Martinsville Speedway Steeped in Stock Car Racing History

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Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, VA — October 29, 2022

If you are a stock car racing fan, the name Martinsville Speedway holds a significant place in the history of the sport. If you have not visited “the paperclip” to view a race, it should be a must-see event on your bucket list. There is no place quite like it.

The Track

At 0.526 miles long, Martinsville Speedway is the smallest track on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit. Founded in 1947 by H. Clay Earles, Martinsville Speedway is known for many things besides its unique shape. It serves a fan’s favorite menu item, race winners receive an iconic trophy. Currently, the track holds a special date on the NASCAR schedule, and as the longest-operating track on the circuit, it has wealth of history.

Martinsville Speedway / Lasco Press Photo

Martinsville Speedway held its first race on Sept. 7, 1947, three months before the creation of NASCAR. A crowd of 9,013 fans showed up for the 750 seats offered. It was originally a  dirt track, and on Sept. 25, 1949, Red Byron won the first NASCAR race held at the Martinsville Speedway. Byron led 97 laps in his 1949 Oldsmobile in the series that was originally called the NASCAR Strictly Stock Series.

Bill France Sr., founder of NASCAR and an inaugural inductee to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, joined Earles as a 50 percent partner on the track in the early 1950s. Martinsville Speedway is the only NASCAR track to host NASCAR Cup Series races every year since its
inception in 1949. The track was paved in 1955, with a width of 55 feet, 800-foot-long asphalt straightaways, and tight 588-foot concrete turns, banked at 12 degrees.

H.Clay Earles did not appreciate the drivers destroying the asphalt in the turns and having to repave it so often. He introduced concrete turns in 1976 to minimize the maintenance required to make the surface raceable.

In total, there have been 147 NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville Speedway, one race in the inaugural year and two races per year since 1950.

Historic Winners

On April 10, 1960, Richard Petty became the youngest winner in track history at 22 years and 283 days. Over 30 years later, Harry Gant became the oldest winner at 51 years, 255 days on Sept. 22, 1991.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 15 victories (1960, 1962, 1963, 1967 sweep, 1968, 1969 sweep, 1970, 1971, 1972 sweep, 1973, 1975, 1979).

Richard Petty / Lasco Press Photo

In 1964, H. Clay Earles decided it was time for a “different” type of trophy for race winners, so the track introduced the Martinsville grandfather clock in Victory Lane. The grandfather clocks are manufactured by a local company, Ridgeway Clocks, as part of a historic tradition that continues to this day. Fred Lorenzen won the first Martinsville
grandfather clock.

The Monster Energy Girls and The Clock / Lasco Press Photo

Historic Events

The 2022 season marks the 19th year Martinsville Speedway has hosted a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race and the third time the track has hosted the penultimate race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – the Round of 8 elimination race (Race No. 9 of 10).

Since the inception of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2004, Martinsville Speedway has occupied three distinct positions on the postseason schedule; from 2004 – 2010 (seven seasons), Martinsville hosted the sixth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Then from 2011 – 2019 (nine seasons), Martinsville Speedway hosted the seventh race in the Playoffs, and from 2020 – 2022 (three seasons), Martinsville hosted the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – the Round of 8 elimination race that will decide the Championship 4.

Martinsville Speedway is the third different track to host the ninth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, joining Darlington Raceway (2004) and Phoenix Raceway (2005-2019).

Martinsville Speedway was purchased by the International Speedway Corporation in 2004. In 2019, NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation merged to become one company.

After 70 years of racing, Martinsville Speedway became the first major motorsports facility in the nation to install LED lights in 2017. In the fall of that year, Martinsville’s NASCAR Cup Series race was the first to finish under the lights at the track. On June 20, 2020, the first full NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway was held under the lights and won by Martin Truex Jr.

Founder H. Clay Earles remained chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Martinsville Speedway until his death on Nov. 16, 1999. In 2017, he was recognized with the NASCAR Hall of Fame Landmark Award. “You’ll sell the fan a memory as much as you’ll sell them a ticket, and if the memory is good, they’ll come back.” -H. Clay Earles

Clay Campbell followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, H. Clay Earles, joining Martinsville Speedway in 1978. He was named Martinsville Speedway president in 1988 and remains the longest-serving track president in NASCAR.

Exciting Racing

When the Cup Series race takes the green flag shortly after 2 pm on Sunday, there will be seven drivers vying for three spots in the Championship Four field at Phoenix next weekend. Joey Logano is the only driver locked into a spot in the finals.

The racing should be outstanding. It is not too late to grab a ticket to the event, Grab yours online at the Martinsville website.

Saturday’s Xfinity race provided a preview of what fans might expect. It took the third overtime to settle the battle for the grandfather clock. As teammates Ty Gibbs and Brandon Jones beat each other’s bumpers and door panels trying to complete the green flag, white flag, checkered flag sequence.

Gibbs got the victory by wrecking Jones on the final lap as they fought for the top spot in the middle of turns one and two after taking the white flag.