Saturday, April 06, 2013

Visiting NASCAR Tracks: Martinsville Speedway

The little track that doesn't seem to know itself:

There's no towering stands to be seen from the local roads.  Nor is there a massive building housing administration and a shiny gift shop.  Occasionally you'll spy signs by empty fields specifying parking lots.  But really, upon arrival you just don't believe this is the place. 

Indeed, even those working the event are continually surprised that the camping lot is filled with NASCAR fans from the Northeast and Canada.  Why would anybody travel days to find this tiny town and tiny track in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains?  Why?

History holds all the secrets.  The oldest track on the circuit, Martinsville Speedway has hosted Sprint Cup races over more years than any other.  When we speak of Hall of Fame racers, this 1/2 mile paperclip will always feature in their achievements. 

It isn't fast.  Cars qualify under 100 mph.  There are no high banks, wide racing surfaces or even a roomy pit road.  The garage remains a shed incapable of housing all 43 teams. 

And yet, we know we are somewhere special.  The legendary hot dogs is still a reasonable $2.  And yes, they are very snackable.  The track has actually widened the seats for their fans.  There is not a bad seat in the house. Maybe we don't see wrought iron fences, but there is a sense of comfort amidst the teams.  NASCAR likes returning to the paperclip.

And Martinsville clearly has pride in welcoming the circus.  As we wandered the empty facility on Wednesday, everything was being cleaned.  The streets, the seats, the kitchens...everything.  Even the guy driving the maintenance vehicle down the train tracks waved at the few fans wandering around.

In short, we like it here.  Racing is part of the place.  It's a bone deep feeling.  Sort of like a living happy memory.

In a few minutes, we're packing up and heading over for an afternoon of truck racing.  The sun is shining.  The campground is crowded. And I can tell you it's going to be a great day.

Martinsville, a bit of hidden NASCAR history.  A place worth finding.

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