Virginia International Raceway - March, 1957
Halifax Gazette, March 14, 1957
Sports car racing - the sport of millionaires - and kings - will be brought to this section soon, and when it does it will find a track un-surpassed for its structural and esthetic qualities anywhere else in the world.
Winding over hill and dale for 3.6 .miles on a 1200-acre farm bounded on two sides by the meandering Dan River, the VIR track will hum to the roar of Jaguars, Ferraris, Mercedes and other foreign make speedsters on May 4-5 when the first big race is scheduled.
There's a mile straightway - here the big cars will clock up to 170 miles per hour, and there's Horseshoe Bend where they will be slowed to a grinding pace to negotiate hairpin curves. Along the way there are the tortuous S-curves, styled as Hogpen Corner and Boot Hill Bend, where an over eager racer may spill for hundreds of feet down the closely cropped grassy hillsides before coming to a stop.
The track promoter and builder, youngish Edward B. Kemm, doesn't ask you to take his word for his fabulous track. On a recent Sunday, typical these days as the word gets around of big doings on the Jay and John Foote farm, in the extreme Southwest tip of the county, two sports car racers of note reached for the superlatives to describe what they were seeing in the making at VIR.
John Norwood, an advertising associate for Sports Illustrated magazine, said it appealed to him "almost as if nature intended for it to be the world's best sports car race track."
And again: "As far as road courses go, this track is as good or better than anything in Europe and certainly superior to any track in this country." Norwood declared.
Adding his own adjectives of admiration for the course, racer Ray Errickson of New York said he had seen none better and few near its equal.The pair waxed eloquent over the sylvan setting, the lift and rise of the course, the curves and turns.
VIR is located just across the. North Carolina line in Virginia, about 10 miles southeast of Danville, and within a Jag's roar of sleepy little Milton, N.C. Access roads to the track are of a primitive nature at the, moment but they will be improved as the thousands flock to the site for a look at the nation's new-est and fastest growing sport.
Going from Danville the motorist takes Route 58 and then turns south on State Route 62 to Milton. When he leaves Milton on what has been up to now a little used road he will suddenly drop into a setting, remote and inaccessible as it has been, that seems to be a secluded dell.
The Foote brothers - they are 60- year old twins - came to the spot in 1907 from the State of Washington and they have carved a modest fortune out of the floor of the valley where sleek herds of Herefords and sheep still graze in contentment. What bothers the Footes most these days is how to keep those herds off the track and out of the way of speeding race cars.
During such big race days as those in coming up on May 4-5 and another for big race next fall the cattle and sheep will be restrained by fences, as will the thousands of spectators who will roam the vast acres inside the track. Fences will be 150 feet back from the track on the straightaways and 600 feet back on the turns. That's for the safety of the crowd and racers alike.
Paving of the track will begin about the first of April, Kemm says, and will be in A-1 condition by race time. The paved strip will be 27 feet wide and the curves will be almost flat. No banks ot help scoop the racers around the sharp turns.
Kemm, at the age of 23, is a Johnny-come-lately on the racing scene. He has been interested in the sport only three short years, but he says that when the racing bug bit him it left a deep scar.
And Kemm has the fee to pay for the nostrums. The track layout will cost a half million itself, and by the time the VIR remodels the old Foote mansion perched atop a high knoll into a club house and, carves out artificial lakes and finishes landscaping and road work in the vicinity the figure is expected to go much higher. "We aim to make it the Hialeah of sports car racing in America," is Kemm's size-up of what he and his board of directors have in mind at the VIR.
Some of the nation's top names in sports car racing have signed up for the May 4-5 inaugural. There will be such speedsters as Briggs Cunningham, Phil Walters, Carroll Shelby, John Fitch, Ebby Lunken, Jim Kimberling, Dr. Richard Thompson and others testing the course and racing for glory and fame.
In all, the seven races coming up will be limited to 280 racers, or a maximum of 40 to a race, Kemm. says. Many wanting to feel the track out for the first time will have to be turned away, he predicts.
Beginning at 12:45 p. m. on Saturday, May 4, a 10 lap race will be run off by G -production cars. Race No. 2 also for 10 laps will feature D and E production cars. The big finale on opening day will be a 100 mile race for F and E modified production makes.
Next day, the f irst race At 11 a. m. will be for F. production cars. At 12:30 p. m. C production speedsters will get the track. The third race at 1:45 p.m. will find H and G production models going at it. The windup 150 miler beginning at 3 p.m. will be for B, C and D modified cars. Inspection will take place on Thursday and Friday preceding the races when the track will be closed to the public.
Right now, Kemm's big worry is staffing the track with all the necessary officials and professional help necessary to produce the big races, but he says that everything will be in order by race time. An elaborate communications set-up for instance, will find 30 telephone observer stations spotted around the track and in constant contact with the grandstand and communications center near the pits.
Nothing will be spared to make the track and spectator areas as safe as humanly possible, Kemm promises. Emergency and hospital headquarters staffing was one of the first jobs he tackled, and the Halifax County Life Saving Crew will handle it.
The native New Yorker who is an adopted Carolinian heads a list of VIR track officials that includes Ed Welch, Winston-Salem, N. C., vice-president; Louis Glascock, Greensboro, N. C., treasurer; and Ed Alexander, Greensboro, Secretary.
But the VIR is Kemm himself. He daily commutes the 60 miles distance from his home in Greensboro to the track in his trim little Jaguar. He oversees the track's development with patient and loving care.
The other day, glancing across the sloping hills to the meadows along Dan River, Kemm mused - aloud that it almost seemed a shame to upset the tranquility of the scene with the roar of racing cars and the trample of feet of thousands of race fans.
But the slightly balding young man turned quickly to the more practical matters at hand and began turning, over in his mind the immense price of the investment and his determination to make it pay its way once the checkered flag goes down and the roar goes up from pulsating engines and the pulse-quickened thousands alike.
please send me e-mail with any additional info on this or any other VIR races