Motorsports Day at the Capitol draws racing champions, tv personalities, and auto-enthusiasts from across the country

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Total economic impact was around $500,000 with everyone coming and spending their money, and then that money being recirculated among the communities.”

That’s what Jedediah Smith, operations director of Backroads of Appalachia, told the House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism Thursday, regarding the recently-held “24 Hours of Appalachia: Run for the Hills” event. Smith, along with Executive Director Erik Hubbard, were on-hand to provide committee members with an overview of Backroads of Appalachia’s operation ahead of Friday’s Motorsports Day at the Capitol.

Backroads of Appalachia Operations Director Jedediah Smith, Executive Director Erik Hubbard, and Del. Lori Dittman, R-Braxton. Photo by Matthew Young, RealWV.

“Our focus is on economic development through motorsports,” Smith told committee members. “We host events and help people with events that bring people here to the State of West Virginia.”

Based in Lynch, Kentucky, Backroads of Appalachia operates GPS-enabled trail routes in their home state, as well as Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. The organization uses motorsports-tourism to drive job training and economic enhancement throughout the more impoverished areas of the Appalachian region. 

Smith described the “Run for the Hills” event as “essentially a backroad/dirt road/gravel road run over a 24-hour period, and we covered 585 miles.”

According to Smith, 176 people participated in the event, with 67 participant-vehicles. Additionally, the event utilized 10 recovery vehicles, and saw the total purchase of a conservatively-estimated 5,000 gallons of fuel. 

“We started at Seneca Rocks, and we finished in Point Pleasant at the Mothman Statue,” Smith said. “It’s about a four hour trip, and we made it last 24 hours. We covered 10 counties, one national forest, and two state parks.”

Smith explained that Backroads of Appalachia partnered with numerous private businesses and state and county agencies along the route to make”Run for the Hills” a success, adding that public safety was a top priority.

“The most important part, it was a fundraiser,” Smith said. “We worked with the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. They work all across the state. We also worked closely with Tread Lightly – a company that focuses on responsible motorized recreation, on and off road.”

“The total money raised for the Children’s Home Society was $14,000,” Smith noted. 

“We also work with The Gambler 500,” Smith added. “What they do is take vehicles that are worth about $500, and they put them together and make them road legal. And we take them and pick up trash over a three or four day period.”

Smith said that several Gambler 500 vehicles were used in the “24 hours in Appalachia” fundraiser, including a modified Dodge Neon with ATV tires. 

“We had 23 states represented,” Smith said. “More than 60% (of participants) were from out of state. The farthest traveled was Florida. We will be doing another one of these in July. We’ll be starting in Hinton, and making a big loop back to Hinton, and that’s to raise funds for two nonprofits that are based in southern West Virginia.”

The average fuel expenditure, Smith said, was approximately $100 to $150 per day, while the food and shopping expenditures both ranged between $20 and $50 per day. More than 250 hotel rooms were also utilized, at an average cost of between $100 and $200 per night. 

“The average total was about $250 to $350 a day that they (participants) spent,” Smith said. “And again, this is just a small event that we ran with 67 vehicles.”

At the conclusion of Smith’s presentation, Del. Jonathan Pinson, R-Mason, said, “The Mothman is my constituent.”

“The obvious question is how did you choose Point Pleasant (as the ending point for the event)?” Pinson asked.

“Everyone has heard of the Mothman,” Smith replied. “Just look at the pictures we got.”

To Smith’s point, Hubbard added, “Over 190,000 shares (on social media) of people taking pictures of the Mothman.”

According to Smith, the social media reach of an event like “Run for the Hills” is tremendous, as many of its participants have “hundreds of thousands of followers.”  

Smith noted that future scheduled events in 2024 include “Topless on the Hellbender” in May, “Bigfoot 4WD Adventure and Show” in June, “Miners and Logger Delight” in July, and “Wheeling For Hope + 4Fest” in September.

On Friday, motorsports enthusiasts from across the country descended upon the State Capitol for West Virginia Motorsports day. High performance vehicles of all shapes and sizes lined the building, while participants, lawmakers, and interested spectators discussed the financial benefit that the motorsports industry presents to the Mountain State. In attendance were business owners,  motorsports champions, and television personalities, such as the History Channel’s “Truck Night in America” co-host Abe Wine. The day was capped off with a round table discussion, hosted by Sen. Mark Maynard, R-Wayne. 

For more information about Backroads of Appalachia, visit backroadsofappalachia.org, gambler500.com, or treadlightly.org. For more information about the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, visit childhswv.org

(L – R) Tom Sylvester of Dirt Nerds Off-Road, Myles Yates of Appalachian Motorsports, Jedediah Smith of Backroads of Appalachia, and Abe Wine, co-host of Truck Night in America at the W.Va. Capital on Feb. 23. Photo by Matthew Young, RealWV.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jedediah Smith has worked closely with RealWV, and is a personal friend. Is this nepotism? Probably, but I don’t care. Jed is one of ours. He’s killing it at his dream job, he’s doing amazing things for West Virginia, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.

Way to go, Jed!

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