Alton, VA - A beloved icon at Virginia International Raceway has fallen.
People across the state are upset over the loss of the oak tree that stood over one of their most popular tracks.
Employees at the track still don't know what caused the tree to fall, but they say when they arrived at work Tuesday morning they couldn't believe it was really gone. Now, they hope to move forward and pay homage to what the tree meant to all who visited the raceway.
"We all got the call and it didn't matter who you were or what department you were in, we all got the call and we all came running," Mike Rose, Director of Marketing at VIR.
For anyone visiting VIR, the famous oak would have been hard to miss.The nearly 200-year-old tree had been a staple at the raceway since it opened in the 1950's.
People who work at VIR say it was more than just a tree.
"It represents so many things here to VIR, so it was very tough. It still is," Rose said.
Rose says when the built the track, crews constructed track around the tree in order to protect it. Now an empty hole is all that's left.
A quick look at the VIR Facebook page shows just how many people are mourning the loss.
"We have over a thousand people that have either sent us personal notes or comments on our Facebook page about the tree, so it meant a lot to a lot of people," Rose said.
Gwen McGuire owns Aunt Millies Pizza less than two miles from the raceway. She says anything that affects VIR affects her too.
"We certainly feel the impact of it, and it just breaks our hearts when something like this happens," McGuire said.
The VIR team hopes to commemorate the fallen oak tree.
Rose says the raceway plans to move forward while preserving the significance of their beloved tree.
"We'll move on and we'll memorialize it in a proper fashion, and VIR - as you can see in the background - is still here, we're still racing and we're just excited about the future," Rose said.
Rose says he did not want people to see the tree when it was being cut up and taken away. He says he hopes to find a way for fans to own a piece of the tree in the future.