Good Things in Small Packages
Ask most NASCAR fans, and they’ll likely pick
Bristol Motor Speedway as the smallest race track
in the sport. If so, they’d be wrong: Martinsville
Speedway registers at .526 miles in length, .007 of
a mile shorter than the .533-mile Bristol oval.
How much of a difference is that? It’s roughly
26. 4 feet. And even though Martinsville is the
smallest track in NASCAR racing, it also has had
the greatest staying power. The paperclip bullring,
which was founded by the late H. Clay Earles and
opened in 1947, has hosted Sprint Cup Series
races every year since the inception of NASCAR’s
marquee series in 1949. Martinsville has one other
unique distinction: Fans are closer to the racing
action than at any other track on the circuit.
WHAT’S IN A NAME, TEXAS?
Twenty years ago, the track we’ve come to know as Texas Motor Speedway had somewhat of an identity crisis. While under construction in August 1996, Speed way Motorsports, Inc. had to temporarily change the name of the track to “Texas International Raceway”
due to a lawsuit filed by another facility named Texas Motor Speed way, a quarter-mile dirt
track located in Alvin, Texas, near Houston. A few months later, a financial settlement was
reached and the original Texas Motor Speedway was renamed Texas Thunder Speedway, while
Texas International Raceway claimed the name it originally wanted. I don’t know about you,
but TMS has a much better ring to it than TIR. Also, TIR merchandise – if you can find any –
is among the most sought-after collectibles by race fans.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France learned the racing
game from the ground up.
One of his first jobs after
leaving the University of
Central Florida was as a
janitor at the International
France climbed the cor-
porate ladder very quickly,
ultimately becoming one of
the creators of the NASCAR
Camping World Truck Series
in 1995. He became the
head of NASCAR’s entertain-
ment division shortly after
the release of “Days of Thun-
der” in 1990. The Holly wood
experience whetted France’s
appetite so much that he
opened a side business,
Brand Sense Partners, a Los
agency that used to handle
the licensing rights for
singer Britney Spears, and
which recently became the
licensing agent for I ♥ N Y.
For the first time, Bristol Motor Speedway will
host two college football games this September. But
can you name the only current NFL stadium that formerly hosted NASCAR racing? Soldier Field – home
of the Chicago Bears – hosted one Sprint Cup Series
race in 1956 (“Fireball” Roberts was the winner) and
three Convertible Series races in 1956 and ’ 57 (the
winners were Tom Pistone, Curtis Turner and Glen
Wood, of Wood Brothers Racing fame).
The track, which also hosted other national and
regional racing events, was a half-mile asphalt
surface that ringed the football field. Its last race was
in 1968. According to “NASCAR Encyclopedia,” the
track was removed in 1970 “following protests by
hippies who objected to city funding of auto racing.”
The Bears moved into Soldier Field the following year.
Have you ever wanted to take your personal car (or motorcycle) out on a NASCAR race track (within reason, speed-wise, of course)? You can do just that this year as
Richmond International Raceway once again will allow race
fans to take five laps around the three-quarter-mile track for an
incredible bargain price of just $20.
While you can have the experience of a lifetime, the money goes
to a good cause: RIR Cares, which raises funds for charities in the
greater Richmond metro area. You must be 18 or older; your car
must follow the pace car as speeds cannot exceed 55 mph and
there’s no passing – or racing; and you must have insurance and
sign a liability waiver. Contact the track for more details.
BRIAN FRANCE: A MULTI-FACETED MAN
BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW!