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Grand-Am Pays A Visit To New Jersey

Bill Fleischman | Contributing Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 1 2009

The Grand Am Series heads to Jersey this weekend. You heard right, Jersey.

The Grand-Am Rolex Series heads to Jersey this weekend. You heard right, Jersey.

By Bill Fleischman | Senior Correspondent
RacinToday.com

When plans for the New Jersey Motorsports Park were announced a few years ago, many longtime racing observers were skeptical. Those of us involved in auto racing for lengthy periods have seen grand plans for race tracks announced and then fade away.

Skeptics thought, “We’ll believe it when the tracks are paved, the grandstands are up and we hear the roar of race-car engines.”

Last summer, I journeyed to Millville, in South Jersey, to check out the new facility. I was impressed.

Considerable landscaping was still needed, but the two main race tracks were in place: the 12-turn, 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway and the 1.9-mile Lightning track.

The Thunderbolt course is where NJMP’s major races are held. The Lightning course is used by NJMP members for racing sports cars and motorcycles. NJMP also has a karting track.

The first Grand-Am Rolex series race was held at NJMP over Labor Day weekend 2008. This weekend, the Grand-Am series returns along with the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT and Touring classes, the KONI Sports Car Challenge and the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge.

 A second ARCA series race is scheduled for Sept. 13. Justin Allgaier won last year’s ARCA event at NJMP.

The track will host an AMA Superbike Championship event Sept. 4-6.

Improvements at NJMP, which is about 50 miles from Philadelphia, include increased seating in the seven grandstands around the Thunderbolt track and more trolleys to move fans from the parking lots to the seating areas.

The NJMP owners have done a commendable job preserving the military history of the track. The adjacent Millville Airport was the nation’s first defense airport in World War II. P-47 Thunderbolt pilots trained at the facility before heading overseas.

The Millville Army Air Field Museum is at the airport.

NJMP’s owners are real-estate developers Harvey Siegel and Lee Brahin; R. J. Valentine, a go-kart track owner in the Boston area; and Joe Savaro, project manager for the 700-acre Millville complex. Siegel also owns Virginia International Raceway.

Valentine races in the Grand-Am series. Siegel and Brahin are vintage-car racers.

Bill Fleischman | Contributing Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 1 2009
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