At the end of a long hard fought day, following the champagne spray, the hat dance and when the media has begun working toward their deadline, the driver will marvel at his winnings.
The points they gained in the championship. Another win they added to their growing column. Maybe even the hefty winner’s check that their wives or girlfriends can’t wait to help them put to good use.
All of it though, fails to compare to the trophy.
Some are cooler than others. Some mean more than others. One, Las Vegas, isn’t a trophy at all. Then there’s one that every driver can’t wait to bring home.
No, it’s not Daytona or Indianapolis. Although you’ll never hear a driver pass one of those up, more like offer to make a trade of one of their championship trophies for one. That’s because for the past nearly 60 years the Martinsville Speedway has created a unique brand by awarding winners in the Sprint Cup Series Grandfather clocks.
Whether he’s won only one or nine, no driver gets tired of being awarded a Martinsville clock.
Except, unless you race in the NSCS that experience will never be felt. It’s why heading into the upcoming weekend the excitement felt in the Camping World Truck Series is bound to overshadow what’s taking place in the NSCS garage and the Chase for the Sprint Cup. When the green flag falls on the Kroger 200 Saturday afternoon there will be 36 drivers that have more incentive to be the first to the checkered flag than ever before.
There’s one, tall, $10,000 reason.
Early this year it was announced that they too would finally be getting their hands on the beloved winner’s “trophy” of the Martinsville Speedway.
It’s something defending winner Timothy Peters doesn’t believe came quick enough, “This is a huge deal. I wish it had started last fall. I would have it sitting in my trophy room right now.”
For some drivers winning at the short track in Virginia can’t get any better. The emotion on Peter’s face last year after he won not only his first career race, but in his home state, won’t be forgotten anytime soon. For others, just winning at a short track is the greatest accomplishment.
Then there are those like Mike Skinner who have a score to settle with the speedway. Up until a few weeks ago Skinner had no idea that Martinsville would begin awarding Grandfather clocks.
“I know you don’t get a clock at Martinsville because I’ve won three of them,” he remarked in regards to his three victories at the paperclip. But when told by the media and fellow driver Todd Bodine that this year was different, Skinner said, “They need to send me a truck load of them then.”
Should he get back into a familiar groove, Skinner won’t need to just be given a clock. He’s the driver that the rest of the competition will be gunning for as he’s led more laps at the speedway, 600, than any other driver. He’s also tied for the most wins at the speedway with Dennis Setzer.
However, thus far in 2010 Skinner’s been held winless and is all but eliminated from the championship battle. Sitting eighth in points, over 600 markers behind, the No. 5 team has nothing to lose and everything to gain from here on out. Skinner wants back in victory lane and he most certainly wants a clock he feels is owed to him.
The racing on Saturday afternoon will be nothing less than frantic and exciting. The NCWTS always good for that but now every driver wants to be the first to take home the newest prize, they want that clock.
This is no ordinary clock. Valued at $10,000 the Martinsville Speedway gave out the first one in September of 1964. They’re built by a local furniture manufacturer, Ridgeway Clocks, and stand seven feet tall.
Said Bodine, “That Grandfather clock from Martinsville is just like having that guitar [from Nashville].”
There will be those in the NASCAR world that don’t understand what the big deal is, why it’s important to a driver who isn’t even taking home a real trophy. Is it possible to ask whether the racing might end up being overshadowed by the driver that ends the day in victory lane and sees the Grandfather clock waiting for him?
There have been 18 winners at Martinsville in the NCWTS and none of them have one. No more than a what could have been for those drivers who can only be left with a burning desire to again capture the checkered flag in Martinsville.
This race won’t crown a champion. It won’t send a driver to the new NASCAR Hall of Fame. It may not even be a typical bumping and banging wreck-fest that some races have been in the past.
It will however, be memorable. It’ll be coveted and relived by a driver for years to come. A brand new, shining, invaluable Grandfather clock will be given away and then treated like gold.
Sometimes it’s really not about the check. Or the points and the flattering stories from various media outlets. Sometimes it really is all about the hardware.