Martinsville Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on March 30, 2014 | 5:54 P.M. EST
The .526-mile paperclip track has year after year produced some of the tightest, closest and most entertaining racing in NASCAR. (Photo: Getty Images)
Today’s sports world requires stadiums to keep up with fans’ demands for comfort and desires. NASCAR tracks are no different.
So we have the multi-million dollar “Daytona Rising” project, the huge high definition “Big Hoss” screen at Texas Motor Speedway and several tracks spending money to upgrade wireless infrastructure to better fans’ connectivity.
But while there have certainly been improvements made to charter NASCAR track Martinsville Speedway, part of its appeal is how the Virginia track is decidedly “old school.”
A visit to Martinsville is literally a walk back in time to one of the sport’s original destinations.
And beyond all the ambience and quaint nature of its surroundings the actual racing that takes place even today at Martinsville isn’t much different than when the first competition was held at the track.
Once Martinsville was paved from its original dirt surface, the paperclip speedway developed an instant identity that has remained virtually untouched in more than 50 years. Sure there’s been additions and changes to the surface in the way of asphalt and concrete but the actual competition looks nearly the same in 2012 as it did say in 1956.
Take a look at highlights from the 1970s and Richard Petty’s dominance or the 1980s when Geoff Bodine gave Rick Hendrick his first career Sprint Cup victory. How about Harry Gant’s remarkable winning streak that rolled through Martinsville in 1991 or Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon being nearly unstoppable later in that decade and the early 2000’s?
Then compare those memories with today’s Sprint Cup era and it’s remarkable how much the on track product remains the same.
The .526-mile paperclip track has year after year produced some of the tightest, closest and most entertaining racing in NASCAR. Sunday’s STP 500 was the latest example.
NASCAR has to change with the times and continues to find ways to resonate with today’s fan. Martinsville Speedway accomplished that goal the old fashioned way, cranking out great racing for more than 60 years.
- The string of compelling races to start the year continued on Sunday at Martinsville. The race featured a record 33 lead changes and enough twists and turns to rival any amusement park roller coaster. As is usually the case there were some battered cars at the end of the day and frayed emotions. But fans have been the winners literally since the start of the season with every week bringing entertainment. There have been six different winners in Victory Lane through the first half dozen races. Texas Motor Speedway is next up and we’ll see if the roll can continue.
- While there were several incidents between drivers on Sunday the main event definitely featured Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski. The duo got together on pit road, an altercation that severely damaged Keselowski’s Team Penske Ford. The 2012 champ had some harsh words for Busch while his car was being repaired and backed them up when he returned to the track and demonstrated his displeasure by rubbing the No. 41 Chevy several times. Cooler heads prevailed in the aftermath and there was no post-race fight as had been discussed. But in a sport that has long-needed a feud and a rivalry, it looks as if one was definitely born Sunday between Keselowski and "The Outlaw".
- Denny Hamlin went on the defensive over the weekend against allegations his health issue story that kept him out of the Auto Club 400 last week was suspicious. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver defiantly attacked the conspiracy theorists that doubted whether a piece of metal found in his eye was the reason for being sidelined. Hamlin predicted he’d enjoy the ultimate revenge by adding another Martinsville win to his resume but he was not a factor and finished 19th.
- There were heavy hearts in the Richard Petty Motorsports camp in the aftermath of family matriarch Lynda’s death last week. But the two RPM drivers provided the best possible relief from the sorrow by turning in another week of solid performances. Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola both finished inside the top 10 for the second time in three weeks and continue to demonstrate solid improvement early in the season. There’s certainly a chance at least one of the team’s entries can roll into Victory Lane this year.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.