MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 14, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch is quick to tell you that of all the trophies he has received from his 18 career NASCAR Sprint Cup victories, none carries more sentimental value than the one he received for...
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 14, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch is quick to tell you that of all the trophies he has received from his 18 career NASCAR Sprint Cup victories, none carries more sentimental value than the one he received for winning the Oct. 20, 2002 race at Martinsville Speedway. Of course, we are referring to the special grandfather clock that Martinsville Speedway has been awarding its race winners for more than 40 years. But for Busch, the 2004 series champion, his clock is much more than just another piece of furniture.
"It's always a special perk and a bonus because that's what (me) and most drivers shoot for - that piece of hardware at the end of the day. It could be a small $5 piece that somebody made or an extravagant grandfather clock (like at Martinsville)," Busch said of the treasured heirloom. "I think that I won at Martinsville a bit too early in my career because I had no idea that they gave away grandfather clocks when you won there.
Busch still remembers today as if it were just yesterday when his special prize for winning the October 2002 Martinsville race was delivered.
"They're wheeling this thing in my front door of my house one day and I was like 'what are you guys doing, who bought this thing?'" Busch said with a chuckle. "It's the most beautiful grandfather clock that I'd ever seen. The most ironic thing about winning the clock was that my grandfather passed away the week before (that), so my clock's name is 'Al" and it's sitting right there in my foyer today. It's the best gift that I could have received after winning a race and losing my grandfather."
The late Clay Earles, legendary race promoter and patriarch of the family that founded, co-owned and controlled the historical Virginia half-mile speedway until 2004, was a visionary in many ways more than 40 years ago. Perhaps no better example of Earles' noted big-picture-thinking-with-down-home-charm method of race promoting was his selection of this special Martinsville trophy.
During the summer of 1964, Earles decided it was time for a "different" type of trophy for race winners at his track. His choice? A grandfather clock; specifically a grandfather clock produced by the Ridgeway Clock Company, a local furniture manufacturer. On September 27, 1964, Earles awarded the first Ridgeway Clock trophy to Fred Lorenzen, the winner of the Old Dominion 500 that afternoon.
"My grandfather was looking for a different type of trophy back in the early sixties," said current speedway president Clay Campbell, grandson of Earles and also a respected promoter in the racing world. "He didn't have to look far and he came up with a trophy that remains one of the most sought-after and unique trophies in all of auto racing. The Ridgeway grandfather clock is synonymous with winning at Martinsville. It's a big reason a lot of drivers want to win here."
Busch is hoping to win his second Martinsville special winner's trophy in this Sunday's TUMS QuikPak 500.
"They tell me that 'The King' Richard Petty has 12 of the clocks and Jeff Gordon has seven," said Busch. "I don't know what you could do with that many grandfather clocks. Nothing could ever replace the sentimental value we have for that first clock that we won because of the connection with my grandfather. I'm sure we could find a place for a second special trophy like that, though."
Kurt...more on racing at Martinsville Speedway:
HOW DO YOU PASS? "I hope that I have a fast enough car to be moving guys out of the way. This race track whether you're driving an Allison legacy car, or late model or even in the truck series, the front bumpers to the rear bumpers have always matched up to the point where you can lift somebody's tires up or get them loose in the fashion that you are racing him. It's not a life or death situation.
"With this new car, when you bump someone, the front part of the car still stays planted and that's where some of the excitement can change of this new car. If we want to make adjustments, we need to adjust to where we can race with the front of these cars - but sometimes that always isn't encouraged. And so, if you have a faster car, that driver 99 percent of the time can figure out a way to get by him."
WHAT ARE RESTARTS LIKE? "The place is about as tough as they come. When you head down into Turn 1 with a fresh set tires, your car doesn't grip as good as it does at most places. It takes like five or six laps for the tires to really reach the optimum temperature. You're sliding around - grabbing gears on a restart - lapped cars sometimes have fresher tires than you do. On this track you really have to absorb a lot on those restarts.
"That's what makes short-track racing fun. The cars are never hooked-up into the track like at the big tracks. You have to wheel it. Sometimes your sideways, sometimes you're leaning on a guy and the old cliche comes in - eight wheels turn better than four."