From the Old Days
Concrete Racing and Radio
Concrete on race tracks today is not unusual but back in the mid 1970s it was.
Martinsville Speedway Founder Clay Earles figured it was the way to solve the problem he was having at Martinsville Speedway.
Earles had started having serious problems with the surface of the race track.
A combination of soft tires and the track’s tight turns literally were causing
the asphalt to be pulled up.
He paved the track three times in two years only to see the same results. In the fall of 1976, Earles, much to the horror of the racing fraternity, installed several lanes of concrete in the turns on both ends of the track.
Before the drivers even unloaded their cars for the fall race, they were quoting little gems to the media like,
“he’s ruined the track. There’s no way we can race on it.
Who ever heard of a concrete groove and that’s were we have to race.”
“Only one person agreed with me that it would work,” Earles laughed, “and that was Leo Mehl, then head of racing at Goodyear. I knew I was talking a big gamble but like everything else, I didn’t just jump in. I gave it a lot of thought and then when ahead.”
Darrell Waltrip set a new qualifying record that silenced the drivers and when a double-header was run the next month, Geoff Bodine set a track record for
Modifieds and L.D. Ottinger tore up the Late Model Sportsman record while
22 other cars bettered the old mark.
The concrete remains on Martinsville’s turns today.
And while MRN Radio airs the NASCAR Winston Cup races from the track, there was a time when Earles and his partner, Big Bill France, the founder of NASCAR, resisted a radio broadcast.
The first race ever broadcast from the speedway was in 1952
and almost was the first stock car event to be aired.
“Bill and I were afraid it might decrease the crowd,” Earles laughed. “I think Darlington beat us by about three weeks but we had a bigger network.
They had five station and we had seven.”
Hal Hamrick made a makeshift table and chair out of Pepsi-Cola crates and broadcast from atop a concession stand. “I’ve never had a bigger thrill in broadcasting than doing that first race,” Hamrick once said, “Even if I was sitting on a Pepsi crate.”