(This is the third in a series of memorable moments in the 63-year history of Martinsville Speedway. For track President Clay Campbell, two events stand at the track his grandfather built).
MARTINSVILLE’S CLAY CAMPBELL REMEMBERS TWO NASCAR LEGENDS
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 13, 2010) – Unlike many race track executives, Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell had the pleasure of growing up around the facility he now oversees.
NOTE: TUMS is the sponsor of the TUMS Fast Relief 500, the sixth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 24.
Campbell’s grandfather, H. Clay Earles, founded the family-oriented short track more than 60 years ago. It is not only the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ shortest track, but also the only speedway remaining on the schedule that was with the sanctioning body when it began. Campbell’s long-time relationship with the track has often led people to question him about his special memories surrounding the facility. There are two events that stand out in Campbell’s mind. One involves seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, the other former NASCAR President Bill France Jr.
The Earnhardt saga began during a test session. At the time, there was a fairly large pond outside turn four, across the street from the speedway’s office. Earnhardt and his Richard Childress Racing team were testing at the 0.526-mile track. Earnhardt walked into the office and asked if there were any fish in the pond.
“I told him there were bass in it,” Campbell recalled. “He asked if I thought he could go fishing in it. I told him he could if he wanted to. The next day he drives up in his pickup truck and he has all of his fishing rods in the back of it. They tested for half a day and then we went out there and fished for half a day.”
Campbell’s other special memory came in 1988 when he was elected the track’s president.
“People thought I got the presidency because my grandfather ran the place, but that wasn’t the case. The France family owned half of it,” Campbell said. “It was in the 1950s when my grandfather and Bill France Sr. partnered up when the other two partners bowed out. The France family has been partners in the track ever since. That’s why when International Speedway Corp. took full ownership, it was not that big of a change. It was like living with someone for many years and then finally marrying them.
“At a board meeting in 1988, Bill France Jr. nominated me for president of the track. That was very special to me, that he thought enough of me to nominate me for that job.”
Campbell has served in that position ever since.
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