October 2008

As I think you know, I am trying to work on my master’s thesis. This last week I went out to North Carolina to do research. And since I was so close to Virginia, I of course just had to go to the race at Martinsville.

I spent two days out at the National Speed Sport News Archives. It was really hard not to get distracted and read all the articles on the development of stock car racing. All told, it is a fascinating story. It was also incredibly interesting to watch the way that Speed Sport News went from barely mentioning stock car races to almost exclusively covering stock cars.

I spent some time at the library out in Rockingham. On the way home, I heard a great radio interview with Andy Hillenburg for the upcoming race at Rockingham. If you all are out there, make sure you go. It should be great. They also have created a Little Rock- which is a small track out back of the track which is shaped just like Martinsville. I got to see that track in its bulldozer making an oval in the dirt phase, and that was really cool.

So the week had two very very exciting moments. The first was the race at Martinsville. I will post about Martinsville and the race in a minute. Even more exciting was lunch on Friday.

Friday I drove down to South Carolina to have lunch with Bud Moore and Cotton Owens. It was unbelievable to hear them talk about the real days of racing. Awesome is hardly a word to describe it. They are fantastic, as is Dot, Cotton’s wife. She’s been involved in racing since the first days Cotton started racing.

I think that it was one of the most amazing lunches that I have ever had the opportunity to be at. They were so great.

Being at Martinsville was also so much fun. It was simply amazing to be at a place where so much of NASCAR’s heritage still exists.

How about some history first? H. Clay Earles came back from World War II with the idea to build a track, though he had been kicking the idea around before he even left. During the war, there was a ban on auto racing so as not to use up valuable resources. The ban was lifted in 1945, much to the joy of auto racing fans of all kinds. The next year, 1946 brought all kinds of exciting things…including organized stock car racing.

See! Distractable! Anyhow. Martinsville was one of the first tracks included in the original eight tracks that NASCAR ran for points in the first year of operations. How exciting that we still race there! The track has changed somewhat over the years. Both H. Clay Earles and his grandson Clay Campbell who is the current president of the track have said that the track is always under construction. Keeping the track up to date and exciting are both important aspects.

Did you know that the speedway is not only the tallest building in the county, but has the longest hallway too!? We love Martinsville, and are glad that it is still a part of racing. Drivers seem to love the track too- even though its not easy to drive! You need to be able to work your brakes without losing em, and have enough patience to make it through all 500 miles of the race.

You know, Martinsville, in the first years that NASCAR raced there- was a dirt track? Sure enough, it was. The track wasn’t quite finished in 1947, but they raced there anyways. There was seating for 750 people! The second race was well attended and an exciting stop on the circuit. Red Byron won the first NASCAR race there in a 1949 Oldsmobile. Byron had won earlier that same year at the second race of the season- at Daytona’s Beach and Road course. The next year, 1950, NASCAR was racing there twice a year. Once in the spring and once in the fall. The first time they raced the Virginia 500 was in 1956, and the fall race became the Old Dominion 400.

Martinsville was designed to be beautiful. Earles wanted it to look like a park, a place where you would want to bring your family. And let me tell you. It is. Martinsville might just be

the most beautiful track on the circuit.

Boy oh boy. Look what I forgot. This here is my first dog. Breakfast really. It was naked. Second one came all the way.




So, we all like the burn out, right? But how many of you know the Polish Lap?

NASCAR lost an amazing Driver in 1993 with the death of Alan Kulwicki.

Kulwicki hailed from Wisconsin, and won Rookie of the Year in 1986. He went on to win the Championship in1992, winning six races that year and beating out Awesome Bill by a margin of ten points.

He was the driver of the Hooters #7 Ford and was one hell of a perfectionist driver.  He was an owner/driver.  He won his last race driving a car that he nicknamed the Underbird!

Kulwicki is also the creator of the Polish Victory Lap. When he won, he spun his car right around and drove the opposite way along the track. He could see the fans, they could see him and being Polish, well…you can’t blame em for calling it the Polish Victory Lap, now can you.

It is rare to see a Driver run a Polish Lap anymore. But Jeff Burton, the Mayor, has often spoke with some disdain for the grandstanding of the burnout. I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, Burton might be the only driver who still has the old school blood in him to run a Polish Victory Lap.

I like to see Burton win and I love to listen to his radio chatter. He’s got a bit of salt and temper, but is always a gentleman.

Congrats on the win at Charlotte tonight Jeff- I’m always happy to see that backwards lap run. I’ve got my fingers crossed that you make it all the way in the Chase.

[Courtesy of NASCAR.com]

I know, intermittent posting hardly even covers it. But, I kind of have to put my thesis research ahead of everything else.

But I thought that I would get a post in about Charlotte. I’m watching the race right now,  my driver is running 45 laps down. Its alright. Charlotte’s good racing.

So what would you think, if you were sitting at your tailgate bbq- and Kevin Harvick walked up needing to borrow a car for the race? Or if Jeff Gordon was wandering around looking for tires that might fit the ride he drove to the race?

Well, friends, that’s exactly what it was like when NASCAR first started up.

Some of the best drivers didn’t even have a car to run- but fans (race fans are a special breed) were happy to pony up the family sedan in order to see a race.

And of course, we all know who Bruton Smith is now, but in the back half of the 1950s Smith and Curtis Turner decided that what the Charlotte area needed the most was a brand new speedway. They planned out the 1.5 mile course, secured the financial backing and started the bulldozers up. They promptly hit an entire field of granite- set just deep enough to not have been caught in the survey- and close enough to the surface to drain all their finances.

Remember a few years ago at Martinsville when Gordon ran over the chunk of the track, and it came up? Charlotte’s racing surface was curing the night before the cars ran on it for the first race in 1960, and huge pieces of the track came up once the cars hit.

A brief note, a few bits of history..to let you know that I was still here. And have the best intentions of making this a habit. But right now, there’s just nine laps to go and the 9 is closing in on the 31.