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Big race at VIR driving business in Halifax County

Halifax County is expected to welcome thousands of race fans from all over the United States this weekend to experience one of the biggest events ever held by Virginia International Raceway.

Race fans from across the globe are trekking to the raceway to experience the American Le Mans VIR 240, the ninth round of the 10-race 2012 American Le Mans Series.

According to the state slogan, Virginia is for lovers, but Virginia International Raceway is for racers this weekend. The manicured circuit in the rolling Virginia countryside will host Saturday’s American Le Mans VIR 240. 

The penultimate event on this year’s ALMS calendar is indeed a VIR — “Very Important Race” — for Corvette Racing. The Chevy team leads the driver, team, and manufacturer championships in the GT class, and can clinch the titles at VIR. 

The series’ first appearance at VIR is a venture into unexplored territory, however. Corvette Racing was in France preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the ALMS open test held at VIR in June. While all four Corvette Racing drivers have experience at VIR, none has raced a Corvette C6.R on the 3.27-mile Virginia road course.

According to VIR Director of Marketing Dan Vaden, the event is expected to bring thousands and be a boost to the Southside economy.

 “Every restaurant, every hotel…the shopping areas and all should feel the impact as well with that many people,” said Vaden.

Area hotels are filled to occupancy or expect to be by the end of day Friday.

Holiday Inn Express front desk clerk Mandy Boswell said their establishment had only five rooms vacant as of Thursday morning.

 “We expect to be filled by the end of the day,” she added.

Occupants have traveled from Colorado, Ind., North Carolina, Fla., New Jersey and even Nevada to venture to VIR.

 “It is great for us. Our revenue is currently at 105, and it’s usually in the 70s,” said Boswell.

The Berry Hill Resort is also sold out through the weekend and even has one of the race teams, Dyson from New York, staying at their establishment.

 “It’s hard to know what to expect (with this weekend), but it’s definitely brought in high revenue for us, and we hope and pray the restaurants stay busy through the weekend,” said Sales Manager Denise Janssen.

On Friday race fans occupied most of the rooms, she added.

Sheetz Manager Ginny Elliott said she has prepared her workers for a busy weekend.

“As long as it doesn’t rain, we always expect a large crowd,” said Elliott.

The Riverdale Sheetz accommodates those looking for both food and gas.

Co-owner of Bistro 1888 Barbara Cage said she is looking forward to “a great weekend.”

“It’s hard to say, but just Tuesday night we had a 20 percent over normal for revenue,” Cage said. “It’s going to be an interesting weekend.”

With business booming this weekend and revenue looking up for area businesses, Tourism Director Linda Shepperd said, “It’s going to be a great weekend.

 “We’ve received a lot of phone calls for selling tickets. We’ve had people from North Carolina coming through, and I believe this is the biggest event at VIR,” said Shepperd.

 “It’s exciting, and I can’t wait. It’s going to be a good weekend,” she added.

Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Pool expects the event is going to be wonderful for the economy of Halifax County.

 “It’s going to bring huge crowds, and we’ll benefit from those folks heading to VIR and where they stay and eat,” said Pool.

Pool plans to attend the event Friday and says she is looking forward to the experience.

 “It’s going to be a great weekend for Halifax County,” said Pool.

Vaden anticipates fans attending will get their money’s worth this weekend.

 “You can expect a lot of fun, a lot of food, a lot of fast action, and I think they’re going to see a lot of cars that most of these people have never seen before,” he concluded.