Martinsville Speedway

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Martinsville Speedway
"The Paperclip"
Martinsville Logo.png

Martinsville Speedway, September 2011 overview.JPG
Location 340 Speedway Road
Ridgeway, Virginia, United States
24148
Time zone GMT-5
Capacity 55,000
Owner International Speedway Corporation
Operator International Speedway Corporation
Broke ground 1947
Opened 1947
Architect H. Clay Earles
Major events NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
STP 500
Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Kroger 250
Kroger 200
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
Virginia is for Racing Lovers 300
Oval
Surface Asphalt
Concrete
Length .526 mi (.847 km)
Turns 4
Banking Turns 12°
Straights 0°
Lap record 18.746 seconds (Greg Sacks, , 1986, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour)

Martinsville Speedway is an International Speedway Corporation-owned NASCAR stock car racing track located in Henry County, in Ridgeway, Virginia, just to the south of Martinsville. At 0.526 miles (0.847 km) in length, it is the shortest track in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The track was also one of the first paved oval tracks in NASCAR, being built in 1947 by H. Clay Earles. It is also the only race track that has been on the NASCAR circuit from its beginning in 1948.

Layout[edit]

The track's back stretch in 2011

The track is often referred to as paper clip-shaped and is banked only 12° in the turns. The combination of long straightaways and flat, narrow turns makes hard braking going into turns and smooth acceleration exiting turns a must. Martinsville's surface is unique, as it is paved with a combination of asphalt (straightaways) and concrete (corners). The track was paved in 1955 and in 1956 it hosted its first 500 lap event. By the 1970s, a combination of high-traction slick tires and high speed were putting excessive wear on the asphalt surface. In 1976 the turns were repaved with concrete (a rare concept in the 1970s).[1] By 2004, the then 28-year-old concrete had shown significant wear. On April 18, 2004 a large chunk of concrete had become dislodged from the track's surface and caused severe damage to the body of Jeff Gordon's car. In reaction to this, the track was fully repaved with new concrete and asphalt.[2]

Until 1999, Martinsville was notorious for having two pit roads. The backstretch pit road was generally avoided because if a team had to pit there during a caution period, any car pitting on the frontstretch had the advantage of pitting first and not having to adhere to pace car speed upon exiting their pit road. This was rectified when pit road was reconfigured to extend from the entrance of turn 3 to the exit of turn 2.[3] This move allowed for a garage to be built inside the track, and leaves Bristol as the only active NASCAR track with two pit roads.

History[edit]

The first NASCAR sanctioned event was held on July 4, 1948. In 1951, only 4 cars were running at the finish, the fewest of any race held at the speedway. In 1960, Richard Petty became the youngest winner at Martinsville, at 22 years, 283 days; to date Petty has the most wins (15). In 1991, Harry Gant became the oldest winner at 51 years, 255 days. It was Gant's fourth win in a row, earning him the nickname Mr. September.

Ownership of the track was a joint venture of brothers Jim and Bill France, Jr., and H. Clay Earles, the majority owner, along with daughters Dorothy Campbell and Mary Weatherford, and Dorothy Campbell's children, Sarah Fain and Clay Campbell. In 2004, the track was sold exclusively to the France family for over $ 200 million as a result of an estate sale following the death of Weatherford.

The tower above the finish line at the speedway.

Plans had existed to add an additional 20,000 seats along the back stretch, boosting capacity to over 85,000 seats. In 2005-2006 the Norfolk Southern Railway behind the track was moved 200 feet to make way for the added seats, but nothing more has been officially mentioned regarding this by track management since the sale of the track to ISC.

From 1982 until 1994, and again in 2006, the speedway hosted Busch Series events. This occurred first with 200- and 150-lap features (200 laps for the two races with Whelen Modifieds, 150 laps with the September Winston/Nextel Cup race), then 300 laps from 1992 until 1994 as part of a Late Model/Busch Series doubleheader, and 250 laps in the one-off in 2006. The venue was dropped from the Busch Series schedule for 2007 and a race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal was run on the open date.

Currently, Martinsville hosts two Sprint Cup Series races — the STP 500 in April and the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 (race seven in the Chase for the Sprint Cup) in October — along with Camping World Truck Series, Whelen Modified Tour which is held on Labor Day weekend under the lights, and Late Model races.

Winners of the Sprint Cup, Truck Series, and Whelen Modified events receive a longcase clock as a trophy, a nod to Martinsville's famous furniture industry. This tradition started in 1964, when Earles decided he wanted to present a trophy that would reflect the Martinsville area. He chose clocks made by a local company, Ridgeway Clocks (now a subsidiary of Michigan-based Howard Miller). The clocks presented as trophies are currently (2009) valued at around $10,000.[4]

Future[edit]

The two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Martinsville seem to be on solid footing, despite the somewhat frequent rumblings of the track losing one of its race dates. As recently as December 2008, Track President Clay Campbell said that no one, either from NASCAR, or track owner ISC, has hinted at taking a race from Martinsville and he plans on the sport being there in the long-term future.

Something else that does not appear to be in the cards for the speedway is permanent lighting (the Labor Day weekend races take place under temporary lighting). Although once a proponent to the idea, Campbell says the NASCAR race dates do not justify running a race at night, as temperatures in the mountains of Virginia in early April can often dip below freezing, and late October is fairly cool as well at night.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Records[edit]

(As of 4/7/13)

Most Wins 15 Richard Petty
Most Top 5s 30 Richard Petty
Most Top 10s 37 Richard Petty
Most Starts 67 Richard Petty
Most Poles 8 Darrell Waltrip
Most Laps Completed 27891 Richard Petty
Most Laps Led 3784 Cale Yarborough
Best Avg. Start* 3.1 Fonty Flock
Best Avg. Finish* 3.8 Dick Hutcherson
Best Avg. Finish among active drivers Jimmie Johnson

* from minimum 5 starts.

Records[edit]

2006 DirecTV 500 Finish

Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]


Coordinates: 36°38′02″N 79°51′04″W / 36.63389°N 79.85111°W / 36.63389; -79.85111