On Tuesday, the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Martinsville Speedway unveiled a year-long exhibit honoring the track’s historic 75th Anniversary season at a press conference in the Hall of Honor featuring Vice President, Mid-Atlantic Region and long-time Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell, Senior Advisor to NASCAR Mike Helton, Senior Vice President, Racing Development & Strategy Ben Kennedy, NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty (2010) and Dale Inman (2012) and NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the NASCAR Hall of Fame to recognize the history and tell the story of Martinsville Speedway,” said Clay Campbell, Vice President, Mid-Atlantic Region, NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway President. “Since the first race won by Red Byron in 1947, Martinsville Speedway has been home for our family and generations of NASCAR fans. We invite race fans to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year to learn more about our historic 75 years in motorsports.”
The first-ever display honoring a track’s historic anniversary at the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be open to the public over the next year. The exhibit showcases many historic Martinsville Speedway artifacts including the first Martinsville Speedway grandfather clock that was awarded to Fred Lorenzen on Sept. 27, 1964, the last non-grandfather clock winner’s trophy awarded to Fred Lorenzen on April 26, 1964, Jeff Gordon Helmet from his 93rd and final career victory (and ninth at Martinsville) on Nov. 1, 2015, and more.
“We are proud of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s status as the recognized home for honoring NASCAR’s evolving history, celebrated heritage and family-oriented traditions, and we are thrilled to join in the celebration of Martinsville Speedway’s 75th anniversary,” said Winston Kelley, NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director. “Since NASCAR’s inception, Martinsville Speedway has been part of every level of NASCAR competition—from the grass roots to the Cup Series—with the Earles family at the helm from day one and a partnership with the France family that began in the early 1950’s. So many of our Hall of Famers have experienced tremendous successes, memorable victories and career highlights at Martinsville, all of which are highlighted in our first-ever display honoring a track’s historic anniversary. We look forward to sharing the stories of Martinsville’s incredible impact and contributions to the history of NASCAR with our guests.”
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 1950’s.
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.
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, Senior Advisor to 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.”
“When you think about the rich history of NASCAR, Martinsville Speedway has played a huge role in delivering some of the most memorable moments every single year since the sport’s inception,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development & Strategy. “As the sport evolves and grows, the competition on the track and the authentic fan experience at Martinsville Speedway will continue to make lasting impressions on every fan and competitor for years to come.”
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 Martinsville Speedway celebrates its 75th anniversary, the track will recognize and honor its history with throughout the year. For more information on Martinsville Speedway’s 75th anniversary season, visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com/75th.
— Martinsville Speedway —