Over the years, Martinsville has not just hosted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, but has also held events for lower-tiered series in NASCAR.
One of those was an event for NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour, which is where current points leader Martin Truex Jr. first learned about the historic half-mile.
“Growing up, I didn’t know much about stock car racing,” he said. “I really only knew what I heard from my dad and my uncles hanging around the shop where they built their modifieds. But I always heard stories about Martinsville. They’d come down once a year to run the modified race here. It wasn’t a Cup race, but it was a big deal for a bunch of clammers from New Jersey that race modifieds on the weekends!”
“I think it’s awesome that we all still come here. That we value the birthplace and the heritage of where short tracks came from in this sport. It’s a tough little race track and I think it’s always been that way. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to conquer it and get that clock!”
Today, that list of races also includes a late-model event that draws many of short track racing’s best from Virginia, the Carolinas, and beyond.
That event is where many young drivers run their first Martinsville race, and has made this a popular place to make NASCAR debuts in one of the two Camping World Truck Series events held here annually (incidentally, Martinsville is one of the few tracks to remain on the Truck Series schedule every year since its inception in 1995).
And for those who complain that NASCAR has forgotten its roots (as many did when the nationwide expansion hit its peak in the mid-2000s), Martinsville is the perfect antidote to the superfacilities that have sprung up.
If you’re curious, the nationalization experiment from the 1990s and 2000s backfired spectacularly.
The Labor Day weekend race that went to California eventually came back to Darlington in 2015, after oversaturation of the Los Angeles market ruined attendance numbers.
While Martinsville wasn’t directly affected by all of the schedule realignment, it did benefit from it massively, as fans who were displaced by the loss of North Wilkesboro and Rockingham came to Martinsville instead.
The surge in attendance, combined with the failures out West, underscored the importance of tracks like Martinsville to the sport: its history is undeniable and its throwback nature provides the kind of close-quarters racing that fans from NASCAR’s home region appreciate most.
Those fans drove home the importance of Martinsville to NASCAR, and NASCAR now recognises how untouchable its two races are every year. Martinsville will be around, and be around for many years to come, as a result.
For me, that’s a good thing, because I miss those hot dogs dearly, and I could go for one right about now!
I look forward to the next chance I have to stuff my face with them.
But until then, let’s buckle up and go racing!
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and a former analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Pike is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C., having grown up in the shadow of the legendary Bowman-Gray Stadium.
He is the founding correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars, and he is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in International Sports Journalism overseas at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, England.
Pike’s past coverage with Race Chaser Onliine includes work with multiple regional touring series in the Carolinas, including the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the CARS Tour.
Email James at: RaceChaserJames@gmail.com
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