In a deal negotiated by his son, Dickie, ODS patriarch Al Gore has reached an agreement to sell the race track for an undisclosed amount to construction executive Steven E. Britt of Clifton, and real-estate developer Charles W. Graybeal of Oakton.
An anomaly in the auto racing world, ODS went more than 50 years between ownership changes. In April 1952, Gore spent $25,000 on a 22-acre plot of land that included Longview Speedway. He immediately had the track paved and extended from a quarter-mile to 3/8 of a mile.
More than a half-century later, he announced to a group of drivers and their families late Saturday night that the Gore era at the Manassas-bordering track has come to an end.
“I can’t talk so much today because I’m so hoarse after last night,” the 84-year-old former track owner said Sunday from his home in Warrenton. “I got up in front of everyone and asked who was there when I first opened the track. One person held up his hand [Ray, father of current driver Mike Southard.]
“When I came into this business, the track was there but it was closed. We’re pretty lucky. We’ve always had plenty of cars. If one group left, we always came up with something new.”
From the roadsters of the 1950s to the track’s stock-car heyday in the ’70s to the addition of Late Model Stocks and drag racing in the late ’70s and the ’80s, ODS and the Gores earned a reputation for putting on an affordable show that put family first.
Al Gore refused to call this weekend a sad time for his family, as he expressed optimism in the new ownership group and cited the fact his family still owns Eastside Speedway in Waynesboro and New London Dragway in Lynchburg.
Dickie Gore has served as track promoter for 39 years. While he has operated the track, his two sons and daughter have been among the many relatives also employed by ODS.
Last summer, Dickie Gore commented on the track’s future by saying, “My kids are involved, but it all depends on what they want to do. The older I get, the more I kind of live day by day. I plan out my whole year, but if there’s something I really want to do, I do it.”
Sunday afternoon, Dickie Gore and the new owners were unavailable for comment because they were attending a banquet for go-kart racers at ODS.
Britt and Graybeal are both identified as owner/promoter for the upcoming season. Britt is the chief executive officer of Chantilly-based Britt Construction. Meanwhile, Graybeal is president of Atlantic ComReal Companies, a local commercial real-estate development company.
“It’s a nice group of guys [who will run the track],” Al Gore said. “I think they’ll do all right with it. What I like about these guys is that they’re not hotheaded. When you own a track, you’ve got to have the cars and they’ve got to have you. You’ve got to work together and you can never hold a grudge.”
The new operators plan to maintain the track’s schedule, which includes drag races and NASCAR-sanctioned stock-car races. The season at ODS runs from March through early November.
“I always liked the show the Gores put on and I’ve had my share of success,” Mike Southard said. “But I think the new owner will use the track to its full potential. They have a lot of fresh ideas.”