Why Martinsville Speedway is one of NASCAR’s most historic race tracks
Martinsville Speedway is one of the most historic and iconic tracks in NASCAR.
The southern Virginia short track has hosted 133 Sprint Cup races to date, and will add to that total with Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, the first race of Round 3 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Many NASCAR fans are also avid history buffs of the sport. With that in mind, here’s a look at Martinsville over the years, courtesy of RacingInsights.com:
* Henry Clay Earles was the owner of The Spot service station and several houses in Martinsville. After attending a few races in 1947 with his friend Sam Rice the budding entrepreneur thought that racing would be a profitable business. With partner’s Sam Rice and Henry Lawrence a site for a racetrack was located at an overgrown 30-acre cornfield just outside Martinsville. The track was soon underway and ended up costing $60,000. The first race was for modified stock cars on September 7, 1947.
* NASCAR founder William H. G. “Big Bill” France had persuaded Earles that stock cars were the future of racing and he helped to promote the event for a percentage. The total purse for the first race was $2,000. Only 750 of the planned 5,000 seats were ready and parking capacity was 1,400 cars. The crowd was overwhelming. Earles said that nearly 10,000 fans attended, 3,000 unpaid. Red Byron won the race and $500.
* The first NASCAR-sanctioned race was for Modified stock cars won by Fonty Flock on July 4, 1948. The eighth-place finisher was Bill France.
* The first Sprint Cup (Grand National) race on September 25th, 1949, won by Red Byron over Lee Petty. Byron drove the No. 22 Raymond Parks owned Oldsmobile led by crew chief Red Vogt, the race consisted of a 15 car field.
* Martinsville’s racing surface was dirt for the first 12 races before it was paved with asphalt.
* In 1964 Earles decided it was time for a different type of trophy for race winners. His choice was a grandfather clock produced by nearby Ridgeway Clock Company. On September 27, 1964, Earles awarded the first Clock trophy to Fred Lorenzen, the winner of the Old Dominion 500 that afternoon.
* Richard Petty has the most clocks with 12 (he won three times at Martinsville prior to the introduction of the clock). Darrell Waltrip won 11 Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each have 8 clocks.
* In 1976 the corners were resurfaced in concrete. The track was completely resurfaced following the spring 2004 race when Jeff Gordon ran over a chunk of concrete that had come loose in turn 3.
* International Speedway Corporation (ISC) purchased privately owned Martinsville Speedway in 2004 for $192 million.
* Starting with this year’s spring race in March, the so-called “Iconic Martinsville Hot Dog” was provided by Valleydale Hot Dogs, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. Valleydale provides a dog that closely resembles the Jesse Jones Southern Style hot dog in taste and color and will continue to cost $2. The change ended a relationship with Jesse Jones that dated back to 1947, shortly after the track opened. South Boston (Va.) Speedway and Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. will continue to sell Jesse Jones dogs. Martinsville.
* Martinsville Speedway is the only remaining NASCAR “charter” track on the current schedule.
* At 0.526 miles in length, Martinsville is the smallest track on the Cup series schedule and is 1/5 the length of Talladega.
* Martinsville is one of seven tracks to host over 100 Cup races: Daytona (137), Martinsville (133), Richmond (119), Charlotte (114), Darlington (112), Bristol (110), Atlanta (108).
* Richard Petty leads all drivers with 15 Martinsville wins followed by Darrell Waltrip with 11; Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are tied for third with eight wins each, most by active drivers.
* When Denny Hamlin won at Martinsville in March, it ended an eight-race streak of Chevrolet wins. Chevrolet and Toyota have combined to win the last 22 Martinsville races. Ford has not won at Martinsville since Kurt Busch won in October 2002, 25 races ago.
* Hendrick Motorsports (12 wins), Joe Gibbs Racing (six wins) and Stewart-Haas Racing (three wins) have combined to win 21 of the last 22 Martinsville races.
* Hendrick Motorsports has 22 total Martinsville wins, the most at a single track by one organization in Sprint Cup Series history. Junior Johnson and Associates’ 21 Bristol wins rank second.
* Five different drivers won a race at Martinsville driving for Hendrick Motorsports, it is tied with Junior Johnson for the greatest number of different winners by an organization at Martinsville. Geoff Bodine’s April 1984 Martinsville win for HMS was the organization’s first win in series history.
* Jeff Gordon holds the NASCAR record for consecutive starts at a track without a DNF: 45 at Martinsville.
* Gordon will likely break Cale Yarborough’s all-time record of laps at Martinsville. Yarborough circled around the short half-mile track 3,851 times. Gordon is 107 laps shy at 3,744.
* Only one Martinsville race has been won with a last-lap pass: Darrell Waltrip got by Dale Earnhardt on the final lap to win there in September 1987.