Martinsville Speedway Riding Wave Of Momentum Into 2019
Friday December 21, 2018
Martinsville Speedway is known as the “The Half-Mile of Mayhem” and 2018 certainly lived up to the moniker.
In five races, the 2018 season saw four first-time Martinsville Speedway winners and one set a record for the most career Truck Series wins at Martinsville.
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series kicked things off with a March race that saw 10 cautions in 250 laps, the final of which set up a seven lap shootout between Kyle Benjamin, who was making his Martinsville Speedway and Series debut, and eventual race winner John Hunter Nemechek.
“Finished second here multiple times,” said Nemechek. “So tick, tock, we finally got a clock. It’s going to be awesome to take that thing home.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ STP 500 saw 11 lead changes and three drivers lead more than 100 laps. When the dust settled, it was Clint Bowyer in victory lane, picking up his first win in nearly six years, and his first grandfather clock trophy.
“It just means everything,” Bowyer said. “To be able to get back in Victory Lane? It’s been a long damn time since I’ve been in Victory Lane. You start to second guess, question (yourself). You thought about it all the way up here.
“We’ve come so close in the past. We wanted to win that grandfather clock so bad.”
“That first race weekend really set the tone for us in 2018,” Speedway President Clay Campbell said. “Despite some challenges for us and the fans, we saw two spectacular races. A drag race to the finish for the Truck Series and a great story in Clint taking home his first clock.”
The Whelen All-American Series was the next to take to the track for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 NASCAR Late Model Stock Car race. The race, the biggest in the nation with $25,000 going to the winner, saw non-stop action, tempers flaring, and, in the end, veteran racer C.E. Falk III in victory lane for the first time at Martinsville.
“We all come here wanting to win it but it’s like winning the freaking lottery, and we did,” Falk said. “We missed the wrecks, we were up front all night long and my team did it. We might not have had the very best car but we were there when it counted and this is something I’ll cherish the rest of my life.”
“The Late Models always put on a great show at Martinsville and this year was no different,” Campbell said. “It was a great race to watch whether you pulled for underdogs, new drivers to that show, or our veterans. That race never disappoints when it comes to entertainment and this year was no exception.”
A month later, when the Truck and Cup Series would return, Johnny Sauter started the weekend doing what he has done better than any other Truck Series driver at Martinsville, winning for the fourth time in his career, breaking a tie with Mike Skinner, Dennis Setzer and Kevin Harvick for the most at Martinsville in series history.
“My wife always tells me that we have four kids, we need four clocks so when you tip over we can give each kid a clock,” Sauter said. “This is just a special deal.”
“The Truck Series has always had a home at Martinsville since their very first season,” Campbell said. “I think that Johnny’s record is a testament to his background as a short-track ace and his skill in a Truck. I want to congratulate him for beating a record shared by some of the best the Truck Series has ever seen.”
In saving the best for last, the next day’s First Data 500 was one for the ages. An intense late race battle between Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. reached its peak on the final corner of the final lap, when Logano used the bump-and-run on Truex to claim his first Martinsville Cup win and springboard his way to the series’ championship.
“It’s about time we won one here,” Logano said. “We’ve led so many laps and been in position so many times, it’s great to finally get the win. Hard, classic, NASCAR at Martinsville racing, and I had a lot of fun being a part of it. There’s just so much on the line when you’re in the playoffs like this. The advantage of winning at Martinsville is a huge deal, and I’m glad we were able to get it done.”
“Joey’s win gives us such a great spring board into 2019,” Campbell said. “That is exactly the type of racing we have become synonymous with over 71 years and was something that really elicited a reaction from the fans, whether they loved it or hated it. I can’t wait to see what next year holds when it comes to on-track action, and that race exemplified why I still get fired up for every single race we have here.”
Racing returns to Martinsville March 22-24, 2019 with the STP 500 race weekend.
The weekend will start with NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series practice on Friday, followed by Saturday’s 250 lap Truck Series race.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be in action on Sunday, for the STP 500.