October 21, 2010
Confession time. I get asked all the time what my favorite and least favorite tracks are in NASCAR. I run with the superspeedways; Talladega is probably my favorite, with Daytona close behind. On the other end of the spectrum, I can take or leave -- more likely, leave -- Fontana and Pocono. All fairly standard choices on both sides of the fence, I know.
But there's one track where I break with the mainstream. I know I'm verging on heresy by saying this out loud, but here it is: I don't like Martinsville.
Let me stress this: my dislike for the track has nothing to do with the people running it or the town around it. I love the idea that a track in the middle of nowhere, Virginia can, for one weekend, turn into one gigantic NASCAR-themed city. Track president Clay Campbell and his people fill my inbox all season long with useful and tempting emails. (Recent offerings include the opportunity to ride along with David Reutimann, as well as the notification of a gigantic frontstretch driver autograph opportunity for fans.) The track brass seems interested and dedicated to promoting Martinsville's two races as well as anyone else in NASCAR. And those Martinsville hot dogs; oh, so delicious!
No, my problem with Martinsville starts and ends with The Paperclip itself. The lack of banking -- it's only 12 degrees, as compared with the 33 degrees at Talladega and up to 30 at fellow short track Bristol -- means that the most important element of the car at Martinsville is the brakes. Jeff Gordon holds the record race speed at Martinsville with a quicksilver-fast time of 82.223 mph. Eighty-two!
Friends, I don't go to NASCAR races to watch cars speed up and then stomp on the brakes over and over again; I want to see wide-open racing with speeds I can't even come close to hitting. I do 82 mph through school zones! (No, I don't.) I like my racing to look like racing, you know? Not like 43 cars lapping the parking lot to find the last space at the mall at Christmastime.
I understand the history of Martinsville; it's as old as NASCAR itself. And the last thing I'd want is for it to lose either of its races. For me, though, it's the broccoli on the schedule. I'll put up with it, but you can't make me like it.
Okay, I feel better now. Even if I'll probably never be allowed back in Martinsville again. Can someone overnight me a hot dog or two?
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