful sports cars, will return to Alton’s VIRginia International Raceway for the Bosch Engineering 250.

The Bosch Engineering 250 is one of the biggest events of the year at VIR and attracts some of the biggest crowds to be seen at auto racing events in Virginia.

A host of on-track and off-track activities are scheduled as part of the big racing weekend, which will feature a wide variety of racing and a large variety of cars.

This weekend’s Bosch Engineering 250 is the first major event of the season at VIR. In a manner of speaking, this weekend’s Bosch Engineering 250 will be a celebration of the 10 years of growth and transformation that the facility has undergone since its re-opening.

Since Siegel and Nyholm re-opened VIRginia International Raceway in 2000, the 1,200-acre property has been transformed into a huge multi-use complex that employs over 300 people and includes two hotels, 12 residential villas, a motorsports camp, motorsports testing facilities, a go-kart track, skeet ranges and a motorsports industrial park.

Josh Lief, who came to VIR in 2006 to serve as the general manager, also has played a key role in the growth and development of the facility that features the famed 3.27-mile road course which serves as the hub of the complex.

“When I came to VIR in 2006, my job was to take their (Siegel and Nyholm’s) vision of beauty and excellence and make it sustainable,” Lief explained.

“I think the goal for the next 10 years is to keep that sustainability going, so that we can go forward and continue to add to the amenities to live up to the mantle of being America’s Motorsport Resort.”

Lief said he is very pleased with where VIR is today, but he noted there is plenty of room for growth.

“I think Harvey, Connie and myself would all agree that after 10 years, we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be proud of,” Lief remarked.
“I think that in any business, this business probably even more so than some others, you have to keep moving forward and growing, expanding and staying ahead of the competition.

“That’s why we do things like build skeet ranges and work on building such things as our Camp Motorsport. We’ve got to continue to work to stay as the leaders. I think we’re very pleased with where we are, and, at the same time, are ambitiously striving for additional growth.”

One of the facility components that Lief is proud of is the raceplex motorsports industrial park.

“VIR will continue to push for and hope to bring businesses to our raceplex and Virginia Motorsports Technology Park,” Lief said.

“The track owners have invested heavily in it, as have the local governments, to an extent. We think motorsports as an economic engine for creating jobs is a real important way for this area to try to find some jobs.

“We’ve been successful in bringing in jobs with Synergy Racing, Sasco Sports and the TMI Auto Tech that makes the Ariel Atom,” he pointed out.

“We’re the North American manufacturer of that company. We’ve brought in the VW race series that is headquartered there, and we have several businesses in the incubator garages we’ve built.

“We’re adding jobs to Halifax County’s economy,” added Lief.

“We think it’s really important to keep pushing on that. We’re working with local governments to make that go forward.”

Lief said he is continuing to work with potential prospects to bring more business to the industrial park.

“We always have a bunch of prospects that we’re talking to,” said Lief.

“As anyone in economic development knows, people are shopping. We have some really exciting things on the horizon. I can’t go into details, but there are some very exciting things on the horizon.”

As far as racing is concerned, Lief is continuing efforts to make events such as this weekend’s Bosch Engineering 250 bigger and better for competitors, fans and sponsors.

“My goal is to sustain the existing big events that we have right now,” explained Lief. “The Grand-Am Rolex Series, the Gold Cup, the AMA Superbikes and the new for this year, SCCA Sports Car Wars, I’d like to see those four events be sustainable and profitable and continue.

“There is always a competition for this kind of major-league racing. Other tracks are trying to get those events to go to their track instead of going to VIR. That’s something I spend a lot of time on, working to put the package together to make those events sustainable.”

As far as the future is concerned, Lief said the goal is to continue to move the facility forward.

“We’re going to strive to build on the resort components and try to have the group business and mid-week business grow in addition to the weekends so that we can bring more people to the Halifax County and Pittsylvania County area all week long, not so much just on the weekends,” Lief said.

“We already have testing days and club days. We want to develop a lot more mid-week business. That is going to be a big focus of ours in the next five to 10 years.”