MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 23, 2011) – From neighboring towns and faraway states, the camping crowd has begun to roll into Martinsville Speedway for the upcoming TUMS Fast Relief 500 weekend.
The speedway’s campground opened for campers early Saturday morning and by mid-afternoon Sunday, the rolling hillsides were starting to fill with recreational vehicles.
After spending six years in Anchorage, Alaska, without much of an opportunity to attend a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, Master Sergeant Derek Heavener is among many adding Martinsville Speedway to the list of races they have attended.
In the midst of a move from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., where he will begin his role as an ROTC instructor, Heavener and his family will experience Martinsville’s historic half-mile for the first time.
Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 is not the focus of their stay. Camping is equally important to Heavener.
“They’re all good people,” Heavener said of the campers surrounding him. “The race is the sidebar to a great camping environment where you can let your kids run around without worrying.”
Heavener believes there is no need to worry as your neighbors will watch out for you and your kids. Neighbors, he says you may have just met, but whom you will get to know quite well as the week goes on.
In another section of the campground, a couple from Dayton, Ohio, have kept Martinsville as their vacation spot for the last seven or eight years. The specific campsite has changed over time, but electing to drive eight hours to Martinsville has not. That decision is fueled by the fact that the cost to camp has remained affordable and the friendliness of their neighbors as they continue to choose Martinsville over tracks closer to their hometown.
For the past five years, the Buchanan family has had the same few campsites and for the first time they arrived on Sunday. They have attended other races and return to Martinsville for their family reunion with members of the clan hailing from Memphis, Tenn., outside Indianapolis, Ind., and nearby Harrisonburg annually.
“Everyone is your friend,” Keith Buchanan said. “It is the old-school, old-time fans that make this place what it is.”
Emphasizing an atmosphere that hails to the early days of NASCAR, the Buchanan family relishes the relaxing environment and the opportunity to catch up with family.
Perhaps the earliest members of the family to arrive were Jack and Jim, who have been camping at Martinsville together for the past 17 years. It has been awhile since they have actually attended the race though, electing to take advantage of technology and enjoy all the action from the comfort of their ever-evolving campsite set up.
With Halloween around the corner, several have brought enough candy to supply the children of the campground while Jack and Jim add dog treats to their supplies. They think that is how they have been able to establish such lasting relationships that are renewed on an annual basis.
Race-week excitement ramps up at Martinsville Speedway Friday when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars and the Camping World Truck Series trucks take to the track for a full day of practice.
Farm Bureau Pole Day and the Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race is set for Oct. 29 and the TUMS Fast Relief 500 is on October 30.
Good seats remain for all events and may be purchased by calling 1.877.RACE.TIX or by visiting www.martinsvillespeedway.com.