I know next to nothing about racing - maybe we should just say 'nothing' and be honest - but My Little Man is really, really into vehicles. Tractors, building, racing, wheelbarrows - doesn't matter, he likes'em all.
So for this week's field trip we ventured to the Virginia International Raceway.
I expected a big paved circle with some bleachers. VIR is so, so much more.
The Virginia International Raceway sits on 1300 acres in southern Virginia. It features a nearly four mile road course that can be 4 separate tracks or one long one, but is also home to three restaurants, three inns, luxury villas, Camp Motorsports, and a spa, among many other attractions.
Our tour began near the North Paddock. As this is a Stock Car Club of America national race weekend, nearly 300 cars will be participating, and many had already arrived and begun to practice. In this picture you can see some of their gear.
The kids were enthralled with seeing the cars fly around the track. My Little Man couldn't tear his eyes away.
There are several outside businesses that operate on VIR's land. One uses these older vehicles to teach government officials, among others, how to handle car chases and drive defensively.
Another service is the racing "country club." Like at a regular country club where you can join to play golf, here you can join, reserve garage space for your car, and then come here to race.
After our tour we were permitted to wander freely throughout the North Paddock area, watching the cars practice and checking out their garage areas. This car was coming off of the track after a 30 minute practice session.
We watched part of the practice from a second-story restaurant deck area which was just beside the track. I was afraid that someone's head would get stuck - he wanted to be closer!
We were perfectly positioned to watch the cars come off of a long straight stretch and move into these turns. We even saw a few come off the road and maneuver to return to it.
These cars were patiently waiting their turn to practice - and finally it arrived! They headed onto the track.
Two drivers graciously agreed to let us see their vehicles up close and personal. I can't imagine driving that! They told us that they topped out somewhere above 130 mph on the straight stretch.
My Little Man overcame his shyness at the prospect of sitting inside a real race car! He was curious, however, about why the steering wheel was so soft ...
and so he asked the driver. The driver, Frank, told us that the gloves have leather grippers on them, and so the steering wheel is suede. Together they help the driver grip the wheel well, with less likelihood of slipping.
My Little Man sat in this car.
What a setup!
The kids also asked why the tires had so much gravel stuck to them. Frank explained that the tires had sticky outsides. This special coating helped the tires grip the road better and better as they heated from the friction of the race. Since this car had just come off the track, there was still lots of gravel holding on.
I had no idea that there was such a complicated racing venue so close to us - or that there was so much happening there. While I'm still not a big fan of driving fast or in circles, VIR is a really neat venue.
Are you a racing fan? Have you ever been to a track?