By Brandon Martin
The Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR and Blue-Emu kicked off race week with a drive-by parade at Sovah Health-Martinsville to show appreciation for the contributions frontline healthcare workers made in battling the coronavirus.
A convoy of NASCAR haulers was led by the Martinsville Ford Mustang Pace Car around the hospital before stopping for a brief press conference at the entrance.
“We are grateful to join with Blue-Emu to start our NASCAR spring race week by sharing our appreciation to the dedicated frontline healthcare workers at Sovah Health – Martinsville,” said Martinsville President Clay Campbell. “Sovah Health is a long-time valuable partner with the speedway, so we’re honored to recognize their sacrifices to care for our community during these unprecedented times.”
“I’m really excited to partner with our friends at Blue-Emu to honor all of the brave frontline healthcare workers at Sovah Health,” said seven-time Martinsville winner Rusty Wallace, “Martinsville Speedway has always been a special place for me, and Sovah Health is definitely a special part of the community.”
After Wallace and Campbell led the NASCAR hauler parade around the Sovah Health – Martinsville campus in Martinsville Speedway’s Ford Mustang Pace Car, they were joined by Blue-Emu Executive Vice President of Marketing Ben Blessing and Sovah Health – Martinsville Interim Chief Executive Officer Tory Shepherd for a ceremony to share gratitude to frontline healthcare workers.
“During the early days of the pandemic, emotions were high as we prepared for the unknown,” Shepherd recalled. “Our quick response and preparedness to what was back then, the unknown, demonstrates the power of our employees, the strength of our team, and the value of our community-centered care. Every day, our team at Sovah Health-Martinsville showed up to care for our neighbors, families, and friends. Because of this pandemic, we are more connected to each other and our community.”
The hospital participated in numerous events to spread awareness during the pandemic and expand access to care and preventative measures, Shepherd said.
“We worked closely with our partners to increase access to testing and treatment options to improve access for our patients,” she said. “Most recently, we have been taking part in vaccinating our community in collaboration with our first responders as we work to further prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are grateful for our community that trusted us with their care and our many partners who worked alongside and supported our team during a challenging year.”
The Martinsville Speedway has been one of the partners for healthcare workers during the pandemic. Based on figures from the Virginia Department of Health and as of April 6, 23,726 doses of the vaccine had been administered in Henry County, with 9,008 fully vaccinated. Similarly, 6,419 doses have been administered in the City of Martinsville, with 2,480 fully vaccinated.
Wallace first thanked the frontline workers for their contributions and then discussed his personal experience with the vaccine.
“I’m here to tell you that it didn’t hurt,” Wallace said. “Everything was fine, and I had no after-effects at all. Nothing. I’ve heard how some people get sick, but it didn’t happen to me, so I was really fortunate.”
“I’m just here to tell you, if you are eligible to get the vaccine, get it,” Wallace said. “I don’t care if it’s Pfizer, Moderna or any one of them. If it’s available to you, go ahead and get it. They are all safe. They are all good. I have a lot more peace of mind now walking around with that vaccine. There’s no doubt about that.”
Blessing ensured some Sovah Health-Martinsville employees will be among those attending, as he presented 100 tickets to be distributed to hospital staff.
“It was heartbreaking last year because first of all, we couldn’t come visit you all, but we couldn’t even come to the race last year,” he said. “I was talking to Clay ━ 30 percent ━ I think we can all agree that whether you are going to the race or not, seeing people in the stands is going to be very heartwarming.”
“The frontline workers here today, there are not enough words to express the thanks from all of us for what you do.” said Campbell. “It’s fantastic that it is race week. It’s a time we look forward to every year. We’ve got fans coming out this weekend.”
The Speedway will be hosting a number of racing events April 8-10 On April 8, the Speedway and Virginia Tourism Corporation will be holding the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at 7 p.m. The following day will be the Cook Out 250 Xfinity Series race at 7:30 p.m. The track last hosted a spring Xfinity Series race from 1982 to 1994. This will mark the first spring Xfinity Series race at Martinsville since 1994, and its first-ever at night. The last day of race weekend will be the 2021 Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 race at 7:30 p.m.
Due to social distancing requirements, Campbell said the Speedway could not operate at a full 30 percent. He explained that an estimated 1,000 fans were notified in early March whether their ticket purchases would be honored. Those unable to attend this weekend could trade the tickets for the October race, the race next spring, or that the tickets could go towards another future race.
According to the Speedway’s website, tickets for the race are no longer available.