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Martinsville Speedway, the Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Tracks

Updated on June 27, 2013

NASCAR has a long history in the United States. The circuit arose in the Southeast as old bootleggers decided to race their souped-up automobiles at a number of fairgrounds. The sanctioning body began sponsoring races in the late 1940s, and soon a number of paved tracks started hosting races.

Martinsville Speedway goes back to these early days of NASCAR history. It hosted its first officially sanctioned race on Independence Day in 1948. The track is the only one that remains from the initial NASCAR season in 1948, and it was one of the first paved tracks.

A View of Martinsville Speedway

A bird's eye view of the paperclip-shaped Martinsville Speedway.
A bird's eye view of the paperclip-shaped Martinsville Speedway. | Source

Statistics of Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville Speedway is the shortest of the short tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit. The track measures just over a half-mile at 0.526 mile. This is just .007 mile shorter than Bristol Motor Speedway. The turns are quite flat and are banked at just 12 degrees. The straights are completely flat with no banking at all.

Martinsville is not only unique for its length, its shape is quite unique as well. The track is known as "The Paperclip" because of its design that resembles a paperclip. Until 1999, there were two pit roads at the track, and this was a severe disadvantage to cars that did not qualify in the front half of the field. Today, the track has one pit road that evens the playing field for all teams from a competition standpoint.

In the past, the tight turns at Martinsville led to a number of brake failures in each race. Improvements to the brakes used by the cars have dramatically cut the number of brake failures.

The record fast lap at Martinsville is the slowest for any oval track in NASCAR's top series. While drivers speed around the track in around 20 seconds (Jimmie Johnson holds the track record at 19.244 seconds), the average speed for a lap is less than 100 miles per hour. The cars reach near 120 miles per hour at the end of the 800-foot straight stretches and then slow to less than 60 in the turns.

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Martinsville Races

Martinsville Speedway has hosted two Sprint Cup races almost from the beginning of NASCAR history. The track continues to hold two races per year. The first is held in April. The second is held in October as the only short track race during the Sprint Cup Chase "playoff."

The tight confines of the track lead to quite a bit in terms of crashes. Most races at the track will have 10 or more caution flags. Drivers frequently get irate at their fellow competitors because of the close-quarters racing that goes on at Martinsville. Few cars will get through a race unscathed. The beating and banging that takes place at Martinsville makes it one of the more popular tracks on the Sprint Cup Circuit.


The Backstretch at Martinsville Speedway
The Backstretch at Martinsville Speedway | Source

Ticket Prices at Martinsville

Martinsville Speedway has some of the most affordable tickets in NASCAR. Tickets on the front straight stretch start at just $37 and no ticket at at the track costs more than $79. The cheapest tickets for the October race are only $10, so just about anyone in the local area can afford to attend the race.

The close confines of the track make Martinsville one of the best places to watch a race because there are few bad seats.

A Lap Around Martinsville

Records at Martinsville

As noted above, Jimmie Johnson holds the record fast lap at Martinsville, averaging just over 98 miles per hour for one circuit. The quickest 500-lap race was Jeff Gordon's 1996 win. He averaged 82.223 miles per hour in a race that took just under 3 hours and 12 minutes.

The youngest winner in Martinsville history was Richard Petty, who won in 1960 at the age of 22. Harry Gant was the oldest winner in 1991. Gant was nearly 52 at the time, and his win was his fourth in a row. Gant's team was the first to successfully use camber to help cars turn in the corners, and this gave him a major advantage in September 1991.

The all-time leader in wins at Martinsville was Richard Petty. The King won 15 times at the Paperclip. Petty also has the most starts at the track with 37. Darrell Waltrip had 8 poles to hold that record at the track.

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