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Twin Branch Drag Strip Gets Boost from the MCRA

Pete Scalzo, a drag racing enthusiast and developer from Sarasota, Florida, appeared before the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority at its regular meeting Sept. 6 to answer questions about a lease and operating agreement that the MCRA is taking under consideration.

Scalzo has owned and operated four drag strips that have been sanctioned by the International Hot Rod Association. Because the Twin Branch Drag Strip in Mingo County was constructed to IHRA standards by Consol Energy, Scalzo expects to host numerous nationally sanctioned events at the Mingo County track once it is up and running.

According to Scalzo, the Twin Branch facility will be the only IHRA sanctioned track in West Virginia, and he advised MCRA board members that it has been constructed as a first-class facility with tremendous potential to be a successful drag strip.

There has been much interest from racing enthusiasts who want to participate in the Twin Branch Drag Strip events. Scalzo estimates he could host about 20 racing events per year, probably on Saturdays, weather permitting.

The access road to the mountaintop location for public use is still part of an active mining permit, and regulatory hurdles stand in the way of the road getting released from the current coal company's permit. As long as the road is part of a mining permit, it cannot be designated for public use.

Leasha Johnson, executive director of the MCRA, advised board members that in a recent meeting with Division of Highways officials, it was suggested that she explore the possibility of the county taking control of the access road in order to facilitate the release of the road from the mining permit.

Following a lengthy discussion, MCRA board members directed Johnson to explore with both the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection and Southeastern Land Company, the current permit holder, the feasibility of the MCRA taking ownership of the road.

If that happens, the DOH-required improvements would not have to be made, and the MCRA would only allow the road to be used by the coal company and by the general public during racing events. Johnson is expected to report her findings during the October meeting.

Scalzo has all of the equipment to finish the track such as bleachers, electronic "Christmas" tree racing lights, a timing system, a ticket booth, a PA system and other race track maintenance equipment.

He plans to bring pre-fab restrooms to the site, not porta-potties. He also hopes that local vendors with trailers will take care of the concessions, so that part of the business would be contracted out to local merchants.

The MCRA board did vote to approve the operator lease with Scalzo, with some minor adjustments on the wording, and Scalzo thanked the board members and Johnson for continuing to pursue the development.

Besides Johnson, MCRA board members present at the meeting were James Simpkins, Paul Pinson, Andy Dillon and Robert "Doc" Foglesong.

The board also voted to accept the resignation of longtime board member Terry Sammons of Gilbert.

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