Rich­mond track gets new name and re­vamp

$30 mil­lion slated to be spent on rac­ing’s ‘very spe­cial per­son­al­ity’

The Hamilton Spectator - - RACING 2017 - HANK KURZ JR. RICH­MOND, VA. —

Rich­mond In­ter­na­tional Race­way is now Rich­mond Race­way and is due for $30 mil­lion in re­de­vel­op­ment over the next 15 months.

Track pres­i­dent Den­nis Bick­meier and In­ter­na­tional Speed­way Corp. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Lesa France Kennedy made the an­nounce­ments Tues­day.

ISC has al­ready made ma­jor changes at its flag­ship Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way and has a project at Phoenix In­ter­na­tional Race­way that should be com­pleted by 2018, Kennedy said.

She said ISC de­cided to make im­prove­ments at Rich­mond be­cause it “has a very spe­cial per­son­al­ity, and it needs to con­tinue. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant that we con­tinue to up­grade all of our fa­cil­i­ties.”

The re­de­vel­oped in­field will in­clude a cov­ered garage for teams to work on their cars while fans can watch from a nearby fenced-off walk­way.

There are also two suites and sev­eral cov­ered ar­eas for fans to so­cial­ize be­fore a race, watch in­spec­tions up close and then the race.

There will be an 80-per­son club with rooftop ac­cess near a new vic­tory lane. Driv­ers will need to pass through fan ar­eas to get to pre-race cer­e­monies. The project will give about 8,000-10,000 fans in­field ac­cess at a cost com­pa­ra­ble to a $50 pit pass, the track said.

NASCAR has seen a drop in at­ten­dance most ev­ery­where, and the changes are “an op­por­tu­nity to put peo­ple at the ground level of the sport,” Bick­meier said.

“We’re go­ing to be able to im­merse peo­ple in the sport in a way that’s not hap­pened here be­fore.”

It won’t quite be Richard Petty on a bull­dozer tear­ing up the track for a re­design, as he did in 1988, but the project will be­gin af­ter the Septem­ber race, Bick­meier said.

Next spring’s race will be run “in a lit­tle bit of a con­struc­tion zone,” Bick­meier said, and the rib­bon will be cut on the com­pleted project be­fore Rich­mond moves from the last race to make the 10-race play­offs into the play­offs in the fall of 2018.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe at­tended the an­nounce­ment and said the state, on be­half of Vir­ginia Tourism, would add an­other $150,000 to the project.

The track in Hen­rico County has a $497 mil­lion eco­nomic im­pact and brings in about $87 mil­lion in state and lo­cal tax rev­enue.

“I don’t think peo­ple re­al­ize what kind of an as­set this is for the state of Vir­ginia,” McAuliffe said.

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