Steve Britt doesn't mind talking about endings, even the ending of a great era of small town racing at Old Dominion Speedway.
Britt said he’s owned the 60-year-old speedway, located just a footstep outside of Manassas city, since 2003. He plans to cease operations at the facility in favor of building a new one, dubbed Dominion Raceway, in Spotsylvania County off Interstate 95's exit 118.
He purchased Old Dominion nine years ago, but not to make money—everybody knows racetracks don’t make money, Britt said. He purchased it because it is the place of his boyhood; the place where lifelong fond memories were made.
The McLean native said he started coming down to the speedway in the 1970s as a 16-year-old boy.
“I can remember pretty clearly, it was a country trip for us. There were no houses,” he said.
Old Dominion use to be in a hot spot, it’s located right off Dumfries Road which was a main thoroughfare to Manassas before the Route 234 bypass was built, Britt said.
He stood and looked over the dark oval track just as the sun slipped behind the trees in the west and said he and his family always ran the concession stand and prepared all the food during racing season which is traditionally from April to October.
“ … It’s sad in some ways, but the time has come,” he said.
He did consider building the new raceway in Prince William County instead of moving, but things never worked out, and not for lack of support from Prince William County politicians and staff, Brett said.
“I think they tend to get a black eye over this and I don’t know why,” he said. “I think people think they haven’t been supportive of the racetrack.”
Martin E. Nohe, vice chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and supervisor for the Coles District, where the speedway is located, said he never got the impression residents thought the board wasn't supportive of keeping the speedway in the county.
All he's heard is that residents around the track want it to move because of the noise, Nohe added.
"When it was built, it really was in the middle of no where ... but then the race track became an anomaly," Nohe said.
Residents living in the slew of townhomes and condominiums near Old Dominion complain their kids can't sleep because of the noise from cars, he added.
Britt said would have built again in Prince Willam, just not in the current location; the area has become too residential and the noise of the track doesn’t mesh well with houses nearby.
“It was very early on, we had a conversation to locate it out on I-95 in Prince William, but there wasn’t a good spot and there were some access problems,” he said.
It's likely that cars will never again race around the oval or speed down the drag way at Old Dominion, Britt said
“We probably won’t open in the spring. I haven’t made a firm decision, but it’s unlikely it will continue to operate … a lot of that, quiet honestly, will depend on the new facility,” he said.
Old Dominion is not conducive to operating in the winter months because of piping at the facility, Britt said.
The new facility however, will be an all-year operation.
"I know the race fans are sad to see it go, but once they understand that a better, more modern facility will be built, they are OK with it, Nohe said.
Dominion Raceway's name is twofold: “Dominion” is a nod to its predecessor and the state of Virginia; “raceway” because that’s more accurate than speedway, he said.
A “speedway” technically refers to a racing facility with only an oval race track.
The name "Old Dominion Speedway" is technically wrong because it also has a drag strip, which was added some years after it opened. By that time, “speedway” had stuck and it was never changed, Britt said.
Dominion Raceway will include all the disciplines of racing and operate year around instead of just during the racing season—something Britt is clearly excited about.
“It really is much different. I don’t think there’s nothing else like it … I don’t think there’s anything like it in the world,” he said.
He sits in his small office and examines the multi-page draft of the facility, one he shows to this reporter, but doesn’t allow to be photographed because the plans aren’t final and not public.
Dominion Raceway will include a track built to NASCAR specs, a drag strip, and a two-mile road course.
The facility is on 160 acres and is designed around a central, three-story building; one that includes a jumbo tron, concessions, banquet facilities, sky boxes and a rooftop lounge. The building is capable of hosting concerts, auctions and drive-in movies.
There will be office space, as well as a general, large open space that can be used for anything; maybe even the graduation commencement for nearby high schools, or a car auction, Britt said.
He wants to make it clear that the facility is for the local residents and is more than a racing attraction.
“It’s a place for family fun,” he said.
Nowadays, fans want a lot more stimulation, Britt said. For example, Dominion Raceway will have open Wi-Fi. A place like Old Dominion worked for older folks, but really wouldn’t work for the new wave of fans, he said.
Dominion Raceway will really do a lot for motorsports and the new property allows them to build a state-of-the-art facility, he said.
Britt has several partners in the venture, all of whom will have an equal share. He declined to name those partners, saying that they rather remain anonymous.
He owns Old Dominion Speedway with his brother and another partner but they won’t be joining him in this new venture, Britt said.
He’s thinking Dominion Raceway will cost around $13 million. But it could be more or it could be less, Britt added.
The partners wants to get started in April and have an aggressive plan to open in 2014.
But as of right now, the Spotsylvania site is silent and devoid of construction activity.
“It’s under contract … we are in throws of doing design work … soil tests, engineering studies,” he said.
There are several items that have to be submitted to Spotsylvania County staff for consideration before anything can begin, he said.
Right now the partners are getting ready to file a zoning application before Christmas. After that there will be several public hearings on the matter.
The county has been very welcoming and accepting of the project, he added.
“It’s going to do tremendous things for Spotsylvania,” Britt said.