“The Half Mile of Mayhem” – A Fitting Nickname for Martinsville Speedway
Wednesday December 12, 2018
The STP 500 weekend at Martinsville Speedway is only 100 days away and, in recent years, Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell has found a nickname for the historic facility he presides over: The Half-Mile of Mayhem.
From the very first race in 1947, when Buck Baker led the first 48 laps of the 50 lap race, only to be passed by Red Byron on lap 49, more often than not the 71-year-old Speedway has lived up to the moniker.
However, in recent years the mayhem-meter has been turned up to 11.
In 2012, the legend of the Half-Mile of Mayhem began to grow. Clint Bowyer wiped out leaders Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon on a late restart and Ryan Newman survived the carnage to claim a win.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. banged doors with Tony Stewart in the closing laps in 2014 to seal his first Martinsville Speedway win.
The Mayhem took off from there.
In 2015, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth’s on-track spat, coupled with the race being Gordon’s final win, became the stuff of legend.
Emotions spilled into post-race in 2017, when Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott had a heated face-to-face after the checkered flag fell. In the closing laps Hamlin made contact with leader Elliott, sending NASCAR’s newly crowned Most Popular Driver into the wall and denying him his first career win and a guaranteed spot in the Championship race of the season.
And, in 2018, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr.’s duel to the finish line in the First Data 500 cemented the nickname in the mind of Campbell.
“We have had so many great races over the years, and I have been lucky to see many of them,” Campbell said. “The last few years, it just feels like the intensity has really grown.
“Every driver wants that grandfather clock trophy, and they have all shown they are willing to do whatever it takes to earn a win here at Martinsville.”
Perhaps Cup Series star Kevin Harvick perhaps summed up recent races at Martinsville Speedway best when asked about the 2017 finish between Elliott and Hamlin, saying “bent fenders and hurt feelings, I love it!”
For Campbell and the Speedway staff, the exciting finishes have grown from tall tales told in quiet moments into an identity the group has embraced.
“We feel like we supply the most exciting racing in all of NASCAR,” Campbell said. “The drivers are the ones with their hands on the wheel and feet on the pedals, but Martinsville has consistently provided action that is second-to-none.
“Mayhem at the end of races here is what brings the fans back year after year. Whether their driver came out for better or for worse, that excitement is what we are known for. We don’t shy away from that.”
Campbell has long claimed that two events in his mind stand above the rest.
In 1987, Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt wrecked on the final lap, clearing the way for Darrell Waltrip to claim a win.
In 1981, Richie Evans’ modified racer crossed the finish line with two wheels on the track and two wheels on the catch fence beating Geoff Bodine in a race that veteran broadcaster Mike Joy said is “the greatest race I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling.”
With so much excitement over recent years, Campbell said that he isn’t so sure those are automatically the top two in his rankings anymore.
“Some recent races have certainly entered the discussion for the title of ‘best finish ever at Martinsville,’” Campbell said. “It’s exciting knowing that going into any race weekend, no matter what series it is, we could have a moment that will be discussed as one of the greatest finishes in NASCAR history. I don’t know that many other tracks can say that.”
Racing returns to Martinsville Speedway March 22-24, 2019 for the STP 500 race weekend.
Tickets are on sale now. To guarantee the lowest prices of the year purchase tickets by Friday, December 14.
For more information about Martinsville Speedway or to purchase tickets, call 877.RACE.TIX or visit www.martinsvillespeedway.com