Let’s just say this post really has an audience of one: my brother. We talked about Martinsville when we were hanging out at Bristol, and how my dad would always call it “the paperclip” track because it’s got long straightways and tight corners. Same half-mile distance as Bristol, but different as night and day.
Martinsville is open and long, not ringed all the way around with seating. At Bristol, I had to pay to take a tour to get on the track. Martinsville? I just drove up to the turn 4 gate and parked, then walked right onto the track (well, close to it; I respect private property so I stood right on the line marking the track). You can see that gate in the lower left of the cover photo, by the way.
The view below is turn 4 on the left and turn 3 on the right. You really don’t get out of the one turn before you’re in the next one here. And they are way less banked than at Bristol, so it’s more work on the driver to stay on the track and not sail off into the fence. Top speed for a single lap is 100 mph; for the Cup race, it’s 82 mph average (Jeff Gordon in 1996).
Here’s the view looking down the front straightaway, the restart area, and the start/finish line into Turn 1. It’s less than a quarter-mile to that turn from where I’m standing, which is where turn 4 ends and the straightaway begins. Martinsville is the only NASCAR track that has asphalt on the straightaways and concrete on the turns.
I’m glad I pulled off the highway and took a look at this place. It’s historic in a different way to Bristol, and now I can say I’ve seen both of them.
To close out, here’s a look at the finish of the April 2006 Cup race, with Tony Stewart in the 20 car taking the checkered flag, followed by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson (and, yeah, that’s Dale Junior on the far right, who passed the 5 to take fourth place. Go, Junior!). How close was the finish? The leader won by 1.083 seconds.
Driving a race car is like dancing with a chainsaw.