A wet beginning to Martinsville race day set in motion a rather unconventional start with the first few laps ticking away under caution while the dryers finished up on pit road. The drivers had been introduced while the cars were being put out. The time change put a crush on the start time to make sure the race rolled under the checkers with enough daylight for fans and drivers to finish the day.

It all went off in time, just barely, while the time between the green and the checkers delivered just a little bit more than the typical Martinsville mayhem.

Joey Logano had the pole and a target on his back from seven other drivers in the CHASE and one other with a grudge, real or imagined.

From the start it looked like Logano’s race to lose. There were some lead changes and some CHASE drivers put in the garage. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski had laps lost with damage but Logano seemed to stay either up front or close enough to it to see his run continue.

Then there was Matt Kenseth. Kenseth was also in the wreck that put the #41 and the #2 in the garage. With the race and the checkers closing in the #20 and Kenseth were back out on the track. As Logano came around the #20 through turn one Kenseth tucked the nose under the #22 and both went straight as an arrow into the wall.

Logano’s day was done going from what looked like a win and a CHASE advance to the bottom of the grid. This also set up a finish that would put the grandstands in a frenzy.

With the #22 down, the race put the #24 of Jeff Gordon in position and the final restart played out with Jamie McMurray on the outside of the #24 and unable to nose out and ultimately tucking in behind Gordon. The fans were stomping the stands as the #24 rolled through the checkered flag for Gordon’s first win of the season and his ninth win at Martinsville. It also sets the #24 in place to race for a final championship at Homestead.

Joey Logano will need to win one of the two remaining Eliminator races to be in position at Homestead. He will be on a mission to do so. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski, however, will be sharing that need so the push to be up front at Texas and Phoenix will be a CHASE battle with all on the line. Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick are currently on both sides of the bubble with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. both 8 points behind Gordon.

It is Jeff Gordon’s last season. This year has been less than great for the #24 but Gordon and his team have managed to keep themselves in play and Martinsville may have given them the surge, late as it may be, to push to the end.

There is no doubt Gordon’s win came as a direct result of the feud between the #22 and the #20. Logano fans made it clear with a colorful chant from the stands during Gordon’s victory celebration while Gordon himself acknowledged them with fist pumps to the rhythm.

That little track in Martinsville has set another notch on the side of the grandfather clock that records the history making it one of the game changers for the sport.

For fans that saw the weather and stayed home… You missed a big one!

The CHASE is well under way. Racing at Richmond sealed the deal for the 16 drivers and teams still in the “chase” for the Sprint Cup Championship. From Richmond the circus has raced through Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover to fill out the “Challenger” round of the CHASE. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick were winners in that set and advance forward with nine others with points to the “Contender” round of three more races at Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega.

Wins or points will advance. Four at the bottom will be out of “Cup” contention after Talladega

This will begin the “Eliminator” round consisting of Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. There will be over 40 drivers on the tracks but only eight will be on the grid for the Sprint Cup. The others will be along to race for their sponsors, their team, their fans…

When they reach Homestead there will be four going for the “Cup”.

The only short track in the CHASE is Martinsville. The Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 is positioned at the start of the “Eliminator” round and could be a wild card on the way to Homestead. Having Talladega close the “Contender” round and Martinsville up next to start the next round is set to shake things up. The danger of the “big one” at Talladega and the challenge of the short track is going to test the patience and the strategy of racing.

For Martinsville the track is getting set to start the three races of the “Eliminator” round with a big regional lead-in as the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 rolls just three weeks before the Cup folks come in. (The VSCU 300 was put off a week as east coast storms battered the original run date)

The general consensus from late model to Cup is that Martinsville is a hard nut to crack. Drivers running for the first few times find it difficult with the low banking, tight lines and rhythm of speed to braking. Veterans are caught up in the traffic of those who can’t quite find a groove. The tight racing causes bumps and pushes and frustration.  Keeping the wheel in the center of patience is often key to a good finish but the temptation to push the driver a little harder for the bump that lost you 4 spots 80 laps ago runs hot.

Martinsville is a driver’s puzzle and a fan favorite with good views of the entire race from practically anywhere.
The curbs are pink for October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There have been visits by drivers having some fun with the speedway from Clint Bowyer racing go-karts with track President Clay Campbell to Kyle Larson picking up a pink brush and driving cancer survivors around the track. The late model drivers in the region have already had a practice day and the Cup drivers have it in their sights.

Martinsville, and the CHASE, is coming together.

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Martinsville race week for the 2014 Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 has been one for many to remember for a very long time. There will be discussions and “I was there!” bragging rights over Dale Jr.’s win for quite a while. His drive to victory was a thing to see and generates yet another chapter for the historic little track in Martinsville.
Even more so when you consider all of the little bits that add the frosting to the victory cake. Dale Jr. grew up in the shadow of Martinsville grandfather clocks as his iconic father won there several times. He earned his first win of the CHASE playoffs after being eliminated from championship contention just one week before. He is a spokesman for Goody’s. He drives for Rick Hendrick which also owns the #24 car of Jeff Gordon, a main rival to his father. Hendrick suffered a deep loss of family and friends from an aircraft crash at Martinsville and a team victory helps ease the pain of returning. Dale Jr. lost his father at a race track. The little bits of history that create the foundations to generate more history are abundant.
Yet Dale Earnhardt, Jr. earning his first win at the little historic track is just another piece of the timeline for the smallest track in the CHASE.
The folks at Martinsville Speedway have never let the words “little” or “small” get in their way as they consistently weave big things into their racing events. The history of racing there and the grandstand view from practically every seat to see practically everything happen makes this place a favored fan destination. It is also a perfect setting to get fans involved in ways that larger facilities just can not do in the same way.
The October race put much of this in motion. Breast Cancer Awareness month was highlighted at every turn with the race curbing painted pink. The Chevrolet pace cars were pink. As part of this, Chevrolet partnered with the speedway and brought cancer survivors into the race experience with a special ride-along on the track following the VA Lottery Pole Day.


