Race week is always special for Martinsville Speedway, but this year’s two NASCAR races at the Henry County track are just that bit more meaningful.
The first race ever held at Martinsville Speedway was held in 1947, meaning this year marks the 75th anniversary of that race. The track hosts a birthday party throughout the year, starting with this week’s trio of NASCAR races that begin Thursday night.
Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell said in a phone interview this week that fans will see special anniversary videos on the track’s social media throughout the year and see memorial items from the track. history related to the anniversary on the property. There will be racing cars dating back to the 1950s, a car driven by Richard Petty and a Wood Brothers Racing car driven by David Pearson in a 1973 win.
That same Wood Brothers Mercury will drive the pace laps Saturday night before the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400.
Campbell said the 75th anniversary is a time for those on the track and fans to “reflect on what got us here and look back on the memories and times that were important to Martinsville Speedway.”
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“It’s special, obviously,” Campbell added. “I don’t think you can pick a business or a relationship or anything that’s been around for about 75 years without saying that’s a pretty phenomenal feat.”
The week’s celebrations begin Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the NASCAR Hall of Fame will host a ribbon cutting for a new exhibit honoring and examining the history of Martinsville Speedway. The track is the first to have its own exhibition in the hall.
Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Inman; as well as Winston Kelley, the Hall’s executive director; NASCAR Senior Advisor Mike Helton; and Ben Kennedy, senior vice president of development and racing strategy for NASCAR; will all be present at Tuesday’s event.
Campbell, whose grandfather, H. Clay Earles, is a Hall of Famer and founded Martinsville Speedway, said the idea for the exhibit came from conversations between him and those in attendance at the Hall.
“We have to talk about it… Obviously the Speedway itself is worthy of a hall of fame,” Campbell said. “For a track to reach that milestone of 75 years, I think the Hall recognized that was something we could do, and we obviously encouraged it.”
Taking a trip down memory lane and looking at the history of Martinsville Speedway and its roots in NASCAR has been fun for Campbell and everyone involved with the track, past and present.
Campbell acknowledges that Martinsville Speedway has been a “huge economic engine” for Martinsville and Henry County for the better part of a century, and likens hosting two NASCAR events each year in an area our size to a welcoming city. a Super Bowl.
But, he said, the track couldn’t have sustained its seven decades of success without the fans.
“I attribute 75 years of Martinsville Speedway primarily to our fans because they appreciate, they love Martinsville Speedway, and they love to make this pilgrimage to Martinsville twice a year, and they’ve been doing it for 75 years. And I think the key to all of that is the relationship we’ve had with the fans. We have many fans who have been coming here for decades and we have seen several generations of families return over the decades. So it’s special in that vein… And not everyone can say that. For our fans to really support what we’ve done over the years, I give them a lot of credit. »
Campbell also credits that while Martinsville Speedway helped put the area on the map, the people of Martinsville and Henry County played an important role in achieving that goal.
“You hear people say all the time, ‘I was in X city or X country and they asked me where I was from and I say Martinsville and they’ll say oh, that’s where the Speedway is’ “, Campbell said. “So it gives us the recognition that you couldn’t afford to buy. It is world famous.
“And not that people do it for the money, but we have a lot of people in the area who work here on race weekends. There are tons of people who work and make it happen and they live all locally and they love being part of something so important, and we couldn’t do it without them.We have a great relationship with Henry County, with the town of Martinsville.
“I think it’s a two-way street. We certainly appreciate what Martinsville and Henry County have meant to us. They provide us with a lot of resources to get there. It is a major achievement to organize one of these races and we could not do it without the support of our citizens, number one, and our county and city. They give us a lot.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to be than in this area, and I hope the people of this area feel the same way about integrating Martinsville Speedway into their community.”
This week’s races will begin with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Thursday at 8 p.m. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. will join the field in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Call 811 before you dig 250 Powered by Call811.com Friday at 7:30 p.m., and the NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 wraps up the first-ever consecutive three-race week at the track Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
This week will be only the second NASCAR races in Martinsville since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to allow full pits of fans. On Thursday, the track announced on its official Twitter page that it had sold out all camping spots for that week.
“I think you’re going to see an awesome crowd next weekend, and that’s a good thing,” Campbell said. “With all the people coming to town on race week, it’s nice to hear those cash registers revving up, whether it’s restaurants, gas stations, whatever. Because people, they have to go to grocery stores, they have to go to gas stations, and so forth, and restaurants. So that’s what I like to see for locals is all these people coming to town spending money. It’s just good for everyone.
“It’s going to be a great week.”
Cara Cooper is a sports editor for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org