When it comes to the business of operating drag strips in today’s economy, the news seems to lean toward the negative more often than the positive, as at least a couple of tracks around the country close each and every year. But, just because some regions are seeing, for one reason or another, their racing facilities fade away, doesn’t mean other locales aren’t reaping the benefits of track operators that are still turning a profit and peacefully coexisting with their neighbors and local government.
And racers in the southwest portion of West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, and western Virginia hope that’s precisely the case with a brand new drag strip that’s under construction in the mining town of Twin Branch, West Virginia. But, like many race track ventures since the turn of the century, the story is a bit convoluted, and its future perhaps — even with physical progress made — still a bit uncertain.
The Twin Branch Motorsports Complex, as it’s known, is a bit of a unique venture between state and county officials, private businesses, and area racers, all of whom are collaborating to see the project to the finish line.
Massey Energy, which previously owned and operated a surface coal mining site on the land located in mining-rich Mingo County, donated the land to the county as part of a post-mining land use project after operations at the site were idled. According to the Mingo Messenger, Consol Energy, a competitor to Massey Energy, was operating on an adjacent site, and become involved in the project as part of a plan to maintain their mining permit and save some 300 jobs. As the story goes, the county gained permission from the Economic Development Administration to allow Consol to use the donated and yet-to-be-developed site for dumping of materials from its own mining operations.
In return, Consol has donated labor, materials, and equipment for the construction of a drag strip. In all, Consol Energy has invested $2.5 million into the project, the Williamson Daily News reports. Roughy $1 million of that was spent on paving and improvements to the haul road that will lead into the motorsport facility.
The Mingo County Redevelopment Commission owns the deed to the land, and through the Mingo County Commission, has invested $300,000 into the project, while the Logan County Commission has contributed $200,000.
The project has been in the works, according to online reports, for more than a decade, with initial plans to build a high-banked oval. Those plans appear to have been shelved or scrapped altogether. However, the drag strip, an 1/8-mile measuring rough 3/4-mile in total length, has already been built and signed off on by IHRA officials for sanctioned racing. What remains, however, are the various structures and equipment necessary for racing operations.
Late last month, an open house was held at the Twin Branch Drag Strip for area racers to get a sneak peek at the new facility, with more than 1,000 racers and area residents showing up to see the track and take part in an official ribbon cutting. As recent as March, the Mingo County Commission held a special session in which a Memorandum of Understanding on the project was cancelled, but county officials were adamant that it would not put a stop to the project. A timetable, however, has not been established.