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Spencer Pumpelly checks into Sportscar365 following VIR…

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

I love coming to VIR. I have said it before but it bears repeating, it’s the best track in North America.

That’s not to say other aren’t fantastic. I love the Glen, Road Atlanta, Mosport, and Laguna, but VIR has everything. Everything a racer could ask for (with perhaps one exception, more on that later.)

I know I harped on this point in last year’s column but let me quickly reiterate what I like VIR so much. There are three areas where they can’t be matched.

First, the track layout is fantastic. It has a few slow corners like Turn 4 and Oak Tree but for the most part it is fast.

The climbing esses are basically a 155 MPH slalom course with a jump in the middle. I haven’t come across anything like that on an Alan Wilson or Herman Tilke track.

To be fair to Alan and Herman, VIR was built in 1957 back when race cars still had square wheels so the demands from modern cars may have changed their approaches. But isn’t it great to know there is still somewhere left in the racing universe where lap time requires perfecting chaos?

Not only does VIR have a great fast layout but it is one of the safest places we go. VIR uses tiered tire walls in all the high speed impact zones.

Cars that “go rogue” are able to decelerate over a long distance making big impacts rare. They’re always looking for ways to improve and seek driver input more than any other track.

Finally, the fans and staff who make the VIR events possible are the best. There is always a good crowd despite the rural location.

Folks make the drive from Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Bristol, Roanoke, Columbia, Blacksburg (I’m a Dawgs fan but I can say it, “Go Hoakies”), and all the small towns in between.

The staff did an amazing job getting the entire surface repaved mid season in time for our event. The track was perfect and the event was run flawlessly.

Kudos to track manager Kerrigan Smith, owner Connie Nyholm, and the many employees who made it happen.

The only request I have? Hey VIR, can you cut the grass a little shorter?

That’s tongue in cheek of course.

Our Change racing Lamborghini was the best it had been all year in Sunday’s race. With the new GT3-spec cars and the fresh pavement times were insanely fast.

I looked back at the results from the first Grand-Am race at VIR in 2002. My fastest lap was a 1:54.4. This year I ran a 1:44.8, almost 10 seconds faster! I know that 2002 was a while ago but that’s still a huge jump for what is essentially the same class.

Corey Lewis qualified our car 5th on the tight grid but he was 0.15 second off of second. Competition was tight as always.

At the start he moved up to 4th where he was when he handed the car over to me.

I got in and immediately began attacking one of the Stevenson Audis for P3 before it all went wrong.

I was tucked under the Audi’s rear wing coming through Hog Pen (check old VIR photos if you ever want to know where that name came from).

A veteran like me should have seen this coming but I caught just enough updraft from the car ahead to move myself into the marbles offline and off I went.

Anywhere else this would have cost me a few car lengths but the tall Virginia grass filled the car’s radiator intake and forced me into an unscheduled stop.

For what was a flawless race from everyone else on the team, I felt terrible that my mistake cost us a podium shot but the team was very supportive and I will learn from the mistake.

In the end we ended up 5th, tying our best result of the year, but it was another weekend of missed potential.

Spencer Pumpelly (@SpencerPumpelly) is one of America's leading GT racers, driving for Change Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Rennsport One in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.

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