Martinsville, Virginia


Speedway Officials Take To The Sea

The world of racing that Clay Campbell and Karen Parker work in is one of high speed, cutting-edge technology with a fair amount of excitement. But for two days this week two Martinsville Speedway officials were immersed in a much faster, much more high-tech world.

The two were part of a NASCAR Distinguished Visitor tour of the USS Harry S. Truman, a United States Navy Aircraft Carrier. The tour had a distinctive Virginia flavor, with most of the group made of representatives of Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway. They flew out of Jacksonville, Fla., Tuesday morning on a Navy transport plane, landed on the deck of the Harry S. Truman, and spent the next 24 hours aboard the ship.

"The entire experience was one I'll always remember," said Campbell, the president of Martinsville Speedway. "To see the young men and women aboard the ship, how enthused they were about what they are doing and just their knowledge and dedication was amazing."

Karen Parker with Captain "Next to giving birth to my twin girls, it was the most amazing 24 hours of my life," said Parker, the speedway's vice-president of marketing. "It was truly a life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

It was a whirl-wind trip on the ship that is 1,092 feet long and almost a football field wide and has 13 levels, but the group covered a lot of ground in 24 hours or so. They spent time on the flight deck observing flight operations and watching planes take off and land, spent time on the bridge and actually got to sit in the captain's chair, had meals with members of the crew and got to visit with sailors. And of course, they landed and took off from the carrier.

"There are a lot of moving parts to a flight deck, but everyone knows what they're doing and it's just organized chaos," said Campbell. "They were landing planes every 58 seconds! Everything is highly orchestrated.

"I guess for me, the most thrilling aspect of the experience was the arresting landing aboard the carrier and then the catapult take-off from the ship. There's no amusement ride on earth that can compare to that!"

For Parker, spending time with the young men and women of the Navy was very important.

"I was blessed to have seen our sailors at work. All of them were so nice and professional and they all loved what they were doing," Parker said. "They work 16-hour days and seven days a week and all for the protection of our nation.

"They were getting ready to deploy for eight months. I have so much respect for the young men and women and truly recognize the sacrifices that they make for our country." Campbell came away with a greater sense of pride than ever in our military.

"I'm more convinced now than ever, especially getting to see this first hand, how important a good defense is to our country. Seeing our Navy out there doing their mission training, I know we are well-prepared. There are many places our government can cut spending but certainly this area is not one of them."