Virginia Motorsports History

Virginia Motorsports History

Virginia has a rich history when it comes to motorsports. From NASCAR to drag racing, the state has produced some of the most legendary drivers and events in the sport’s history. The roots of Virginia’s motorsports culture can be traced back to the early 1900s when the state’s first racetrack, the Atlantic Speedway, was built in Virginia Beach.


Virginia has been a staple on the NASCAR circuit since the sport’s inception in 1948. The state has hosted numerous races at tracks such as Richmond Raceway, Martinsville Speedway, and Bristol Motor Speedway. Many of NASCAR’s biggest names have come from Virginia, including seven-time champion Richard Petty, as well as Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, and Elliott Sadler.

Drag Racing

Virginia has also been a hotbed for drag racing, with the state hosting some of the biggest events in the sport. The Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie has become one of the premier drag racing facilities in the world, hosting events such as the NHRA Virginia Nationals and the PDRA Mid-Atlantic Showdown.

Other Events

Virginia has also been home to other motorsports events such as the Virginia 500, which was held at Martinsville Speedway from 1950 to 1993, and the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 200, which is a late model stock car race held at Martinsville Speedway.

Overall, Virginia’s rich motorsports history has left an indelible mark on the sport. From NASCAR to drag racing, the state has produced some of the most legendary drivers and events in the sport’s history.

Early Days of Racing in Virginia

The state of Virginia has a rich history in motorsports, dating back to the early days of stock car racing. The sport was born out of the need for moonshine runners to outrun the law during the Prohibition era. These runners would modify their cars to make them faster and more agile, leading to the birth of the stock car.

The Influence of Moonshine Runners

Moonshine runners would often race each other on back roads in the mountains of Virginia, competing to see who had the fastest car. These races were dangerous and illegal, but they laid the foundation for the sport of stock car racing.

As the popularity of these races grew, more and more people began to attend, and eventually, the races were moved to official tracks. The first official stock car race in Virginia was held in 1948 at the Martinsville Speedway.

The Birth of Stock Car Racing

Stock car racing quickly became a popular sport in Virginia, with drivers from all over the state competing in races. The Virginia State Fairgrounds in Richmond became a popular venue for races, with drivers competing on a half-mile dirt track.

One of the most famous drivers from Virginia during this time was Curtis Turner. Turner was known for his aggressive driving style and his success on the track, winning 17 races in the NASCAR Cup Series.

NASCAR’s First Race in Virginia

NASCAR, the governing body of stock car racing, held its first race in Virginia in 1950 at the Martinsville Speedway. The race was won by Red Byron, who would go on to win the first NASCAR Cup Series championship later that year.

Today, Virginia is home to several major racing venues, including the Martinsville Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Virginia International Raceway. These tracks continue to host some of the biggest races in motorsports, and Virginia remains a hotbed for racing talent.

Virginia International Raceway

Virginia International Raceway

Virginia International Raceway (VIR) is a multi-purpose road course situated in Alton, Virginia. The track was established in 1957, and it covers a total of 3.27 miles, featuring 17 turns with a variety of elevation changes. The track has hosted several famous races and events throughout its history, making it a popular destination for motorsports enthusiasts.

History of VIR

VIR was initially opened in 1957 as a track for sports car racing. The track was designed by local businessman and racing enthusiast, Ed Welch. It was initially named the “Virginia International Raceway,” and it quickly gained popularity within the racing community. Over the years, the track underwent several changes and upgrades to improve its facilities and enhance the racing experience.

Famous Races at VIR

VIR has hosted several famous races over the years, including the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, the IMSA GT Championship, the AMA Superbike Championship, and the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship. The track has also been featured in several popular racing video games, including Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo.

Some of the most famous races held at VIR include:

  • The 1969 SCCA National Championship Runoffs
  • The 1971 IMSA GT Championship
  • The 2015 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship

The Revival of VIR

After several years of decline, VIR was purchased by a group of investors in 1998. The new owners invested heavily in the track, upgrading its facilities and restoring its reputation as a premier racing destination. Today, VIR is one of the most popular road courses in the United States, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Some of the recent improvements made to VIR include:
Year Improvement
2000 Construction of the South Course
2002 Construction of the North Course
2013 Installation of new LED lighting system
2017 Construction of the Pit Lane Suites

Langley Speedway Virginia

Langley Speedway: A Historic Venue in Virginia Motorsports History

Langley Speedway, located in Hampton, Virginia, is a historic venue that has been a part of Virginia motorsports history for over 70 years. The track was opened in 1948 and has since then hosted numerous racing events, making it a popular destination for racing enthusiasts in the state.

