My Dad loved sports, and he always told me, “Don’t ever miss an opportunity to go to a WVU football game or a race at Martinsville.” I’ve followed that advice for over 60 years.
In fact, even though I didn’t get to see the Cup race live, I was at the track on Saturday. After 24 laps, it began to lightly rain. After one lap around the track where the trucks were running, I could see that it was turning to snow. Being from the mountains of West Virginia, I could smell there was going to be a good one. I headed back to my home base to the north, Roanoke, Virginia.
I never left there for the weekend. I monitored my fellow journalists’ Twitter posts all Saturday night in hopes that it wasn’t that bad. The pictures I saw justified my initial prediction. It was going to be a bad snow event. At that time, I knew there wouldn’t be racing on Sunday, and after looking at pictures of the parking lots (all grass which made the snow and mud impossible to navigate), I headed home to West Virginia, where amazingly it did not snow.
Dad also always said that you only got a few opportunities in a lifetime to go to Martinsville. I went, saw 29 laps including caution laps, and headed away from dreaded snow. My first trip to Martinsville was in 1964. Fred Lorenzen won in that magnificent Holman-Moody No. 28 Ford. I was hooked for life. I missed a lot during my high school and college days but started a string of being there for 78 consecutive Cup races and the only Busch Series race run in my time. If you don’t mind, I’m going to count last weekend because I was there at least for a while. I watched at home on the big screen, mainly because one of the great parts of being an elected official is having to be there on meeting day.
What I saw was really amazing, even on a 55-inch television. Clint Bowyer, who had not won in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for 190 races, won going away. And I missed it. I probably could not repeat any of our three or four conversations verbatim, but it was like talking to your next-door neighbor. He’s genuine and one of the characters NASCAR needs now. He’s not corporate like many drivers who spew sponsor’s names at the drop of a hat. In the middle of one conversation, it developed into a sports talk about Oklahoma basketball and the Big 12. He’s just a guy who is approachable and a personable one at that. His win was good for NASCAR.
Bowyer is a beneficiary of the great Ford and Stewart-Haas resurgence. The team founded by Gene Haas and Tony Stewart has dominated the series. Fords have won four of the first six races, three of them by Kevin Harvick and Bowyer’s win at Martinsville. Team Penske is always a threat for top-five finishes so far in their Fords while Chevrolet’s new Camaro has been less than competitive. Toyota has produced great finishes from 2017 champ Martin Truex Jr, and Kyle Busch. We will know more about this at Texas after the Easter off week. As of now, it’s a blue oval world, but it could change in an instant just like the weather at Martinsville last weekend.