There are racetracks across Virginia that have faded into dying memories and a few lingering photos. These places are plowed over for other development or just taken back by nature. It was very recently that a “lost tracK” was brought back from neglect and deterioration in North Carolina. The NASCAR Cup All Star race just ran at North Wilkesboro which has been refurbished and brought back after sitting, mostly unused, since 1996. For all real expectation, North Wilkesboro was done.

With tracks fading and many completely gone, stories of comebacks are very rare. It is also a bit of luck that tracks that have managed to escape the grip of time and scattered attentions remain open and running. The tracks that still race have been kept alive by any number of reasons but dedicated support, re-investment and management, plus a bit of luck, have played a big part.

We just visited Natural Bridge Speedway a bit ago. It’s a dirt oval in the midst of a “comeback” season. We now can put Franklin County Speedway on the 2023 list. This track, nudged back in the hills of Callaway, a few miles out of Boones Mill and Roanoke, has had its own share of setbacks. It has been on the brink of being a “lost track” more than once. Sheer determination and careful investment and some long hours have kept Franklin County in the mix of hot lap racing. Some big, touring series are on the schedule including the SMART Modified Tour which just ran the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

How big of a deal is it…? Well, fans of modified racing will recognize names such as Burt Myers, Brian Loftin and Tim Brown (among others on the track). NASCAR names such Champion Bobby Labonte and Ryan Newman (both in the NASCAR top 75 drivers list) were suited up and racing at Franklin County. Those are NASCAR Cup stars, racing at a track that just a few years ago was struggling to keep water flowing for working toilets.

The cars and drivers were lined up on the track early to meet and greet with race fans. The front stretch was full and active as folks met drivers, got some autographs and a few selfie photos.

The Kenny Minter Classic featuring the SMART Modified Tour also had Carolina Crates, East Coast Flatheads and Virginia Vintage Racers on track with local Stock-4 drivers filling the evening. Whoever was in charge of the hamsters got them running on the wheels to get the track lights on but the overhead PA system apparently had a screw loose someplace and stayed quiet. The scoreboard has been dark for a while so, without the PA announcements, keeping up is just a bit difficult. Perhaps, just as a suggestion, some kind of display could be set in the main building…?

Just a friendly suggestion…

The 110 lap Minter Classic / SMART race ran just about 2 hours. The racing was hot and fast but cautions threw the wrench a few times with some holding laps under a red flag stop. Tim Brown held the lead for a good part of the first half with some challenges from Ryan Newman and Joey Coulter and Bobby Labonte throwing in for a round or two. Burt Myers kept himself in the hunt while chasing Coulter for the later laps and managed the lead in time to take the checkers.

Burt Myers had the win, Joey Coulter and Brandon Ward came in second and third while Ryan Newman, surviving slight damage that forced a pit stop fix, hung on for fourth.

The Carolina Crates hit a red flag snag as Tanner Young in the #33 crashed at the entrance to turn 1 which tore the car up and pulled a piece of the guard rail out. Young was OK but the rail post had to be removed. The 602 Carolina Mods finished their 62 laps with a top three of Jack Baldwin, Devin Steele and Cody Norman.

Vintage racing is always a fun watch with two associated groups taking the flags at Franklin County. Modified and Sportsman classes in the East Coast Flathead Ford Racing Association put their classic rides on display and to the test. The Modified winner was Jeremy Cox and the Sportsman winner was Wayne Lawson.

For the Virginia Vintage Racers, it was Barry Dalton in the Modified #05 and Shawn Otey in the Sportsman #10 that took the top spots.

The Stock-4 field ran between the SMART and the Carolina 602 Mods. The Hexed / Hinchee #20 took the class win.

Let’s be clear. Yes, we’ve made some lighthearted hits at FCS but that in no way should imply anything but respect for the work of the promoters and staff of Franklin County Speedway. The infrastructure there is being worked as time and cash flow allow. They have done a lot of work and continue to do so. For spectators, the show and the facility is ready for you. The place is a little rough around the edges and, if you look closely, you can be taken back in time a little bit. Bring a comfy, folding chair and be ready to take in some racing that showcases classic, short track tradition. That is part of the charm that makes places like Franklin County Speedway keep the lights on and the laps fast.

Speeding. Maybe a bit of misunderstanding on where the lines are but at the end of the day… Speeding. That is essentially what pulled the plug on Ryan Preece at Martinsvlle Speedway.

There was a possibility of rain on NOCO 400 Sunday. The weather had already played a role in Friday racing with the Craftsman Series as delays eventually led to a rain shortened Long John Silver’s 200.

The Xfinity Series, Before You Dig 250, went off with mostly clear skies on Saturday. It was also Saturday that set Ryan Preece on a race leading start. Preece had won the Busch Light Pole Award. That may have been a blessing and a curse. It gave him pit choice but that also contributed to his race day mistake.

