VIR - 1957 August - Post Race Newspaper Column
Virginia International Raceway - August, 1957
by Ed Hodges, Durham Morning Herald sports writer.
At The VIR, Speed And $$$ Signs!
A new era has dawned for the sports enthusiast who likes his thrills fast
and hard. It is an era complete with mechanization and manpower producing
speed and danger, two necessary elements for an age hardened by two wars
and a deep depression.
Except for the dullness of duplication the period might be called "the roaring
fifties." The name was earned honestly by a million sports car drivers, many
of them taking to the track in a relatively new sport called roadracing.
Finding success easily in well-to-do sections of the country, the sport has
now invaded Piedmont Carolina and Virginia. The first showing came off last
weekend at the Virginia International Raceway, near Milton, N.C., just 47
miles from Durham.
In the two-day meet the sport enjoyed a roar of approval almost as loud as
the blast of the short exhaust stacks of the powerful engines.
The track drew almost 16,000 paid customers and another 4,000 were on hand
with comps or participant passes,
What the 20,000 fans saw was some of the fastest sleekest cars in America,
piloted by the world's best drivers, on a 3.2 mile course made up of 12 turns,
two straightaways and several hills and descents.
They saw speeds up to 160 miles an hour and track finesse unknown to them
A little weary of the monotonous short oval of stock car tracks, the new
roadracing fans came away wanting more and asking when the next meet might
Another Race Slated This Fall
Just a few miles away, in Greensboro, there was a man who had the answer
to this question. "We are planning another race for October or Novem-ber,"
said Ed Kemm, president of the new VIR. "Then a spring and fall meet every
"The fall race will be just as big as the last one," continued Kemm. "There'll
be about 125 of the best cars in the country in it and positively no junk."
He read off a list of drivers' names that sounded like an All-America selection.
"Carol Shelby will be there," he, said, "and so will Briggs Cunningham. The
John Edgar' Enterprise will have its team of drivers, mechanics and cars
back and Jim Kimberly president of the Sports Car Club of America, will be
"This thing is bigger than Sebring, Fla. right now," said, Kemm, "and it's
going to be bigger yet."
The mushroom growth, of the new sport has caused many to ask, "Where does
that leave stock car racing?"
President Kemm maintains that VIR is not out to fight anybody but if NASCAR
gets in the way it's their own tough luck.
In any conceivable conflict the Sports Car Club of America is sure to win.
It's a gentlemen's sport run by men of means who can match every NASCAR dollar
with a million in any running battle they care to engage in.
Kemm Has Million Bucks Invested
"We are all amateurs," said Kemm, "and we are going to keep it that way.
"This way we weed out a lot of pro junk we don't want. Of course, we charge
admission to the races cause when you put thousands of dollars into something
you've got to get something out of it."
Known to have a half million dollars of his own money in the track, Kemm
considers the investment his contribution sports car racing. When asked why
so much for such. a little return Kemm says simply, "With me it's something
that I built because I couldn't race."
With such an investment in what is probably the top track of its kind in
the country there are those who wonder if it will attract the top European
drivers. Kemm thinks it will.
"Juan Fangio and Sterling Moss are racing for the Federation of International
Automobiles," said Kemm. "If we decided to run FIA cars Fangio and Moss would
definitely come. They raced at Sebring and they would race here."
The two top stars of the European circuit, where roadracing is the number
one sport, are usually found at the top meets for sports cars on both continents.
"We learned a lot in our first race," said Kemm. "Right now our problem is
to educate people on what roadracing is. And right here in this section we've
got the top track in America. It's the Kentucky Derby of roadracing."
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