I cannot put into words how I feel about Martinsville Speedway. It was the first track I attended as a child, and I have gone back there so many times. It is like going home. Most of the people I have known over the years have moved on, but there are familiar fans I see every time I am there, I see common and small-town folks. Yes, it is a throwback to an earlier time, but it still reminds us of how exciting short track racing can be.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 virus stripped many media people and fans from being in the press area and the grandstands and that ends my streak.
After that initial visit, I was there for every Cup race for 20 years as a fan. By the end of that first streak, I had become a business owner and the 160-mile trek home in the dark kept me away until 1995. That is the year I became part of the working media and for the next 51 races, I have been there, sometimes in the Media Center, but mostly in the press box.
That ends Wednesday night.
I have moaned about night races in these pages. I am not a fan of night races. I think Martinsville should be run in the sunshine and earlier in the year. I still marvel that it started snowing on that Saturday before the truck race in 2018. Being from West Virginia, I can smell a snowstorm. I headed back to my motel. I remember being there right after 9-11 and snipers on the roof. It confused many. In fact, one elderly man told me that he doubted terrorists could find Martinsville on a map. I witnessed the domination of Hendrick Motorsports and the day the Hendrick airplane went down nearby. There was chaos in the press room because it wasn’t released to anyone until after Jimmie Johnson won the race.
That all ends two days from now.
I look forward to watching in my family room on a 57-inch television, but it will not be the same. I imagine the crowd would have been small even if NASCAR had not used caution in having races with no spectators. As I mentioned earlier, Martinsville has a blue-collar fanbase, and if there’s work on Thursday morning, those folks would have done what I will be doing, watching on TV.
One of these days, we will be back to normal. I promise you that. There will be spectators at Martinsville again and I will be there to start a new streak.