If attendance at the Martinsville Speedway’s 75th anniversary last week is any indication, the legendary track is just getting a green flag, with hundreds attending the night of celebration and free fun.
H. Clay Earles founded the track in 1947. His grandson, Clay Campbell became track president in 1988, making him the longest serving president in NASCAR.
Noting the track’s long history, “my grandfather started it in 1947, primarily as a hobby, never with the thought that it would grow into something like what we see here today. He would be ecstatic and proud of everybody that helped get the place where it is today,” Campbell said, as fans enjoyed the Martinsville Speedway’s well known hot dogs, birthday cake, live music, and photo opportunities, all of which were at no cost.
The Speedway also offered attendees the opportunity to lap the track in their personal vehicles, which Campbell said fans love.
“We kind of take that for granted, working here,” Campbell said. “We do it all the time, but for fans and everybody to come in, drive their personal cars, it’s pretty special.”
Arriving at the event, attendees were asked if they wanted “hot dogs or hot laps” before being directed to the appropriate line.
The Martinsville Speedway held its first race three months before the creation of NASCAR on Sept. 7, 1947. At the time, the track was all dirt and was not paved until 1955. The first NASCAR race was held at the track on Sept. 25, 1949, and since then has been the only NASCAR track to host NASCAR Cup Series races every year since its inception.
The grandfather clock trophy, manufactured by Ridgeway Clocks, for which the track is known, was first awarded in 1964 to Fred Lorenzen when Earles decided it was time for something new. Earles remained chairman of the Martinsville Speedway until his death on Nov. 16, 1999.
Campbell said when approaching events and improvements, Earles’ vision remains an important part of the process.
“He had a vision then, that no one else in the sport had, and that was to keep beautifying the track and making it fan friendly, family friendly, and that’s kind of the way we look at things still today,” Campbell said.
That idea of fan and family friendliness, along with a desire to give back to fans, is what drove the free anniversary event.
“For us, it’s really a give back to our community. We have a lot of people that have been coming here for years, that have been working for us for years, Campbell said. “We’re saying thanks to everybody that helped in the 75 years at Martinsville Speedway.”
But he noted the event was not just about celebrating the past, but also gearing up for what’s to come.
“We’ve been through a lot here, ups and downs, with the sport, through COVID, you name it. But we have a really bright future ahead of us. We’re celebrating our history, but we’re looking forward to the future,” he said.
The near future includes the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 on Saturday, Sept. 24 and the Xfinity 500 on Sunday, Oct. 30. In addition, officials are contemplating ways to continue to make the Speedway an enjoyable place for fans.
“We’ve got a lot of things planned for our fans for fundraising, like bringing back winners of past races, legends, and things of that nature. We put a lot of focus into the fan experience,” Campbell said. “We want people, when they get here and get out of their car, we want them to have something to see and do until they get back in their car after the race is over.”
Tickets for upcoming races can be bought by phone at 877-RACE-TIX or online at martinsvillespeedway.com.