Virginia International Raceway - March 16, 1957
DANVILLE, Va., March 16, 1957 (AP)
In a remote corner of Halifax County about 10 miles east of here an automobile raceway is being built that may become "the Hialeah of sports car racing in America."
To make the raceway fit this description is the objective of Edward B. Kemm, a New Yorker who has adopted Greensboro, N.C as his home and for whom the Virginia International Raceway will be a dream come true.
The $500,000 race track, winding over hill and dale for 3.2 miles, is located just across the North Carolina line in Piedmont Virginia, an area steeped in historic tradition. Nearby, Nathaniel Greene's Revolutionary War patriots forded the Dan River in hot pursuit of Cornwallis.
The raceway is being built on a 1,200-acre cattle and sheep farm bordered on two sides by the meandering Dan and on the other sides by hills that shoot up suddenly from the floor of the valley.
Dedication May 4-5 - It will be dedicated May 4 and 5 with races that Kemm expects will attract from 25,000 to 40,000 spectators. Some 280 cars, limited to a maximum of 40 per race will be entered in the seven races on the two-day program.
The first race, a 10-lap affair, will be run by G production cars. The second race at 1:45 p.m., also for 10 laps, will be for D and E production cars. The final race, a 100-miler will see F and E modified production cars entered.
Next day, the first race at 11:15 a.m. will have F production cars competing. At 12:30 p.m., C production cars will have the run of the track. The third race at 1:45 is for H and G modified production autos. The big windup at 3 p.m. will be a 150-mile thriller for the big B, C and D-modified racers. Many of the nation's big-name drivers are entered.
Race to Finish Course - Right now the builders are engaged in a race of their own to get the course finished and in tip-top shape before the inaugural less than two months away. In early March the track was in fairly primitive condition. It had been graded last fall and heavy winter rains had packed the track solid. Paving of the 27-foot roadbed will begin early in April.
Meantime access roads to the track are being improved. A landing strip for small aircraft is in the works. Communications lines are being rushed into the track area. Some 30 telephone stations around the track course will be installed to keep the nerve center of the track near the grandstand and the pits in constant touch with all sections of the track.
An emergency and hospital area is being staked out. It will, when all is finished, be manned by doctors, first aid crewmen and ambulances to provide the last word in protection for racers and spectators alike.
There'll be a one-miIe straightaway where the big cars will clock 170 m.p.h., and there's a horseshoe bend where they will grind to a virtual stop to negotiate the turn. Just when the racers straighten out for a burst of speed, up comes Hogpen Corner, and a little later on, Boot Hill Bend.
Big Test for Drivers - The raceway will be no picnic for the racers. Its curves are almost flat and Kemm says they'll be left that way, without banking which would help the racers negotiate the sharp turns.
You have to look closely at a road map to find where the track is. It's off the beaten track, but Kemm predicts one day it will become the mecca of the sports car world. He believes it will have few equals anywhere.
The nearest. settlement to the raceway is the sleepy little village of Milton, N.C., just south across the North Carolina-Virginia line. To get to the raceway, the Virginia motorist turns off Highway 58 about eight miles east of here and proceeds south on Highway 62. Northbound traffic from the Carolinas must come in via Highways 62 or 57.
Kemm became a racing addict about three ago. He says his corporation expects to make the raceway pay off financially. Another sports car race is planned for early fall, after the May inau-gural program. Kemm is toying with the idea of opening up the track to stock car races in the interim, but as yet hasn't reach a final decision. Hot-rodders in the area would like to use a portion of the track for drag racing Maybe yes, maybe no, says Kemm. Before okaying a schedule, Kemm will confer with his officers and board. These include Ed Welch of Winston-Salem, N.C., vice President; Louis Glascock, his father-in-law, of Greensboro, N.C., treasurer; and Ed Alexander, Greensboro, secretary.
But the Virginia International Raceway is Kemm himself. Daily he commutes the 60 miles from his Greensboro home to oversee the track's construction in every detail with patience and loving care.
"It's a big job, but we'll make it," he says. "What we propose here is to make it the Hialeah of sports car racing in America."
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