Between the announcement of the NASCAR Cup Series schedule for 2022 and the upcoming ValleyStar Credit Union 300 late model race, it’s been and will be a busy couple of weeks at Martinsville Speedway.
The race will be held in conjunction with the new Henry County Fair, held on the Speedway’s grounds. Speedway president Clay Campbell spoke with the Martinsville Bulletin by phone this week about the schedule announcement and preparations for next week’s events. Here’s what he had to say.
Martinsville Bulletin: Can I get your thoughts on the schedule for next season? Clay Campbell: Obviously we’re happy about our place on the schedule. We’re looking forward to our place on the schedule and getting two races next year. Especially the first one to kick off our 75th anniversary. That’s going to be a big year for us. It’s kind of hard to believe, 75 years of Martinsville Speedway. But that’s what we’re celebrating next year and kick it off on April 9th with the Blue Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 couldn’t be any better.
Again, obviously we’re really pleased about our penultimate placing in the fall on October 30 with the Xfinity 500. Two great races for Martinsville and we’re looking forward to both.
I know you’re looking forward to getting another chance at hosting a Cup race under the lights with fans. (The 2020 Cup race was run under the lights with no fans in the stands due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the 2021 spring Cup race, originally scheduled for a Saturday night race was rescheduled to a Sunday afternoon due to rain.)
CC: We’re really looking forward to having the race under the lights and I know the fans are too. That’s something they’ve wanted for a long time and for us to go at it another time in 2022 I think is going to be great. The action here is phenomenal and to see that action under the lights, it’s pretty special. Its’ going to be good.
Can you tell me a little about the process for how NASCAR picks weekends? I know last year you were scheduled for Mother’s Day before that was moved due to the pandemic, and you went back to April for this year and April next year too. Were you trying to go later in the year or is it just how it fits with everything else? CC: It’s mainly from the competition side of NASCAR. And they have a huge task in putting that schedule together. You’ve got to applaud them for putting that effort together and finally coming down to what everyone feels is a phenomenal schedule for 2022.
Obviously we’re part of the discussion, but if you think about where Martinsville has always been, in most years we were in April. So it really works out well, it’s going to be good in 2022 because Racing Virginia is going to have two Cup races back-to-back with Richmond being the weekend before us and then us on April 9. So that’s good.
Everyone is content and very pleased to have us as the last race before the championship out in Phoenix, so that one was kind of the easier one. It’s great for the fans, it’s great for NASCAR, for our broadcast partners. That’s pretty much how it comes about. It’s a lot of moving pieces and it takes a long time to get that schedule just right because they’re dealing with a lot of variables. Not only the tracks but broadcast and things like that. It’s a big, big undertaking.
But we’re very pleased with the placement of our two races. That’s kind of the norm for us in April and then the last race, the penultimate race in the playoffs. I think that’s going to become the norm for us in the latter part of the year.
You mentioned next year is Martinsville Speedway’s 75th anniversary. What does that mean to you and your family that the track is still hosting races 75 years later?
CC: It’s hard to believe, like I said, but it’s going to be a great year. To think back to when my grandfather founded this place back in 1947 and it has been part of NASCAR schedule since 1949, that says a lot. We just want to keep carrying on that tradition of what he started, making improvements and making the place better and better every year. That’s what we do and that’s what we will continue to do.
The late model race is next weekend. After having to cancel last year’s race because of the pandemic, how excited are you to have that back and finally have the fans back for that?
CC: I think if you came around here you’d see a little bounce in everybody’s step. We hated missing the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in 2020, but thank goodness we got it back this year. There’s been a lot of interest in it. That series has done really well this year. To cap it off here with the biggest late model stock car race in the country, we’re excited about it.
Also tying it in with the fair being here next week, it’s going to be a great week. But really to see the cars back in action with the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, it’s special to all of us. Such a great race. We’re up to a little over 70 entries right now so that’s going to be a great. Good to see the guys back here again. Looking forward to it.
Having the race in conjunction with the Henry County Fair, is there a hope that maybe someone will see it and give racing a try who hasn’t ever been to a race at your track before?
CC: I think it works both ways. Obviously we’d like to have fair-goers come to the race and the fair would like to have some race-goers come to the fair.
My intent behind this, and we’ve worked on this a couple years and COVID delayed it, but my intent was to really have a festive feel with the fair and the race. It’s kind of old school You had it years ago and you do still have so many tracks on a fairground, so optics-wise it’s going to look really good to see everything going on with the fairgrounds as well as on the racetrack.
I think the fans, whether you’re a fair fan or a race fan, I think it’s going to be well-received by everyone. No. 1 it’s great for Martinsville and Henry County. We’ve got the property to do it. It’s a natural setting for it. You have everything you need, all the amenities, so from our standpoint it was a no-brainer. I raised my hand when they first started talking about having a fair again. This is the place to do it. Then it kind of rolled into, let’s do it race week. And that’s where we are. I’m really looking forward to seeing both.
Are there any COVID restrictions or anything on that front that people need to know about for the race next week?
CC: Everything inside we require a mask. We will have sanitizing stations set up throughout the property as usual. But that’s the biggest thing, the masking anywhere indoors.
Have you seen the field for the race? Are there any drivers you’re looking forward to seeing or any you’re picking to do well?
CC: I’m afraid to say. There’s so many good ones. It’s really been hard to pick out the front runners in that race because you’ve got so many. You have so many who could and, given the right circumstances, can win.
Obviously you’ve got the popular guys who can win like Peyton Sellers, who could be our national champion by the time it’s all said and done, which would be great for Peyton, great for our area. You’ve got someone like Bubba Pollard that does well in other series, in super late models. He’s back again. He’s always great regardless of what he runs or where he runs. It looks like Josh Berry will be back, and you saw what he did in 2019. You just have so many. Ty Gibbs. He’s got incredible talent.
It’s just going to be neat to see so much talent and those guys really go after it. For $35,000 for a race like that, they really put on a show. So anybody who hasn’t got their ticket or thinking about it, you need to come on and see this one. It’s going to be a great one.
Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at email@example.com