VMP Offers a Matrimony of Motorsports
By MIKE DAVIS, Publisher
Sep 7, 2012, 15:43
PETERSBURG – Just outside of Petersburg, a remote venue has provided local motorsports fans with thrills, chills and a few spills.
Built in 1994, Virginia Motorsports Park is nestled on 600 acres alongside Boydton Plank Road and provides the summer season with three racing venues.
“Primarily, out here it’s drag racing,” VMP General Manager Bryan Pierce said. “We race everything from street cars to motocross to tractor and truck pulls. In the 600 acres we have drag racing, truck pulls, motocross and we also do a 5K foot race called Rugged Maniacs. In all these venues we either produce ourselves or a promoter will rent it.”
The facility seats 23,000 patrons at the drag strip and 2,000 at the mud bog and tractor pull facility. On the drag strip side, VMP holds its weekend events from March to November on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“On Friday night, local drivers can come out and race their street cars,” Pierce said. “They can see how fast their cars can go and we can pair them up and they can race their buddies.”
There are only 21 tracks the size of VMP in the country and VMP is the largest in the state. One popular event that VMP has hosted in the past (2009-10) is “Pinks,” a program that airs on the Speed Channel.
The show – which features the slogan “Lose the race, lose your ride” – pits racers against one another in a winner-take-all format.
“We’ve hosted a couple of those here,” Pierce said. “It was very popular – we had about 200-plus racers come out to get in the 16 spots for the TV show.”
The track has also been a regular stop for drag racing’s two premier professional circuits, the National Hot Rod Association and the International Hot Rod Association.
“We’ve been NHRA- or IHRA- sanctioned since the track opened. We were IHRA for two years and now we’re back to NHRA. NHRA is known for their top fuel events and IHRA is known for its shows.”
Pierce has been with the facility for 14 years and the racing world has seen several changes since he’s been in the business.
“Technology has made racing and speed more affordable,” he said. “Now there are attachments drivers can buy that can make their cars faster, whereas before you would have to dig into the motor. Sometimes they still do that, but a car that someone can buy for $20,000 now was a $40,000 car 10 years ago because it had to be custom made.
“The structure is custom made, but the engines are more affordable, and what we call ‘power adders’ – such as your nitrous, blowers and turbo chargers – are more affordable, and that’s what makes their cars faster. Ten years ago, you would see a guy with a timing light underneath his hood adjusting his distributor. Now, they’ll plug a laptop into their car to adjust their timing and fuel injection because everything is computerized and that’s made it more successful.”
There are different classes for each category with varying rules for each that are sanctioned by the national organization or the promoter.
“Cars that are street legal have a different set of regulations than those that are not,” Pierce said. “The faster cars can go, there are breakdowns of equipment that have to be added. Once cars reach certain speeds, there has to be roll bars, helmets, parachutes, etc. It changes with the level of speed.”
Drag racing has been and will remain the staple of VMP, but there are expansions on the horizon for different events.
“We’ll stick with our core business, but we’re going to expand into athletic events such as the Rugged Mania,” Pierce said. “We’re looking to do more of those types of events, and we have a mountain bike trail infrastructure here that is 10 miles. In the past, we’ve leased it to an outside company that came in and developed it for mountain bikes and ATVs, and I’d like to make an athletic event with mountain bikes.”
“We’d also like to be the starting and finishing point for the World Cycling Championships that come to Richmond in 2015. We’re working with the Petersburg [Department of Tourism] and the Dinwiddie County [Department of Tourism] to get events like that to our area.”
This weekend, most of the acreage at the VMP grounds will be occupied by the Dinwiddie County Fair, which began Thursday and runs through Sunday.