Ryan started up front and stayed there for the stage 1 win. Stage 2 started well enough as Preece still pulled the train. A touch and spin with Eric Jones and Harrison Burton put the caution on and opened the pits. This stop put the brakes on hard for the #41. He had the last spot on pit road and his exit for position led to the speeding penalty. The exit and speed points caught him as he jumped the gun on those points.

The Haas #41 Ford was fast up front in clean air but back in the pack at Martinsville it was tough going for moving forward. He ultimately finished 15th. A good start and show for the Preece team and, perhaps, a big lesson learned.

The setting now had another Stewart-Haas driver, veteran Kevin Harvick, in position to run for the stage 2 win. Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Denny Hamlin were also in the mix but it was Harvick at the 2nd green/white flag.

The final stage was led out by Stewart-Haas as Harvick and Briscoe shared the front row. Denny Hamlin charged into it with 140 or so to go and managed to get by both of them to have his turn out front.

The charge for Hamlin was short lived as competition and incident cautions shook the field to allow Kyle Larson to take control in the later laps. Joey Logano had also pushed his way forward to challenge but could not get close enough for the pass. At the final lap it was Kyle Larson taking his first Martinsville win and his second win of the season. *Both are at Virginia tracks! Richmond and now, Martinsville.

The day finished very well for Larson. Team mate Chase Elliott stepped back into the #9 for the first time since his snowboard accident. Six weeks out and Martinsville maybe wasn’t the best for a return. The rhythm of racing here isn’t easy on the legs. However, Elliott did salvage a top 10 after starting deep in the pack.

PHOTO GALLERY – NOCO 400 – Martinsville Speedway, April 16, 2023

Saturday (April 15, 2023) racing at Martinsville Speedway showcased the NASCAR Xfinity Series with an evening start to finish under the lights.

The running order in the top 5 fluctuated slightly as Cole Custer led the field at the start but John Hunter Nemechek drove to the front and held for stage wins and the finale.

Nemechek, Sammy Smith and Cole Custer ran the top three slots for most of the evening with Josh Berry sneaking in the mix but ultimately coming across in 4th. Brandon Jones filled out the top 5.

The win of the Before You Dig 250 is Nemechek’s 2nd win of the season and also adds to his grandfather clock collection as he has a previous win at Martinsville in the Truck series.

PHOTO GALLERY – Call811,com Before You Dig 250 / Xfinity at Martinsville Speedway

One or the other, perhaps. Martinsville or NASCAR was not really thinking about oval tracks, concrete, hard braking left turns and rain racing…

Friday at Martinsville gave a showcase of Spring weather. Rain, sunlight and a bit of lightning. It all mixed together for a long day. And night.

Practice and qualifying for the Craftsman Trucks (Long John Silver’s 200) and the Xfinity ( Before You Dig. 250) went off with blue but cloudy skies. The rain had come in but left an open door to get through for mid day track action.

There was a bit of a push as drivers were introduced for the Craftsman series. The rain was coming and the plan was to get on track quickly. The track was mostly dry but the start was on rain tires with a planned caution to switch out if the rain held back.

The soft compound and tread design of the rain tires wore quickly and left rubber on the track showing the preferred line. At lap 37, the trucks were brought in an the switch to Goodyear slicks was on.

With the racing, it was Corey Heim driving the pace for most of it. Zane Smith started on the pole with NASCAR veteran Kyle Busch running on the side. Busch was able to get around to the lead early but Corey Heim was always there and charging forward.

Heim won both stages. Rain had made a comeback and put the trucks on pit road just as stage 2 was set to go green. The wet faded after a bit and the racing continued. There were some contact spins and loose racing with cautions to shake up restarts but it was Corey Heim who took control through it all.

Another long hold with thunder and visible lightning threatened to put it all off as the half way was still laps away. Radar and forecasts showed another opening and the race was on hold but the clock was ticking. The gamble paid off and racing resumed with Corey Heim still running the front. The rain returned at lap 111.

As the clock was pushing towards Saturday, NASCAR called it with over half the race run. Fans saw a bit of everything. Weather, on track action and a Martinsville first as rain tires were featured as another notch in the history there.

At the call, it was Corey Heim for the win. Kyle Busch and Zane Smith took 2nd and 3rd for their efforts. Ty Majeski and Tanner Gray filled the top five.


It almost appeared to be a Hendrick vs Gibbs kind of day at Richmond Raceway. The Toyota Owners 400 had good shows from Denny Hamlin with a stage win and others from the Toyota stable making good runs. It was the Hendrick drivers that ran the edge.

William Byron was pressing the lead with a stage win and up front performance. A late race restart jumbled the front row as Christopher Bell ran up on Byron’s #24 with a shove a bit too hard which spun Byron towards the outside wall.

This set a stage for another restart and another pair of Hendrick drivers to run for the finish. Kyle Larson in the #5 and the Chase Elliott fill driver, Josh Berry, in the #9. Byron was way back in the field after a good run for the day but time and damage had the #24 now. The final laps turned over and it was Kyle Larson out front for the win. Berry held on for a well earned 2nd place for his Cup filler Richmond run.

