The revving of engines may soon be echoing from the mountain tops in southern West Virginia as plans continue for the Twin Branch Drag Strip to be located off of U.S. 119 between Williamson and Logan.
Plans for the quarter-mile drag strip are in the works; however, there are still a couple of hurdles that must be jumped before it comes to fruition.
Pete Scalzo, a developer from Sarasota, Florida, updated the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA) at its regular meeting this past Tuesday.
Scalzo and two of his employees, Tom Wilson and Eric Kudlesky, were in West Virginia taking a mining class, which will allow them to get on the property that is currently owned by Booth Energy.
Work had already been done on the drag strip.
Scalzo has owned and operated four drag strips which have been IHRA sanctioned. He expects to hold sanctioned events at the Mingo County track once it is up and running.
"It's been a pleasure working with Mrs. Johnson (Leasha, executive director of the MCRA) throughout this process, which is longer than we thought it would be," Scalzo said. "Mainly because of the road."
Access has been denied to the property because of the road, which is still being used by the mining company. There have been some regulatory issues to resolve between the state's Division of Highways and the Department of Environmental Protection before the road can be released from the mining permit.
Johnson told Scalzo and those in attendance that some progress has been made in regard to using the road to the post-mine land site where the drag strip was built.
"There are certain specifications and improvements to be made in order for the DOH to accept the road right-of-way" Johnson said. The DOH and DEP are working together on releasing the road to the county.
Guardrails must be installed and other improvements to the road will be required before the public would be able to use it.
The Mingo County Commission had allotted $300,000 and Logan County Commission pledged $200,000 for the road project. "The Mingo County money is still unencumbered and is still available, and we hope that the Logan County money will be available, if needed, to complete the road improvements." Johnson related.
Scalzo has all of the equipment to finish the track such as bleachers, electronic Christmas tree racing lights and other race track equipment. He plans to bring in restrooms and not porta potties. He also hopes that local vendors with trailers will take care of the concessions. So that part of the business will be contracted out to local merchants.
"Whoever built that track did an excellent job," Scalzo added. "The whole race track is concrete which is awesome."
"Everything is there, and I have all of the equipment to finish it up," the drag strip enthusiast said.
"I think I can get it done in about 30 days," Scalzo said.
Currently he and his employees are not allowed on the property. Once they take the mining safety class, they would be able to go on the site and do some work.
"We theoretically could get started next week," Scalzo said.
"The only bad thing is - we are losing most of the season," he added. "As much as I'm an optimist - right now I can't see it happening until August. But, it is what it is and that's okay."
"We want to make it work," Scalzo said. "Tom and Eric are my right and left hand and they do all of the work. We can have it up and running later this summer."
"The response an interest has been exciting," the drag strip developer said.
"We will pack them in," he said. "We will have the only sanctioned drag strip in West Virginia," he stressed. "We have not gone away and we have not lost interest." Eventually those who race at the local drag strip could qualify to go to national events.
Scalzo said the track will not be a seven day a week 24-hour operation, but the drag strip will probably have events twice a week - on the weekends.
"I'm happy that you asked me to come and my enthusiasm is the same as it was the first time when I came up here," he said. "We want to get the word out."
Scalzo and the MCRA Board of Directors are hoping the Mingo County drag strip will come to realization sooner than later.