NASCAR Returns to its Roots

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Martinsville Speedway on October 29, 2017 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

After a less than breathtaking start of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup season, the series moves to its roots. Construction on Martinsville Speedway began in 1946. The track’s first NASCAR race was held one year later, with a Hall of Famer taking the checkered flag.

NASCAR Returns to its Roots

“When my grandfather built the track it had 750 seats. As it turned out there were more than 9,000 people here,” said Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell.

Martinsville Speedway is the only facility that can brag that it has been part of NASCAR since its birth. Nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the track’s configuration has remained the same from the day it was built. If you’re looking for NASCAR’s roots you don’t have to look any further than Martinsville Speedway.

Shortest Track

Many long time NASCAR fans have been clamoring for more short track races. Martinsville, at a half mile, is the shortest track on NASCAR’s current Cup schedule. It poses many difficulties for the drivers entered in Sunday’s STP 500. Not only will cars be crowded on the track but it’s a single groove track, with the inside lane being the fastest way around.

“Contact is almost unavoidable at this racetrack. When there is contact it usually affects someone negatively,” Denny Hamlin recently told MRN Radio. “It’s a one grove racetrack. Here, everyone fights for the bottom.”

Its such a unique track. Most of today’s tracks in the Cup series are high banked, fast tracks. That’s not Martinsville. When asked how long it took to figure out Martinsville, 7-time Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson said, “It took me being lapped by Tony Stewart than following him around to figure this place out.”

“I remember Jeff (Gordon) talking and coaching me but nothing seemed to click. He’d get in my car and go faster,” Johnson said.

Jimmie Johnson is not the only NASCAR star to have some struggles figuring out Martinsville. Last year’s Monster Energy Series Champion, Martin Truex Jr. is still looking for his first victory here. “Martinsville is a challenging little track. I feel we’ve been chipping away at it. We’re getting closer with some top fives,” Truex said.

Great Racing Track

This track, more than any other, forces drivers to play both offense and defense. From a fans perspective it might be one of the more entertaining weekends on the current Cup schedule. The track doesn’t have all the bells, whistles and glitter of some of the new facilities but what it does promise is some hard exciting racing.

Aric Almirola talked about the difficulty racing at Martinsville. “500 laps here is an incredibly long time. A lot can happen in 500 laps.”

A return from the West Coast swing to Martinsville Speedway could not come at a better time. Fender benders, smoking brakes, and a ton of tempers are all part of racing at Martinsville. NASCAR returns to its roots and I couldn’t be happier.

Notes

Martinsville Speedway is famous for its hot dogs. After a two year hiatus, Jess Jones and its Southern style red hot dog returns. Load them up with onions, slaw and mustard and for just $2, they are arguably NASCAR’s most famous track food……..

The weather forecast for the Martinsville Virginia area contains the “S” word. Yes, snow is in the forecast along with chilly temperatures this weekend in Virginia……… The tracks unique paper clip shape was made out of necessity.

There are active train tracks near the backstretch, hills in both sets of turns and houses and roads behind the frontstretch……. The Green flag is scheduled to wave shortly after 2:00 pm EST. TV coverage will be on Fox Sports 1.

Thanks for reading. Listen to WTBQ Radio on Monday and Friday mornings as I join Frank, Taylor and the Morning Show gang as I discuss the current happening in NASCAR. 1110AM 93.5FM or online at WTBQ.com. Follow me on twitter @Jimlaplante.

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