- Last Updated on 04:17 PM 01/10/13
- BY Joe Chandler
Virginia International Raceway has come a long way since Harvey Siegel and Connie Nyholm re-opened the track in March of 2000 after almost a quarter-century of dormancy.
From a facility initially just a 3.27-mile road race course, Siegel and Nyholm have transformed it into a first-class motorsports resort that includes a lodge, a restaurant and pub, villas, a spa, a kart track, skeet-shooting range and other amenities along with a growing industrial complex.
Now, it’s in Nyholm’s hands.
Siegel has retired from the ownership and operation of VIR, and Nyholm is at the helm of the world-renowned facility with a new partner, Ohio resident Kathy Stout, the owner of record of Pittsburgh International Race Complex.
“He (Siegel) was doing his estate planning and wanted to get that completed in 2012,” Nyholm explained.
“It was only natural that I be the purchaser of his interest as this is my primary interest, while Harvey has gravitated to transforming Camp Motorsport.”
Stout, Nyholm said, helped make it possible for her to purchase Siegel’s interest in VIR.
“Kathy came forward with the financial investment for the buyout of most of Harvey’s interest,” Nyholm explained. “I bought some additional interest to have a clear majority of ownership and control of the project.”
Nyholm said Stout is no stranger to VIR.
“Kathy is a VIR Club member,” Nyholm noted, “and she races a purple Viper in the NARR Series of which she and her husband, Jim, are part owners. She is also the owner of record of Pittsburgh International Race Complex, which she and her husband are also involved with. They live in Ohio, visit VIR multiple times a year, and they have a villa here that they have had for years.”
Nyholm said Stout and her husband do not expect to be involved with VIR and its operations on a day-to-day basis.
“She made the investment here because she really likes what we’re doing here and wants to support our vision to go forward,” Nyholm pointed out.
Siegel said in a prepared statement he is happy to pass the baton to Nyholm.
“I am delighted to pass the baton to Connie, whose tireless efforts have helped make VIR the standard for all such facilities,” he said.
“Her energy and forward-thinking complimented my own vision. Nowhere does the concept of two plus two equals five make a more perfect example. I am proud to turn this amazing facility over to a worthy custodian whom, I am confident, will move it into the 21st century.”
As for Nyholm, there will be little change from what she has been doing for the past few years in heading up the day-to-day operation of VIR.
“I have been responsible for day-to-day operations and decision-making and visioning going on for at least the last four or five years,” Nyholm pointed out.
“My direct involvement and responsibility has been increasing since the beginning of time until four or five years ago when the buck stopped here at my door, and Harvey first started getting involved with Camp Motorsport.”
Over the past several years Virginia International Raceway has received worldwide attention in a number of areas and continues to do so.
“I think we have proven ourselves,” Nyholm remarked.
“’Car and Driver Magazine’ just came out doing its annual ‘Lightning Lap’ issue. We had 21 pages of coverage in ‘Car and Driver.’ We were just named one of the top tracks by Grassroots Motorsports. I think we have made our mark, and our mission now is to continue the momentum that we’ve shown over the last 12 years. I’m poised to do that and am excited to do so.”
Growing the business
Nyholm is looking to continue to grow all aspects of the Virginia International Raceway facility. One of the big parts of that is the continued development of the VIR Raceplex Industrial Park and the Virginia Motorsports Technology Park, both of which are located on the VIR campus.
“A major focus here at VIR is growing the industrial park and working with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute National Tire Research Center and SoVa Vehicle Motion Lab to maximize what they’re doing, not only for their own business directly, but also for VIR, Halifax County and all of Southside,” Nyholm said.
“My great love is industrial development, utilizing VIR and all of our partners as catalysts for economic development. I think you’ll see some new things coming out of them, and some new things coming out of TMI AutoTech, the manufacturer of the Aerial Atom. Everybody is kicking on all cylinders here.”
Nyholm also is looking at building group business at the facility.
“We are also focusing quite a bit on our group business to bring in large corporate customers for team-building activities during the weekdays,” she noted. “That will expose our area beyond our facility to a lot of key decision-makers and Fortune 500 companies.”
And, of course, there is racing.
“Our biggest event will be the American Le Mans Series event on the weekend of Oct. 5,” Nyholm pointed out. “We will have a full schedule. The Gold Cup event has moved up into the Sept. 29 weekend. We’re also doing three Chump Car races this year on all different tracks and formats. The fans love it, the participants love it, and our staff loves it.”
While Siegel has retired from the ownership and operation of VIR, he remains busy working with Camp Motorsport.
“We started with about 40 campers with our season-opening year to kind of trial it out,” Nyholm said of the program that offers motorsports camp experiences for youths age 8-16 as well as adult/child weekends.
“It has grown now to 120 campers a week. Harvey is very enthusiastic about that initiative, and the camp has outgrown VIR’s capacity to serve as host. Harvey wanted to acquire Camp Staunton Meadows and really focus on growing Camp Motorsport.”
Siegel will continue to be a VIR Club member, retain a residence at the track and continue to enjoy what has become a grand motorsport tradition at VIR.