An easy place to host a race? How about West Virginia?

By J.A. Ackley
Aug 29, 2023 | SEMA, Backroads of Appalachia, SEMA Show, West Virginia

Photography Credit: Jedediah Smith/Backroads of Appalachia

Want to stage a rally race? How about a hillclimb? Maybe a road race on streets?

Putting on event on public roads often requires navigating through seemingly endless layers of governmental bureaucracy. Not so, in West Virginia. Legislation in the state streamlines the process, and Backroads of Appalachia is there to help. State legislators, among others, want motorsport organizers to host events in the state that advertises itself as “Almost Heaven.”

[Using motorsport tourism to boost an economy]

State Senator Mark R. Maynard co-sponsored the bill SB 686 in 2016 that makes it easier for event promoters to use state-owned roads for motorsport. Maynard understands the value of the sport as he has a no-prep drag car, worked on an NHRA Funny Car raced by Jim Head, and is a SEMA State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus member.

When I was selling the bill, I used events such as Pikes Peak and the Long Beach Grand Prix,” said Maynard. “We’re blessed with some really nice curvy roads. You could have some type of racing downtown like the Long Beach Grand Prix.”

Legislator Gary G. Howell runs Howell Automotive, is a hardcore Mopar fan, has competed in dirt-track racing and autocross, and is Chairman Emeritus of the SEMA State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus.

I chair on the committee on economic development and tourism,” Howell said. “We’re always looking at tourism opportunities. Tourism is a big part of our state. We’re the type of state that if we see you have a good idea, we’re going to move on it and try to do our best to make it happen and be successful.”

The roads of West Virginia seem to offer the perfect venue for a motorsport event.

We’ve been investing a lot of money recently in road maintenance,” said Howell. “We don’t wait for the potholes to form.”

In addition to beautiful country roads, West Virginia also has several Interstates crisscrossing the state: I-64, I-68, I-70, I-77, I-79 and I-81. This provides easy access to the West Virginia from the Midwest, the Northeast, the South and points beyond.

As with Senator Maynard and Legislator Howell, Legislator Eric J. Tarr also loves cars and is a SEMA State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus member. He owns a 675-horsepower C6 Corvette and a 700-plus-horsepower Ram TRX. Legislator Tarr wants event organizers to know that the people of West Virginia welcome them.

There are a lot of motorsports fans in West Virginia,” said Tarr. “If it rolls and has a motor, you’re going to find a lot of people doing circles around it. I was over at the barbershop and I parked my truck in a parking lot. When I came out, there were people walking around [the truck], wanting me to pop the hood. There’s certainly an affinity to performance cars of any kind in West Virginia.”

A fervent audience. Easy access. Great roads. A pro-motorsports government. Can it get any better?

Well, Erik Hubbard, of Backroads of Appalachia, said the organization can help promoters get their motorsport events approved in West Virginia. The nonprofit organization has a record of success in nearby Kentucky, with repurposing airports for drag races plus roads for hillclimbs and stage rallies, among many other events.

We understand the laws of West Virginia and the Department of Highway,” Hubbard said. “We’d love to help, coordinate and be the middle man between the State of West Virginia and the event organizer to create opportunities in West Virginia as much as we do in Kentucky.”

You can reach Backroads of Appalachia through

Senator Maynard said event organizers can also directly text him for more information at (304) 360-6272. That’s right, you got an invite to directly reach a legislator.

If that doesn’t show you the level of commitment the state has to motorsport, West Virginia will also display at the SEMA Show, October 31-November 3, in Las Vegas.

West Virginia says it's “Almost Heaven,” and the state hopes that it lives up to that for motorsports fans.

Photo by Andrew Robinson

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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/29/23 12:47 p.m.

All this talk about Appalachia and its growing motorsports scene has me wanting to take a road trip to do some backroads driving. 

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
8/29/23 1:49 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

As someone who lives on the Tennessee side of the region, the area is chock full of beautiful roads, scenery and car-oriented people.

preach GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
8/29/23 1:57 p.m.

In reply to J.A. Ackley :

I plan on being on the east side of I-75 in a few years.

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
8/29/23 2:40 p.m.

In reply to preach :

Nice. You'll be on my side of I-75!

ConiglioRampante New Reader
8/29/23 3:12 p.m.

From the article:

“We’ve been investing a lot of money recently in road maintenance,” said Howell. “We don’t wait for the potholes to form.”

I like that guy.  Hopefully that idea catches on elsewhere/everywhere. wink

Seriously though, wasn't there a story here about investigating a potential WRC race in the Appalachians?  (Tennessee rings a bell but I could be wrong.)

edit:  found it on Motor Trend

J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
8/29/23 3:30 p.m.

Yes, I was in Chattanooga for when WRC held a promotional event. They are recruiting volunteers as we speak.

More on my conversations with WRC and the Rally USA organizers here: Is there a real chance that WRC returns to the U.S.? | Articles | Grassroots Motorsports

300zxfreak Reader
8/29/23 5:05 p.m.

My brother and I have been motorcycling WV's great roads for many years, it is our go-to destination for The Adams Brothers Annual Bike Trip to Nowhere In Particular. Okay, we tend to hit North Carolina as well, but you get the idea. Great roads and rides abound down there, looking forward to an upcoming trip in the Z to those same roads.

GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/29/23 7:04 p.m.

Took the I77 back from the Challenge and can confirm scenic roads in mostly great shape. Here's a short clip I took, sorry the phone wasn't really positioned for taking video:

Don't go doing any calculations with those green signs now wink

malibuguy GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
8/29/23 9:32 p.m.



Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/29/23 9:37 p.m.

Small plug, SWVR SCCA is hosting the Great Lakes National RallyCross Challenge this weekend in Cottageville.  I know some GRMers are already signed up.

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