Drivers, start your engines!
Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia, has been the home to NASCAR racing for nearly 70 years.
From its legendary on-track battles to the delicious and famous Martinsville hot dog, there was plenty to look forward to during the 7-hour ride from Easton to see the STP 500 on March 29.
For the first time, I finally had the opportunity to make the trip down to the half-mile race track to enjoy the Sunday afternoon with my dad.
The drive itself was long. However, with beautiful mountains and farms, the trip went by with a breeze.
After spending Saturday night in the hotel just six miles from the track, we made our way to the race on Sunday morning.
Seeing the track’s grandstands peek out atop the sea of cars, campers and trees, we grew more excited.
Some would call the pre-race festivities the best part of the entire day. At NASCAR events, there is plenty to do before the race. One thing I always love is the Chevrolet “center” with both road cars and race cars on display.
Driver from the field make appearances to sign autographs and answer fans’ questions, plus there’s live music.
My favorite scenery at pre-race is always the driver trailers, which have merchandise for sale. NASCAR has always embraced die-casts, shirts, hats and so on to please the hardest of hardcore fans and the driver trailers are the perfect place to go.
It’s impossible to count the number of campers and RVs gathered around the area of the speedway. Some people arrive on Wednesday or Thursday and camp out till Monday. They spend the whole weekend at the track and then some.
I finally made my way to my seat in the stands and the sight was fantastic. Being a veteran fan and now a worker in the sport, seeing one of the most prestigious race tracks in the country was almost a dream.
The cars made their way off pit road to begin the pace laps before the STP 500 began.
The cars are a roar of 725 horsepower times 43 flying by you at more than 100 mph, it’s an incredible sight. Although traveling the shortest and slowest track on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, they still wrap around the half-mile in 19 seconds and you can both feel and taste the speed from your seat.
Fans see only a handful of short-track races each season. Martinsville joins the twice-a-year visits to Richmond and Bristol as the only short-tracks on the circuit. Seeing every driver power off the tight corners side-by-side, banging doors and fighting for every inch possible is why NASCAR fans cannot get enough.
Being a little higher off the ground, the sun was just warm enough and the wind was just slow enough that it was near perfect for a good two hours during the race.
One of the biggest reasons why I made this year’s Martinsville race the one I wanted to attend was because of Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 25 Chevrolet. Elliott will replace Jeff Gordon in 2016 when Gordon hangs up his helmet and this was Elliott’s first-career start.
Although getting caught up in an early accident, it was special to witness what will be a huge day in NASCAR history,
After the race finished with a thrilling short-track fight for the win between Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, the Victory Lane celebration began for Hamlin on the front stretch asphalt since there is no room in the infield.
It had to be the most fun I ever had at a race. Because I could sit back and enjoy things, it was even more fun than my days of being a media member at the track.
With no job, no worries and no responsibilities during my afternoon at the track, there was nothing like it.