MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 20, 2011) – Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles, who carved a monument to stock car racing out of the Southern Virginia countryside, was one of 25 nominees to the NASCAR Hall of Fame announced Tuesday.
Earles played an integral role in the early years of NASCAR’s development. He built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, and the short track remains the only facility to host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year since the series’ inception in 1949.
“He was around for a long time, and made a lot of contributions, and did a lot for NASCAR, but I didn’t know that there would be enough people around to remember,” said Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell, who is Earles’ grandson. “So that’s very pleasing that people do still recognize the work that he did.”
Earles remained active with the speedway almost until his death at age 86 on November 16, 1999, and was Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at the time of his death.
With Tuesday’s announcement, Earles became the first track operator to be nominated to the Hall of Fame.
“Of all the people that have been nominated so far, he’s the only track operator on there, so that speaks volumes for what he did,” said Campbell, who was mentored by his grandfather.
Earles was an innovator and visionary when it came to running a race track. He believed fans should get their money’s worth and that drivers should be treated fairly.
Fans were greeted by blooming azaleas and rose bushes. Ticket and concession prices were always kept low and restrooms were constantly maintained by attendants during events.
He always worked to make the purses for races at Martinsville Speedway were the largest of any short track. In the early days of the sport, he always made sure the under-funded drivers had a little extra cash to get them home after an event.
“I think if you talk to most everybody involved in the sport that knew him, I think the way he’d be remembered is, he treated everybody fair,” Campbell said. “No matter who you were, whether you were a competitor, or a member of the media, or the fans, or whoever, no matter what stature you had in life, he treated everybody the same.
“I’m sure he would be extremely honored by this, but he never cared to be in the limelight. He didn’t do it for himself. Everything he did, he did it for others.”
Only five of the 25 nominees announced Tuesday will be voted into the Hall of Fame.
A 55-member voting panel will select the five inductees to the 2012 Hall of Fame class. The panel includes the entire nominating committee, members of the media, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors and recognized industry leaders.
The 55th member of the panel is a fan vote, which opens April 28 and closes June 12 on NASCAR.com. The class of 2012 will be announced on June 14.