NASCAR Drivers Still Pine for a Martinsville Clock
Friday October 17, 2014
On Sept. 27, 1964 Fred Lorenzen won at Martinsville Speedway. His prize for crossing the finish line first – a grandfather clock. It was then NASCAR’s most iconic trophy was born.
When the Sprint Cup Series returns to Martinsville on Oct. 26 for the Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot® 500, it will mark the 50th anniversary of the race winner taking home a grandfather clock trophy.
To put things into perspective, that’s a full five years before Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon and just eight months after The Beatles made their first American television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Since Lorenzen won the first grandfather clock trophy, Martinsville Speedway has given more than 125 clocks to race winners. First, to what is the now Sprint Cup Series race winners, then to all Sunday race winners and eventually to all race winners.
However, it’s the drivers who don’t have a grandfather clock that seem talk about it the most.
“Everyone always says they’ve got that place in their house,” said Joey Logano, who has yet to win a grandfather clock. “’There’s my Martinsville clock. I’ve just got to get it first,’ but you’ve got that place for it.”
Paul Menard can count himself among those Logano was referring to.
“It would look good in my living room,” he said during a recent test session at Martinsville Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who watched as his dad took home six clocks during his hall-of-fame career, doesn’t have a clock in his collection, but says finding room for one wouldn’t be an issue.
“I don’t know where I’d put it, but I could clear out a spot for sure,” Earnhardt said.
Logano isn’t as concerned with where he would put a clock, should he win one, but rather how he would get it home.
“I think I’d need a trailer for it,” he said. “I couldn’t fit it in the back of my pickup truck.”
At seven feet tall and more than 130 pounds, Logano may have a point.
Much like the green jacket at Augusta, being different is what makes the clock so special.
“You know the clock is just so unique from any trophy we have,” said Clint Bowyer, yet another driver who doesn’t have a clock.
“No other tracks are giving away clocks. They have their niche,” Earnhardt said. “It’s unique to this particular event and so that makes it very special, more so than any plaque or trophy that you could win.”
“The grandfather clock is one of the coolest trophies on the schedule,” said rookie Kyle Larson.
“I think the cool part of that trophy is that it’s something that you put in your house; not necessarily in a trophy room, in your house,” said Jamie McMurray, who actually won at Martinsville, but doesn’t have a clock to show for it. He won a Camping World Truck Series race in 2004, the last truck race to not award a trophy to the winner. “It’s a great conversation piece and also something to give you some really good memories.”
The clock is not the only thing unique about Martinsville. The shortest track on the Sprint Cup schedule can be a challenge to drivers, especially in the beginning of their careers, making a win even more special and coming close, but walking away empty handed such a hard pill to swallow.
“I’ve gotten so close so many times here, especially as of late, the last two or three years,” Bowyer said. “This is the one that I want to win more than anything.”
“I’ve always wanted a clock. We’ve run second. We’ve run third,” said Kasey Kahne, who also finds himself without a clock. “This was probably my toughest race track when I first came into the Sprint Cup Series and I think with laps and testing I’ve figured it out a lot better today.”
“It’d be huge. This is a track for me where we’ve had a fair amount of success,” Casey Mears said. “I haven’t been one of the top two or three guys, but I’ve always been someone to contend and have a good day. If we could bring home one of those clocks, it would be pretty big.”
“I’d love to have a clock,” said Brad Keselowski, who has a Sprint Cup Championship, but no Martinsville trophies. “You know, I don’t have a grandfather clock, but we’ve been close here and had some really strong runs and we’d love to finish that off when we come back here.”
Through just two career starts at Martinsville, Larson has learned the frustration the track can have and the reward that a win would bring.
“I don’t care if it was a random year like the 67th anniversary. To win here at Martinsville would probably be one of the biggest wins of my career, because of how tough it is on me,” he said. “I hope I can figure this place out someday and take one of those (clocks) home with me.”
As Logano was quick to point out, the clock is more than a trophy, it’s a piece of history, just like the track it represents. The half-mile speedway is the only remaining original NASCAR track.
“There’s something very special about winning here,” Logano said. “Obviously the clock is what everyone talks about, but just winning here at Martinsville. When you think of the history behind it alone, it’s enough just to say you’ve won here, but having that clock is special.”
Ultimately though, it is all about the clock.
“It would be awesome,” Menard said. “The clock is one of the trophies to have in NASCAR and I don’t have one. I really want one.”
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