Martinsville Speedway announced a year-long celebration for its historic 75th Anniversary season at a recent press conference featuring NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Inman and NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley. Martinsville Speedway unveiled a year-long commemorative brand and announced the first-ever anniversary display recognizing the history and legacy of the track, which will be located at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Founded in 1947 by H. Clay Earles, Martinsville Speedway is a short track known for its distinctive paperclip shape, scenic Norfolk Southern Railway behind the backstretch, iconic Martinsville grandfather clock trophy, famous Martinsville hot dogs and its truly authentic, traditional race experience.
On Sept. 7, 1947, Martinsville Speedway held its first race, three months before the creation of NASCAR, with 9,013 fans and 750 seats ready on its original dirt track. On Sept. 25, 1949, future NASCAR Hall of Famer Red Byron won the first NASCAR race held at the Martinsville Speedway dirt track. Bill France Sr., founder of NASCAR and 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 and remains the shortest track on the Cup Series schedule at .526 miles. Its width is 55 feet with 800-foot asphalt straights and tight 588-foot concrete turns, banked at 12 degrees.
“Since the first race won by Red Byron in 1947, Martinsville Speedway has been home for our family and generations of NASCAR fans,” said Clay Campbell, Vice President, Mid-Atlantic Region, NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway President. “We are proud that the competition on the track and the authentic fan experience from the first race to today remains the cornerstones of Martinsville Speedway.”
In 1964, 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.
“I’ve been coming to Martinsville since 1949, when NASCAR held its first Cup race,” said Richard Petty, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and all-time wins leader (15) at Martinsville Speedway. “I don’t remember the hot dogs starting that early but racing definitely did. I consider Martinsville to be our home track since it’s right up the road from the house. I always enjoy coming here and seeing who will take home the next clock.”
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. From Martinsville Speedway’s founding, Earles believed in offering fans an exceptional experience for a reasonable price.
“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,” shared Earles in 1998.
Clay Campbell carried on his grandfather’s legacy by joining Martinsville Speedway in 1978 and becoming track president in 1988. Campbell, the longest serving track president in NASCAR, has led Martinsville Speedway’s continued success at the track and the organization’s active role giving back to the local community.
“Martinsville Speedway holds significance in the history of NASCAR as the only track to host a NASCAR Cup Series race since its inception in 1949,” said Mike Helton, Vice Chairman, NASCAR. “H. Clay Earles and Clay Campbell have built one of the most competitive tracks in NASCAR, along with fan experience that allows fans to step back in time to a different era when engines fire. From their traditional Martinsville grandfather clock to their famous hot dog and scenic railway views, Martinsville continues to be a foundational piece in the history and future of NASCAR.”
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 Cup Series race was the first to finish under the lights at the track. On June 20, 2020, the first full Cup Series night race at Martinsville Speedway was won by Martin Truex Jr.
As part of its 75th Anniversary celebration, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Martinsville Speedway have partnered to recognize the history and legacy of the track with a display in the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C. This will be the first-ever display honoring a track’s historic anniversary as well as its impact and contributions in the history of NASCAR.
“The NASCAR Hall of Fame is honored to have the opportunity to help celebrate Martinsville Speedway’s 75th anniversary next season,” said Winston Kelley, NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director. “As part of our mission to serve as the recognized home for honoring NASCAR’s evolving history, celebrated heritage and family-oriented traditions, we are proud to be a valued partner in highlighting NASCAR’s oldest active track.
“Martinsville Speedway has been a part of literally every level of NASCAR competition from the grass roots to the Cup Series dating back to NASCAR’s inception with the Earles family at the helm from day one and a partnership with the France family that began in the early 1950s. From legendary races to the iconic Grandfather clock trophy to the famous Martinsville hot dog, there will certainly be countless stories to tell, and our team is thrilled to team up with Martinsville Speedway and share these stories with our guests at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”
The 75th anniversary display is scheduled to open at the NASCAR Hall of Fame prior to the track’s 2022 spring Cup Series race weekend in April.
As Martinsville Speedway celebrates its 75th anniversary, the track will recognize and honor its history with future announcements and events throughout the year. For more information on Martinsville Speedway’s 75th anniversary season, visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com/75th.