Virginia Motor Speedway gears up for 2011 season

Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Mar 09, 2011 - 04:50 PM

For those looking for some high-octane entertainment, there’s a sports venue right here on the Middle Peninsula that just may be the greatest show on dirt.

Bill Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway, located at Jamaica in Middlesex County, offers weekends full of family fun and entertainment through dirt racing and more. The oval half-mile dirt track is gearing up for a new season, with practice sessions to be held in early April.

Built in 1970 and opened by Bill Lowery, the racetrack was well known for the Fall Classic that once ran in conjunction with the Urbanna Oyster Festival.

Sawyer bought the facility at the end of the 1999 season. He has since done away with the Fall Classic, deciding that it is unfair to compete for customers with local volunteer fire and rescue departments and other charities, which depend on the Oyster Festival for most of their revenues. But there’s still plenty of racing action all summer long.

Upon purchasing the facility, Sawyer used his years of racetrack management experience to revamp Virginia Motor Speedway; installing state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, new digital scoreboard, press box and a new pit across the street, so there would be no obstructed view of the finish line.

A native of Virginia Beach, Sawyer owned Richmond International Raceway with his father and brother before purchasing the track in Jamaica. "I wanted to stay involved in racing and knew (the track) was down here and available," Sawyer said. In all, his family has 62 years of racing in its blood.