Race drivers Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex, Jr. and Ron Hornaday drove the pink Chevy pace cars and a Chevy pace truck with these special passengers hanging on for the ride. Surviving through the fight with cancer was certainly more difficult than taking turns at a race track with a NASCAR star but the smiles on their faces seemed to indicate this was much more fun.
The simple matter of size makes it much easier for fans to see on-track activity such as driver introductions, interviews and Grand Marshall Richard Petty. The compressed real estate of the track also contributed as it took little time away from tight schedules to help bring one young fan into the mix with driver Clint Bowyer.
At a pre-event sponsor dinner in Roanoke, VA a couple of weeks before the race, Bowyer happened to meet this young fan. Bowyer is a fun fellow. He doesn’t wear the NASCAR fame as an unapproachable shield. He jokes, he laughs, he smiles…  He jumps into the fan experience and has fun with it. It was evident on race day as he paused even moments before the race to pose with fans next to the #15 AAA Toyota. It was evident as he slid into the restaurant booth weeks before and just started having a one-on-one with this young man as if they had been friends that just happened to meet while being out.
The result was a coordination with speedway staff to get the boy and his family into the infield on race weekend, have a tour with Clint Bowyer that involved the #15 hauler, the garage and a sit down in the race car. It is a memory sure to linger well beyond the checkered flag.

Bowyer later challenged for the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, led several laps and finished in the top 10 at 7th place. It is very likely there was a young fan in the stands with an autographed #15 hat cheering him on.
These are small pieces of what makes Martinsville Speedway special for so many people. The views, the people, the memories…  It is the small track with big things woven into the fabric of its history for so many. It is why racing here is a highlight for drivers and fans.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., some very special survivors and a young race fan have their memories. 95,000 fans on that race day have their own stories to share about “being there when Dale Jr. won” and the folks at Martinsville Speedway are cleaning up and starting the cycle all over again for racing in 2015.

To see more fan memories and even post your own check this Facebook post from Martinsville Speedway!
Go get some memories and go racing!

The irony is thick as the day closed on the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Consider… Talladega was just one week ago. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran into some unfortunate luck in the final laps and was pushed out of contention for the CHASE and the Sprint Cup championship. During a pre-race presentation, Dale Jr. spoke of growing up with his father’s grandfather clock from Martinsville always in plain view.

With CHASE drivers pushing every limit, it was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who drove the #88 to Victory Lane to earn his own Martinsville grandfather clock.

Team mate Jeff Gordon also had a good day to take a lead in the CHASE. Ryan Newman, an underdog coming into the CHASE, is sitting in the 2nd slot. Oddly enough, it was Newman who visited Martinsville High School as the CHASE was announced and getting under way. Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin round out the top 5 in current Eliminator Round points.

The CHASE has been throwing drama at the tracks and the fans this season and Dale Jr.’s first win at Martinsville has added to it while shaking the grandstands at Martinsville to a post-race rumble. There is more on the way with 3 races to go…

Drop everything and go racing!

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The Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 is Sunday. The CHASE is on but that doesn’t mean that drivers and teams not in the line for the championship are going to give in and not go for the win. There will be some good racing and challenges to everyone on the track.
The Kroger 200 is Saturday with the Camping World Truck Series. The points and run for this series is full of challenges for the championship also.
Friday, Virginia Lottery Pole Day is a great day to see practice, qualifying and a better chance to catch a driver without the giant crowds.
Some other details to know:

The October NASCAR events at Martinsville Speedway will mark 50 years of racing there. In September of 1964 Fred Lorenzen crossed the line for the win and took home a grandfather clock.  On this 50th anniversary of racing for the clock it is ticking on the CHASE and the next owner of one of these unique trophies.
The Marching Tar Heels of UNC-Chapel Hill will be performing the National Anthem. The Warbirds will perform a fly-over with five historic aircraft. The pre-race drivers’ meeting will also be held on pit road in view of the grandstands in order to give fans a bit more access to some of the race day activity. Ticket packages, Q&A sessions, track walks and more are available online at martinsvillespeedway.com.
Oh… This may be important… A fellow named Richard Petty will be the Grand Marshall for Sunday. Apparently, this gentleman holds the record of 15 wins at Martinsville…
Of course there will be plenty to see in the midway as well. All the drivers’ merchandise trailers will be out and many drivers will make appearances at various sponsor locations. Check your program on race day for these details. It is also late in the season. No guarantees but dare I say “close out sales”…
There is also a lot of evening activity with free concerts Friday and Saturday evening presented by Martinsville Speedway and the folks that put on the fantastic summer Roosterwalk music festival. Four bands each evening and the concession sales will be benefiting several local charities so go enjoy some tunes and support the community. For details on the Turn 5 concerts, check out roosterwalk.com
For the championship run that rolls out the Eliminator Round at Martinsville the drivers still in contention for the Sprint Cup Championship are Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth. After the bangs and bumps of Talladega, some favorites were knocked off the grid. Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne were left out. However, don’t let that stop you from cheering for your favorite driver. Wouldn’t it be great, just as a for instance, if Dale Jr. put all those “Cup” runners in their place and won…? Or Johnson, or Busch… or even Kahne or one of the others that wasn’t even in the CHASE to begin with…?
Martinsville will be a race for the championship or to get digs in on those that are still in it. There is a lot of history (Petty, Warbirds, 50 years…) and music (UNC, Roosterwalk Turn 5) and a lot of racing to prove out the weekend.
To sum up… Go Racin’!