Nissan uses VIR as a testing ground for its autos

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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“Nissan gets what we do,” says Kerrigan Smith, VIR’s chief operating
officer. Photo courtesy Virginia International Raceway

Virginia International Raceway’s automotive partner, Nissan North America, is very involved in its events. The company became a sponsor last year.

“Nissan has a motorsports division, and they understand racing,” says Kerrigan Smith, VIR’s chief operating officer. “It’s not like somebody buying a billboard here to show off their brand. Nissan gets what we do.”

Many automobile manufacturers race their cars to help with their research and development. Results on the racetrack can lead to new features on cars sold to the public.

“VIR is an exceptional track to test Nissan technology and performance,” says Rick Kulach, senior planner of motorsports marketing communications for Nissan North America. “It is a beautiful, demanding, exhilarating road course unlike anywhere else, especially in the mid-Atlantic. We’re proud to officially partner with VIR and look forward to a long, mutually beneficial relationship celebrating racing and innovation.”

Built in 1957 in  Halifax County, VIR shut down in 1973 and remained dormant until being reopened in 2000 by investors Connie Nyholm and Harvey Siegel.  Today, Nyholm is the owner and CEO of the 1,370-acre motorsport resort, which includes a hotel, spa and restaurant in addition to the racetrack.
Nearby is the VIRginia Motorsport Technology Park, home to Virginia Tech’s Global Center for Automotive Performance Simulation.

The racetrack’s reputation has continued to grow. “Car & Driver rates us as one of the top six road courses continually each year,” Smith says.
VIR hosts 12 spectator events that include three televised races — MotoAmerica, the Biscuitville 125 and the IMSA Weather­Tech SportsCar Championship.

“We feature open-concept racing. You buy a ticket, and you have free range to roam around,” says Smith. “Before the race, we open Pit Lane, and everybody can walk out to the Fan Walk. That’s where you can feel the heartbeat of the race. It’s the kind of thing that television can’t capture: racing warriors going out to do battle.”

The track draws a diverse group of drivers, including actor Patrick Dempsey, a longtime star on the television series “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“We get lots of NASCAR drivers and a lot of the top European drivers,” Smith says.

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