It’s just a few days from IMSA weekend at Virginia International Raceway and, somehow, Martinsville Speedway grabs some of the attention!

Consider, for a moment, a bunch of tuned Mazda MX-5 Cup race cars taking a couple of days to run hot laps around the historic oval. Yes… That is exactly what they did.

Racing history is combined as cars commonly running on the twisted track of VIR take laps around Martinsville. This merges names like Carroll Shelby and Paul Newman with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Speaking of, by the way… Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Bobby Labonte were on hand from NASCAR history to lend a lap or two in the Mazda Motorsport testing. Speedway President Clay Campbell also climbed in and put his driving to the test with the Mazda crew.

MX-5 Cup series drivers were on hand for Monday to dial the cars in. Campbell and the NASCAR guys came in Tuesday to throw their Martinsville racing experience behind the wheel.

The stage is early but all of this opened the door for the possibility of the MX-5 Cup series actually racing at Martinsville Speedway. Logistics are many but the test made a mark on all involved.

Dale Jr referenced the advancement of iRacing and how that virtual platform raises the bar. He said you can put any car on any track and the technology is such that the simulation is eye-opening. The difference on track from a NASCAR Cup car or Late Model is in the turns, he referenced. The Mazda is as fast in the turns but the entry and exit is different on the shifting. The Cup cars have the straights but these are close in the corners.

We’ve seen Bobby Labonte in the SMART Mods and SRX this year and now in Mazdas at Martinsville. He was just straight up having fun in the MX-5 dropping the power of SRX or a Modified for the low ride and easy handling convertible. His experience in multiple series aided his input on the testing.

Clay Campbell noted the speed of the Mazda through the turn. These are lighter so the brakes don’t play the major role like they do in a Cup or Late Model car. He said you stand on the brakes in those Cup cars and these it’s more in the downshift and easy entry in the turns. The low driving position also puts your perspective of the speed right on the edge.

The series drivers on their way to VIR this weekend said the tuning was not as much as they thought for the oval. There will be some camber and steering adjustments to get them back to turning right as easy as left but the mechanics of the MX-5 are the same.

Who knows for sure when, or if, the MX-5 Cup will race at Martinsville. This testing, however, showed that if they do it is going to be a fun watch. The size of the car would allow for some lanes of racing that larger, more powerful cars can not run in a race setting. The sound of these and the quick handling nature could be a race fan experience for sure.

*There were, unfortunately, no famous hot dogs available for the Mazda MX-5 crews to test.
**Ross Chastain was either unavailable or not invited to this test.

PHOTOS from Mazda MX-5 Cup testing at Martinsville Speedway (August 21-22/2023)

Hey Virginia Race Fans!

…and North Carolina, for that matter…

Don’t go anywhere! There is more racing to be had this weekend! Richmond International Raceway put on a good show. Despite rain they held out and ran all 400 laps for the last race to the Chase with the Federated Auto Parts 400.

This weekend, however, Virginia International Raceway hosts the American Le Mans Series! On course as well are the IMSA GT3 Cup, Playboy MX5, USF2000 and the Cooper Prototype Lites series. Sports cars. Fast, sexy and ready to race… (more…)

rolex24logo2010We sit upon the weekend to start the racing reason in a spectacular fashion. Grand-Am drivers of Daytona Prototypes and GTs share their seats with Formula One, LeMans, Indy and NASCAR drivers for this roar of color and a 24 hour speed parade. For the visiting series drivers this is a fun step away from their regular jobs. It is a chance to shine in an endurance race with exotic cars and maybe get a little ink before their own cars roll out to their respective starting lines. However, the Grand-Am / ROLEX Series drivers bank points on this race to officially start their season.

grandamlogo1The Grand-Am / ROLEX season start with the ROLEX 24. Do the regular drivers secretly harbor some hidden issues with these usurpers in their seats? It is a double-edged sword when you turn it over and look at it. On the one hand, the starting series points could be jeapordized by the one race visiting drivers. On the other, the fact of these visiting drivers brings a huge motor sports spotlight on the series as a whole.  It is a frenzy of media and speed for this January weekend in Daytona with Grand-Am drivers catching a lot of attention because of the presence of the stars from other dimensions of racing. Is it a good thing…? Yes. Whatever points may be won or lost due to the presence of these other drivers falls in importance next to the attention drawn to Grand-Am racing because of them. The ROLEX 24 is a bright start to the racing season for everyone involved.

Enough commentary and philosophical drivel. Let’s talk racing. Qualifying is done for the 2010 ROLEX 24. There were some incidents during practice sessions that left 3 cars on the lift for repairs. All should be ready to race by Saturday to take the green. The Daytona Prototype pole position is held by the #10 SunTrust Ford Dallara following the drive by Max Angelelli. The outside spot on row one is held by the #60 Crown Royal Ford Riley driven through qualifying by Ozz Negri.


The GT series front spot is held by the #69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8 driven to qualify by Jeff Segal. The GT series has a large pool of entries consisting of Mazdas, Porsches, BMWs and Chevy Camaros.


The large field of GT cars sharing the track with the Daytona Prototypes is going to make for some tight racing and challenging pass positions. The size of the road course layout at Daytona makes for a 3.5 mile distance but when these cars bunch up in groups fighting for series position it will be a force of will and patience to move through.

It all adds up to one thing. The ROLEX 24 is a must watch on SPEED this weekend. They will broadcast all but the overnight ours of the race which, in a way, is a bit disappointing. Some of the best racing can happen under the lights. However, those of us who are fans might also benefit from a little sleep and catch the headlight highlights on Sunday dropped in over live coverage.

Get your pizzas and snacks and beverages of choice and get ready to watch some racing to get 2010 off to fast start. The Super Bowl is yet to come so no conflict there. Basketball…? Are you kidding? Hockey…? Do we need to be reminded it’s cold outside? This is racing! This is speed! This is a world wide showcase of some of the best drivers from the hottest disciplines of racing. Put aside anything that has no wheels and watch this. Enjoy.