Institute drops effort to clone Va. raceway's tree

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Local,Virginia

DANVILLE, Va. (AP) — Researchers have dropped an effort to clone the Virginia International Raceway's iconic white oak tree, which fell last summer.

The tree, which was more than 150 years old, marked the track's apex. After the tree fell, raceway officials asked the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville to conduct tests on the tree to determine whether it could be cloned.

"When the tree fell, VIR said they were looking for ways to make a memory of the tree," institute spokeswoman Meagan Barker told the Danville Register & Bee (http://bit.ly/Wb01nb).

The institute announced its findings on Tuesday. The tree was too old to clone.

"Unfortunately, the tree is a white oak and it's a recalcitrant tree — it's not very cooperative — and the older it gets, the more uncooperative the tree is, " Michael Duncan, the institute's research director, told WSET-TV (http://bit.ly/1l2QeFo).

Virginia International Raceway owner Connie Nyholm said the tree had been a symbol for the raceway.

"They worked so hard on it at the institute. There was not much chance that they could bring it back, but I'm so happy they made every effort they could, " Nyholm told WSET.

She said the raceway now plans to memorialize the tree. The trophy for the upcoming Oak Tree Grand Prix will be made out of oak in collaboration with the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. Raceway officials also hope to plant a memorial tree in the fall.

"She's gone, the track is still here. We're memorializing the tree and hopefully that will live on, " Nyholm said.

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