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Murto: No racing, but motorsports busy

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By Craig Murto - sports@nvdaily.com

There is no off-season in racing.

There may not be cars on the racetrack for fans to watch, but the world of motorsports is busier than ever this time of year. Tracks and series are finalizing schedules, teams are securing sponsors, and racers are preparing equipment for next year's campaigns.

So far Shenandoah, Winchester and Hagerstown Speedways don't have their 2013 schedules posted on their websites. Some tracks, such as South Boston Speedway, have had their 2013 schedule complete for some time.

It helps local racers when schedules are completed as early as possible, because it gives racers something to show potential sponsors. What we do know is that the "Brawl in the Fall" at Hagerstown -- postponed due to Hurricane Sandy -- will run on March 17 at 2 p.m. with features for Sprint Cars, Modifieds, Late Models and 258 Sprints.

Speaking of Sprint Cars, expect to see the always exciting Virginia Sprint Series at Shenandoah Speedway in 2013. The series is expected to run at Natural Bridge as well. The IMCA RaceSaver 305 Sprints -- of which the Virginia Sprint Series is a region -- are one of the fastest-growing open-wheel divisions in the country, due to its common-sense engine rules which save racers money.

Potomac and Winchester Speedways -- both of which are promoted by Greg Gunter -- had added a crate engine class to their Late Model rosters. According to a release posted on the Winchester Speedway website, the 602/604 Crate Late Model Division will have a point fund at both tracks, and will run at each track twice a month. This could be ideal if when the schedules are released, the cars run one week at Potomac and the next week at Winchester. The new division does not replace the current Limited Late Model division, but is expected to grow over time. More information for competitors is available at winchestervaspeedway.com.

There are bodies being built for pavement Late Models that look more like stock automobiles; Aluminum Racing Products started building them for the now-defunct ASA Late Model Series. Even NASCAR has decided to make the Cup and Nationwide series appear more like stock automobiles. I wonder if perhaps Winchester and Potomac should consider a different look for the new crate class, rather than having three classes of Late Models at the track that all appear the same.

With Old Dominion Speedway now closed, Shenandoah may pick up some of the cars that ran at the Manassas facility. Other teams have expressed a desire to travel outside the region to Southern National Motorsports Park near Raleigh, N.C., and others will be heading to Motor Mile, South Boston or Langley. What's truly sad is that many competitors will simply stop racing.

Meanwhile, a public meeting was held last week to introduce people in Spotsylvania County to the proposed Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, to be built right off I-95 in 2013 and open for the 2014 racing season. A group opposed to the track did not make its presence known at the initial meeting, but may attend a scheduled board hearing in the county.

It's really unfortunate that there is such a group. The track is being built next to I-95 and a truck stop, with a nature preserve adjacent to the property. It's not as if the motorsports facility is going to be constructed in a residential area.

The proposed facility will consist of a paved oval, a drag strip and a road course. The site is not too far from Kings Dominion.

Hotels in Spotsylvania County will surely benefit, as will the truck stop next to the proposed track. In fact, there are nothing but benefits for the region.

In the 1980s, Hagerstown Speedway did a study that concluded that $10 million annually came into Washington County, Md., due to the track. That was in the '80s. Can you imagine how much money a modern, properly run multi-purpose motorsports facility could bring into a county today? Hagerstown Speedway was bringing in $10 million annually in the '80s, and it doesn't have a road course that could host club activity almost daily.

Langley Speedway in Hampton, is embraced by the city of Hampton. The city's visitors bureau sanctions events at the track and advertises the track, realizing that the county and the county's businesses do well if the track is promoted as a tourist destination. The city of Hampton gets it. If Spotsylvania County doesn't get it, maybe the people working hard this off-season to build a new racetrack there should find someplace that welcomes the revenue.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.



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