Martinsville Speedway – A Short History For A Short Track

Martinsville and NASCAR have been associated since NASCAR was founded. Where there has been NASCAR, there has been Martinsville.

Dug out of the clay of Henry County, H. Clay Earles opened Martinsville Speedway on July 4th1947. With the original seating plan only allowing 750 fans, the track had a mind blowing 6,000 fans.

A year later, in 1948, NASCAR was founded, and  according to the track’s website Martinsville Speedway joined the NASCAR circuit a year later in 1949, hosting the sixth race of the season. The track has been a beloved stop on the NASCAR circuit ever since Red Byron won the inaugural race during the 1948 NASCAR Championship Modified Season.


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Martinsville isn’t called the paperclip for no reason though. At just over half a mile long, it’s the smallest track on the NASCAR circuit. The track has two 800-foot straightaways that become nearly flat turns that are tight and sometimes too short creating an extremely demanding layout and becoming the scene of some of the most extreme races each season.

The facility quickly learned that 750 seats weren’t going to cut it for the loved track on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. Today there are 55,000 seats for fans to enjoy themselves and the races from. The track hasn’t stopped expanding since the day it opened. In fact, the only thing that hasn’t changed in the last 60 years is the track configuration itself.

The improvements are all a part of a grand plan and philosophy from H. Clay Earles’ grand mind. This philosophy is carried out today by his grandson, track president W. Clay Campbell who took over the reins in 1988.

In 2004, Martinsville Speedway was purchased by International Speedway Corporation, which owns tracks such as Daytona International Speedway, Homestead Miami Speedway, and Michigan International Speedway.

Despite the owner change, H. Clay Earle’s philosophy lives on today.

“Martinsville Speedway is constantly growing and we expect to continue that trend for many years to come. We review our facility and the operation of it after each race and look for ways to improve. Martinsville Speedway has been a showplace for NASCAR Sprint Cup racing for more than half a century and we plan to continue that for generations of race fans in the future.” Campbell once said. Campbell remained president after the owner switch.

“My grandfather often said that Martinsville Speedway is a work in progress, that it would never be finished. We all still believe that…we will always be working to make it better for the fans.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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