There is no easy way to say this – The Oak Tree is down. The iconic landmark that has come to symbolize Virginia International Raceway has fallen, broken at the base.
“We are in shock and mourning,” said track owner Connie Nyholm. “We’re too busy right now trying to get the racetrack cleared of debris. We are grateful no one was at the corner station or on track when she fell and that there is no damage to the track surface. Tomorrow we’ll begin to get our arms around what this really means, but I can tell you that it means more than any of us want to think about today.”
The massive oak stood sentinel at the south end of the racetrack, looking out from the highest point on the property at the sprawling facility and its 3.27 miles of serpentine asphalt that has come to be regarded as among the most challenging in North America. Its branches shaded the apex of the legendary Oak Tree Turn, looking down on the likes of Roger Penske, Walt Hansgen, Tom Kristensen and Richard Petty as well as a host of race drivers from the brilliant to the not so.
“I can tell you this,” Nyholm said, “The Oak Tree will live on in our minds and hearts, and we will give it an appropriate send-off. Please email your thoughts and suggestions to oaktree@VIRnow.com for proper ways to honor this old friend.”