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I don’t believe NASCAR will ever be able to mess up Martinsville. The Lords of Daytona Beach haven’t been able to run it out of business, not that they don’t own most of it.

When International Speedway Corporation took over after decades of owning stock in it, attendance immediately fell by 30,000 fans. The stands were still packed. It’s just that ISC immediately let everyone know the track never held the 90,000 fans the Earleses and Campbells claimed.

This might provide insight into why NASCAR doesn’t estimate attendance anymore. All those empty seats make it hard to pad.

Getting back to Martinsville, I love it so. It’s the only track about which I wrote a song. It’s the town where I took my guitar onstage to open for a play. The play was about racing and moonshining and all that fun stuff. I think I’ve got a video of it somewhere. No telling what format it’s in.

My favorite track is Darlington, but if I had one race each year to attend, it would be Martinsville. Being there makes more of a difference at Martinsville. I even love watching practice.

A lot of talk has centered on qualifying, lately. Why, I don’t know. I don’t consider it important in the greater scheme. It reminds me of what a college sports administrator said once about increasing the visibility of the rifle team: “The only way you can sell tickets to a rifle match is if you put one team on one side and one team on the other.”

I know what I’d do at Martinsville. I’d run them like they do at the Indianapolis 500: single runs, four laps on the clock, not the best lap but the time of the whole run. That would be so challenging at Martinsville, and so embarrassing for some.

It’s a decent drive from upstate South Carolina to southern Virginia, but Martinsville feels like home. The hot dogs everyone has been yapping about all week are much like the slaw dogs right here in Clinton at Whiteford’s Drive-In. I’d hit the drive-through and bring home three of them for the race, but Whiteford’s is closed on Sunday, it being the Lord’s Day and all.

When I think of Martinsville Speedway, it’s cold and people are bundled up and blowing on their hands. It’s the only Cup track left where fans wear “-alls”: overalls and coveralls. Morgan Shepherd is rollerskating down pit road. Dale Inman is holding court somewhere, Leonard Wood somewhere else. Dale is talking about Richard; Leonard is talking about David.

In that environment, even the rich kids of today seem like good old boys.