Ross Chastain followed for third on the day. Christopher Bell and Kevin Harvick filled the top five.

The main NASCAR Cup eveny on Sunday, April 2nd closed a weekend of weather variety. The Whelen Modified race from Friday was pushed to Saturday as rain began minutes before the scheduled green flag. Practice and qualifying for the XFinity and Cup series was also blown out Saturday morning. The XFinity and Whelen races went off Saturday afternoon as winds kicked up a bit. For Cup Sunday, the skies were blue and the racing was set on schedule.

Racing returns to Richmond in July. Photos from the Sunday, April 2nd Toyota Owners 400 are below!

Ah…. Virginia in the Spring! Richmond Raceway had a push from Friday evening as rain came in just as green flag events were set to start. The march 31st Spring opener, NASCAR Whelen Modifieds, was rolled in to XFinity Saturday. The Virginia Is For racing Lovers 150 was now held over to Saturday afternoon to follow the ToyotaCare 250.

Saturday was April 1st… April Fools Day, as it were… The weather pulled more rain out of the jester’s hat and pulled the plug on XFinity practice and qualifying. The same for NASCAR Cup… No practice and no qualifying. The starting order to be determined by the “rules”, or points, or numbers from a hat, or magic. With that, Justin Allgaier was determined to start in the first slot.

He would lead the field to green when racing could get started. The rain held the new schedule back by a bit with racing going green about an hour late. This also pushed everything else back, as in the start of the Whelen Modified race. This might not have been a thing but some of the drivers, such as Bobby LaBonte, also had eyes on South Boston Speedway and the SMART Modified Tour which was now set for later Saturday night.

Yes… It’s all a bit confusing… Mostly wet and windy… But still confusing.

Once the rain had moved on and the green flag had waved, racing progressed with few incidents. The day set a second place finish for John Hunter Nemechek which extends his “almost but not quite” set as a runner up at Richmond. Nemechek has run 2nd in Trucks and XFinity for his most recent visits.

It was Chandler Smith taking charge on the final restart to get by Nemechek and take his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win. The rookie was able to make the pass and the victory run over the final six laps to put the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet in Victory Lane.

Josh Berry also made the top three with a front running performance. Smith, Nemechek and Berry all had leading laps and solid racing for the entire rum of the ToyotaCare 250.

The Whelen Modifieds took the track as soon as the XFinity teams could clear it out. Early spins and crowded racing put several cautions on the field early on. The late half settled down as the laps began to turn with challenges for place on the longer run.

At the finish of the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150, it was Austin Beers who led the field under the checkered flag. The performance carried forward his fast practice and pole winning drive at qualifying from Friday.

PHOTOS: NASCAR XFinity ToyotaCare 250 – Richmond Raceway – April 1, 2023

PHOTOS: NASCAR Whelen Modified – Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 150 – April 1, 202

Racing is often measured by the unexpected. This or that happened and few, if any, saw it coming or could stack the available information to even imagine it.

As the 2023 NASCAR season opens, there have already been some unexpected incidents. Stenhouse winning Daytona…? Kyle Busch winning so early with a new car and team…? Byron sweeping stages and the win at Vegas…? Elliott out from a snowboard accident…?

These were unlikely events if placing bets but are now in the books as fact.

However, these new events for the new season were set aside as Martinsville Speedway and NASCAR took time to remember an event that eclipses the unexpected. The October, 2022 last lap “Hail Melon” accelerated wall ride by Ross Chastain to make the Championship Four is that event.

On Tuesday, March 7th, Chastain returned to Martinsville Speedway. The wall in turns 3 and 4 have been left as they were following the high speed retaining hug of the #1 Moose Camaro. Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell walked with Chastain as they discussed the thoughts, timing and action of that last lap of the 2022 Xfnity 500.

It really wasn’t a planned thing, but it was an “all or nothing” thing as Chastain exited turn two and set things in motion with a full throttle attack on turn three. The impact, he says, was a bit more harsh than anticipated but the car hung on. The tires held. He let go of the steering wheel at one point and exited turn four having to grab the wheel again. He slingshot by Denny Hamlin to take the line a half length or so in front. Ross Chastain grabbed the finish needed to make his way into the “Playoff Four”.

For the effort and the torn up right side of a car, he finished fourth. It was on spot ahead of Hamlin which made the difference as he edged Hamlin out of championship contention. The following week for the final race at Phoenix, Chastain did well with a third place finish after starting back in the pack at 25th. Joey Logano won the race and the season.

NASCAR has since made changes on rules and the accelerated wall hug move is now illegal. It isn’t a new rule but a clarification on safety rulings which encompasses the potential risks of the maneuver to fans and other drivers.

The mid week visit by Ross Chastain was also marked by the removal of a section of the retaining wall in turn three and four. Chastain used a Kubota fork tractor to lift the middle section up and off the track. It will be set aside for later display, possibly even at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A new section will be placed and the entire turn three and four wall will be repainted and ready when NASCAR returns to Martinsville Speedway in April.

Photo Gallery of Ross Chastain at Martinsville Speedway