About a half-mile out of Summit Point, past Smootz Lamp and Brass Shop on the right and Smoot's flooded-out salvage yard on the left, just beyond a quaint stone church, somebody stuck a race track.
It's about the only good road around here.
This weekend, about 140 drivers from all over the country, racing everything from Gremlins to Rabbits to Mavericks, have descended on this quiet little haven for the biggest racing event ever in West Virginia, featuring races in four of the championship series sponsored by the International Motor Sports Association.
They've come in all manner of vehicles--old converted school buses, trailers and mobile homes--appearing less concerned with what they live in than what they ride in. The participants and their entourages have pitched camp among the gentle knolls, rounding up their vehicles, wagon-train style, inside the meandering two-mile track. Everything everywhere is plastered with the obligatory racing decals.
Two kinds of drivers stray from the beaten path to participate in races like this weekend's. The first is the professional, the sponsored driver who spends almost every minute of his free time with mechanics at his side tinkering with his engine. Racers in this class, such as Jim Downing, of Atlanta, and Lee Mueller, of Garden Grove, Calif., are expected to win.
The second type of driver tries to do the best he can with the least money, effort and heartbreak. He spends the time between races lounging under makeshift canopies and watching the top-notch drivers with a combination of awe, envy and relief.
George Beasley is a canopy-sitter.
"This is called the 'low-buck' approach," said Beasley, 38, from Fort Washington, Md. "Is it tough to be competitive with these guys? Hell, it's impossible. This class is just way beyond my means. It's easy to be laid back when you know there's nothing you can do to go any faster or win.
"It's like a bottomless pit. Look, you got $12 to spend on the car? It'll take it. You got $12,000 to spend? It'll take that. No matter how much money you got, that car will take it," Beasley said.
Beasley said he spent more than $1,000 getting his car, a 1974 Gremlin, in shape for this weekend's competition. And there's no way he's going to win.
"They do everything they can to make it impossible for me to win. They don't want George Beasley's sorry little Gremlin out there winning. Hah, what a putdown," he bellows, shaking with laughter.
"I could probably be a lot more competitive, but I'm just basically a lazy guy," he said. "It can get real frustrating, so anything I can do to that car to make it less likely to break down, I'm going to do.
"I'm just out here for the same reason everybody else is--to watch the shiny little cars spin out and crash. I love it, I'll admit it. When some guy flipped his Renault over here in the corner, I loved it. I wanted him to do it again."
While Beasley more or less fits the good ol' boy racing driver image, a surprising number of drivers don't. In fact, the Camel GTU Racing Series has turned into a contest between the Japanese-built Datsun, Mazda and Toyota.
And Maria Benton certainly doesn't fit any stereotype.
Benton, who is originally from Holland, is one of five women driving in the Kelly American Challenge Series. She says she has guts.
"I have very little fear of anything. I'm an extremely impulsive person," said Benton, who received a lot of publicity a year ago when she became the first woman to drive across the Sahara desert alone. "I don't think before I do something. Then afterward, I usually say, 'Oh, my God, I could have gotten killed,' but by then it's all over."
And Benton, who has just begun competing regularly on the IMSA circuit, is acclimating quickly.
"I race strictly for the love of the sport. I have to give up some things. Everybody does. But when it means as much as it does to me, it's not really a sacrifice," she said.
Being successful on the IMSA circuit means traveling from her New Orleans home to to such places as Brainerd, Minn.; Elkhart Lake, Wis., and Summit Point, W. Va.
"We have to go to some pretty out-of-the-way places, but in racing, you accept it. Nobody's close to anything," Benton said. "And you never know where some of these tracks are going to turn up. This one didn't even have any signs."
In qualifying today, Tommy Archer, of Duluth, Minn., earned the pole position for the Champion Spark Plug Challenge Sunday at 12:30 p.m., with a lap of 76 mph. James Reeve, of Atlanta, was the top qualifier for the Renault Cup, which begins Sunday at 11:30 a.m.