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During the latest Cup race, I kept thinking about a sportswriting friend of mine who lives within earshot of Atlanta Motor Speedway. Every time an engine cranks, he can hear it from his house. I thought it must have been strange for the race to be going on without him being there. I asked him about it, and he said so.

No racing facility is within earshot of me, not even the county’s dirt track, but I still feel a little strange about not being there at a few tracks. Darlington is my favorite, but I think I miss Martinsville the most.

Does that make sense?

The little paper clip in the gentle hills of southern Virginia is a rousing spectacle.

Some tracks no longer have a working-class clientele. Somehow Martinsville does, though, of course, this year, since the racing resumed, no track has a clientele at all. There isn’t even much in the way of media on the grounds. It’s because there’s a virus – a coronavirus – dancing around in the exhaust fumes of people.

If I were there, I think I’d see ghosts, not ghosts of old racers at the oldest track in NASCAR, but ghosts of stout, middle-aged men in overalls and coveralls, munching peanuts and wearing caps with some kind of seed advertised on the patch, taking a swig of liquor now and again. I’d see ghosts of law enforcement officers wearing dark-green stripes down the legs of their otherwise khakis, flat-brimmed felt hats, and the shirt pockets similarly in green to trim the tan shirts.

Martinsville doesn’t pack ’em in like it used to. Nowhere else does, either, even when it’s allowed.

While writing about races in other places, I have never: (a.) attended a pro-rasslin’ match in a high school gym; (b.) played my guitar and sung some songs before the presentation of a play about stock car racing; (c.) hawked my novels at a local book fair; or (d.) enjoyed a pre-meal appetizer known as “dog nuts” (sort of corn-dog bites).

I’ve enjoyed all these simple pleasures in Martinsville or thereabouts. That’s probably why one of the songs I’ve written is named for the track.

Martinsville … a place frozen in space and time …

The track is scheduled to hold a Cup race on Wednesday night. Martinsville is the only place where attendance might still be affected by prayer meeting.

Not this time, though.