Craig Murto: Dominion Raceway opens on Saturday

Saturday evening is the scheduled opening of Dominion Raceway, and it promises to be an historic event.

As noted on the facility’s website, “http://DominionRaceway.com” target=”_blank”>DominionRaceway.com, “Dominion Raceway and Entertainment is the premier motorsports and entertainment venue on the East Coast.”

Not only does it feature the 4/10ths-mile paved oval that gets the green flag at 7 p.m. on Saturday night, but it also features a 2-mile road course and a eighth-mile drag strip, all with state-of-the-art timing and scoring.

But Dominion Raceway and Entertainment is the facility’s full name, and no expense was spared to add emphasis to the entertainment. An outdoor concert venue, a 10-acre retail center and a 33-acre commercial center also are on site.

The website explains, “Our main 36,600-square-foot complex will host corporate events, commercial product releases, a restaurant, and live music. The open layout, multiple facilities and our location make us THE spot for fun. Family fun, corporate events or a night out … a Dominion Raceway and Entertainment event will exceed your expectations.”

The fact that the facility exists exceeds anyone’s expectations. It’s nearly unheard of for new racing facilities to be constructed; usually all too often we hear of tracks closing, such as the once important Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas.

But when track owner Steve Britt sold Old Dominion, he vowed he would open another racetrack that would be easily accessible for fans in Northern Virginia. Right off Interstate 95 exit 118 on Rt. 606 in Thornburg, the new Dominion Raceway is easily accessible to fans from Winchester to Baltimore, Richmond and beyond. The track is just off the northbound lanes on I-95 and can be seen from the interstate.

More than 140 NASCAR Late Model Stock Cars have been registered for competition at the track. This doesn’t mean there will be 140 Late Models in the pits every week, but it appears a full car count shouldn’t be a problem. And with Langley Speedway in Hampton, unsure of its future, even more cars could show up to Dominion to compete.

There will be special events for touring series at the track as well, such as the Memorial Day running of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

Longtime fans of short track racing may remember the tire manufacturer McCreary. The company became American Race Tires, manufacturer of American Racer, and the McCreary name has not been heard of for decades. Until now, that is.

American Racer will be the track tire for all weekly divisions on Dominion Raceway’s oval, except for the Late Models, which will compete on McCreary Tires. The resurgence of the McCreary name drew national attention.

It’s safe to say that a lot of eyes around the nation will be on Dominion Raceway this weekend. Some who have toured the facility called it a “game changer,” and undoubtedly it is one of the finest motorsports complexes ever built. Some observers dubbed the track “the Irwindale of the East,” paying homage to the fine multi-use facility outside Los Angeles. But in reality Dominion Raceway offers a lot more entertainment options than Irwindale.

As noted on the website, “The 118 Bar and Grill is coming in spring of 2016 to Dominion Raceway’s main 36,600-square-foot race complex. Just have a seat at the bar or enjoy great food while watching the races from the party deck.”

Once open, the 118 Bar and Grill is expected to become a year-round dining facility, not just a place from which to watch the races.

Plans also include that besides concerts, other non-motorsports activities may include drive-in movies.

A lot of meetings took place to address critics before the November 2013 groundbreaking. The idea of a racetrack in Thornburg didn’t initially sit well with every local resident.

“It was a process that we worked very hard on,” said Dominion Raceway General Manager Edwin Pardue. “We approached our critics with respect, listened to their concerns and then addressed each of their issues. We focused on what the project would bring to the region, the positive impact that it would have.”

That positive impact begins Saturday night, when the oval holds its first race and what promises to be an incredible field of Late Model Stock Cars hits the track on McCreary tires. You can go to the track’s website and order tickets online, or simply show up and purchase tickets at the track.

It may be a bit cold outside, but bring a blanket and bundle up at Dominion raceway Saturday night for what promises to be an histories event.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.