“There was a ton of street racing as well,” he said. “I think Riverside Raceway got paved over for a housing development, but that was one of the most famous tracks. There was Formula One racing there at one point, and NASCAR would go there every year.
“There is a lot of racing history in California, which is now being covered up, sadly. It is a great place to be exposed to cars, but in terms of racing itself, there are definitely other opportunities around the country that seem better.”
In his younger years, Twomey spent time on twisty, dusty country roads with friends, enjoying the adrenaline rush of speed, but also appreciating the hazards actual physical racing posed to himself and others. As a teen, he found arcade racing games.
“The engineering brain in me says there has to be a way to do this,” Twomey said. “When I was in high school, I loved just basic arcade racing games because I was a huge car enthusiast. I used to go to a lot of car meets in California and see some really cool cars, like super cars and one-off stuff that you would only see in the San Diego and L.A. area, since there is a huge car culture there.”
At UVA, Twomey found another element of the car culture, being introduced to virtual racing by economics professor Ken Elzinga, a car enthusiast who learned of Twomey’s racing interest during an office hours chat.
“I wanted to use economics to make racing viable for me in the future – to make it economically feasible, which is difficult,” Twomey said. “I guess the question kind of caught his eye and he had heard about simulated racing before.”
“I connected Thomas with someone in virtual racing,” Elzinga, the Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics, said. “This also gave me an opportunity to take Thomas for a ride in my Shelby Mustang. After making connections, I leave it to the gifts and talents that characterize UVA students like Thomas to take it from there, which Thomas – and many of my students – then did.”
“Professor Elzinga’s Shelby Mustang was an incredibly beautiful car and an excellent piece of history,” Twomey said. “My dream car would be to own a Formula Four or Three [car], where I can drive it on the track as fast as I want without compromise.”