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Rolex not returning to VIR

After having hosted events for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series for 10 seasons, Alton’s VIRginia International Raceway will not host a series event in 2012. VIR is one of three tracks that had been longtime staples on the series not included on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series 2012 schedule. Lime Rock Park and Miller Motorsports Park also were dropped from the schedule.

While removing the three tracks from the series schedule, Grand-Am officials added dates for the series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Belle Isle in Detroit, Mich., both of which will be major events in the large Midwest market area.

“This is a bitter pill to swallow,” VIR Director of Track Operations Kerrigan Smith said yesterday.

“It’s something we are disappointed with. It was nothing personal against VIR. We were not the only track to be dropped off of their schedule. They (Grand-Am) are focusing on revamping their business model a little bit.”

Smith said he and VIR officials will attempt to get the track back on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series schedule in 2013.

“We hope to be back on their schedule in 2013,” added Smith.

“We do not want to lose Grand-Am. I love the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. Before I came to work here at VIR I was working for a Rolex Series racing team (Synergy Racing). This is just how it shook out.”

Smith pointed out that VIR’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event in May was a successful one for both VIR and Grand-Am.

“We had a very successful event in 2011,” Smith said.

“It didn’t matter. They (Grand-Am officials) made their decision based on what they had to make their decision on.”

Smith said he and track officials are attempting to come up with a suitable event to take the place of the lost Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event.

“We’re hoping to replace it,” Smith remarked.

“We hope we can put something together in 2012 that will soften the blow a little bit.”

With the top-tier AMA Superbike Series also not returning to VIR next season, VIR’s Gold Cup Historic Races, an event that has traditionally ranked as one of the season’s top three events at the famous road course, will take the stage as one of VIR’s showcase events in 2012.

Smith said last weekend’s Gold Cup event was a huge success.

“We had over 200 cars racing, had two car shows and three great days of racing action,” Smith said.

“We had a very big crowd on Saturday. It was something of a surprise. It caught us off-guard a little bit.”

As far as the track’s 2012 season schedule is concerned, Smith said the Gold Cup Historic Races event is already penciled in. The remainder of the track’s schedule has not been finalized.

“We had been holding on things for awhile to try to accommodate Grand-Am,” Smith explained.

“We can now go ahead and move forward.”

Smith said track officials hope to be in a position to release the track’s 2012 schedule within the next few weeks.