History of Langley Speedway

Langley Speedway has a rich history that dates back to the late 1940s. The track was originally a dirt track and was later converted to a paved track in the 1950s. Over the years, Langley Speedway has undergone several renovations and upgrades to ensure that it remains a top-notch racing facility.

Langley Speedway has been the site of many famous races, including the NASCAR Grand National Series and the NASCAR Busch Series. The track has also hosted many local and regional racing events, making it a hub for motorsports enthusiasts in the region.

Famous Races at Langley

One of the most famous races at Langley Speedway was the 1970 NASCAR Grand National Series race, which was won by Bobby Allison. The race was a historic moment for the track and helped put Langley Speedway on the map as a premier racing venue.

Another famous race at Langley was the 1988 Busch Series race, which was won by Tommy Ellis. The race was notable for being the first Busch Series race to be held at the track, and it helped establish Langley Speedway as a popular destination for NASCAR fans.

Current Status of Langley Speedway

Today, Langley Speedway is still an active racing facility, hosting a variety of racing events throughout the year. The track has undergone several upgrades in recent years, including the addition of new seating areas and improved facilities for drivers and spectators alike.

Langley Speedway continues to be a popular destination for racing enthusiasts in Virginia, and its rich history and legacy in Virginia motorsports history make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in racing culture and history.

Martinsville Speedway Virginia

Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville Speedway is a half-mile oval track located in Martinsville, Virginia. It was built in 1947 by H. Clay Earles and has been in operation ever since, making it the oldest track in the NASCAR Cup Series. The track has a seating capacity of 44,000 and is known for its tight turns and short straightaways, which make for intense racing.

History of Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville Speedway has a rich history in NASCAR. It hosted its first Cup Series race in 1949, which was won by Red Byron. Over the years, the track has undergone several renovations and improvements, including the addition of lights in 1999 and the installation of SAFER barriers in 2004.

One of the most significant events in the track’s history was the 1979 Old Dominion 500, which featured a famous altercation between drivers Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison. The incident, which involved a fistfight on the track, helped to popularize NASCAR and put Martinsville Speedway on the map.

Famous Races at Martinsville

Over the years, Martinsville Speedway has hosted many famous races. One of the most memorable was the 1999 Goody’s Headache Powder 500, which saw John Andretti take the checkered flag in a race that featured 24 lead changes.

Another notable race was the 2015 STP 500, which was won by Denny Hamlin. The victory was particularly meaningful for Hamlin, who grew up in nearby Chesterfield County and had attended races at Martinsville Speedway as a child.

Current Status of Martinsville Speedway

Today, Martinsville Speedway continues to be a popular venue for NASCAR races. It hosts two Cup Series races each year, the STP 500 in the spring and the First Data 500 in the fall. The track has also been used for other events, including concerts and festivals.

In recent years, Martinsville Speedway has undergone additional renovations, including the installation of a new LED lighting system in 2017. These improvements have helped to ensure that the track remains a top destination for NASCAR fans and drivers alike.

Virginia Motorsports History


Virginia has a rich and diverse motorsports history that spans over a century. From the early days of dirt tracks and moonshiners to modern-day NASCAR races at Richmond Raceway, Virginia has played a significant role in the development and evolution of motorsports in the United States.

The state has produced some of the most successful drivers in the sport, including Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, and Ward Burton. The Virginia International Raceway, located in Alton, Virginia, is one of the most iconic racetracks in the country and has hosted numerous high-profile races over the years.

The Virginia Motorsports Park, which opened in 1994, is another popular destination for motorsports enthusiasts. The park hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including drag racing, monster truck shows, and motorcycle races.

Overall, Virginia’s contribution to the world of motorsports cannot be overstated. The state’s rich history and continued involvement in the sport ensure that it will remain a significant player in the world of motorsports for years to come.

Resources – Motorsports
Virginia Motorsports Park
Virginia International Raceway






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