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VIR opens new kind of track

The next step in the racing evolution of Virginia International Raceway (VIR) took place Thursday with the opening of a new 1/20-mile oval track at the venerable road racing facility in Alton.

Named “The Crater” after an historic Civil War battle during the siege of Petersburg, the steep track has 15 degree banking.

A fleet of 16 six and one-half horsepower “Sodi” karts stood by as VIR General Manager Josh Lief and AMA riders Elena Meyer and Jake Zemke cut the ribbon to officially open the track.

Rod Short, director of marketing and public relations for VIR, admitted the new track was different than what may be envisioned for VIR, but he added VIR itself was a new concept in its first manifestation in 1957.

VIR was the first road-racing course built in the south and the third overall in the nation, and it was built in the heart of NASCAR country, according to Short.

“This track is a little different, but building a road course in the heart of NASCAR country was a little different.

“No one had ever thought of that in the south, and now we’re looking forward to attracting a new and different crowd of motor sports enthusiasts here.”

A naming contest for the new track was conducted, and “The Crater” was a nod toward Civil War history and Virginia history as a whole, said Lief.

The Battle of the Crater, which took place July 30, 1864 was part of the Siege of Petersburg.

After weeks of preparation and tunneling, federals exploded a mine in the Confederate sector and blew a gap in the Confederate lines.

“We thought with the way [the track] looked, that name would be appropriate,” noted Lief.

“The Crater” is the latest racing venue at VIR, joining the original 3.27-mile racetrack (full-course), along with the Plantation Valley Kart Track, 5/8-mile paved kart track.

The new track may host mini-motorcycle racing and radio-controlled (RC) car racing in addition to Sodi kart racing, according to Lief and Short.