MONTE DUTTON - ITS OWN PECULIAR WAY
When I think of Martinsville, Va., I imagine shivering and blowing on my hands. It’s bound to rain, most likely a drizzle, sometime during the weekend, whether spring or fall.
I see stern officers of the law, wearing flat-brimmed tan hats, in uniforms more likely to display forest green and brown to set off the tan. Navy is less common in the attire of southern Virginia deputies.
I see fans who are working people, wearing wool, flannel shirts, laced-up boots and stocking caps.
I never spent a night in Martinsville. For 20 years and 40 races, my home away from home was a motel in Eden, N.C., that had three different names during the years I wrote about the nearby races. All that mattered to me was that I could check out on Monday and tell the nice lady with the ruby on her forehead that I would be back for the next race. For the last 10 years, I stayed in the same room.
All I ever did was sleep there.
I took more racing excursions around Martinsville than any other track. All I required was companionship, either from Jim McLaurin or Rick Minter, for a trip east to South Boston, Va., for pavement, or southwest to Madison, N.C., for dirt. McLaurin and I met Tony Stewart in Madison (311 Motor Speedway, “the Daytona of the Dirt!”). Minter and I watched teen-aged Austin and Ty Dillon race at 311 from the top of Richard Childress’s hauler in the infield.
The best race I ever saw Stewart run was a USAC midget race at South Boston.
Four or five of us drove over to Stuart, Va., home of the Wood Brothers, one year, not to tour the museum, though I have done that, but to watch a pro-wrestling show at the local high school. We watched men, women and midgets, mostly separated by size and gender except during periods of widespread lawlessness.
At other tracks, we might play golf. Or go to a ballgame. Or tour a museum. Or see a show.
In Martinsville, we watched ’rasslin’, ordered hamburger steaks at Clarence’s, drank beer and ate prime rib at the Dutch Inn and enjoyed Dog Nutz (“beer-battered chunks of weenie!”) at Jose’s (“Shiloh’s Finest Supper Club”).
Minter and I had a wondrous shortcut to the track from Eden that was a scenic and soul-stirring way to get there. Sometimes Minter used some of the saved time – we encountered almost no traffic – to visit a yard sale on race morning.
Martinsville was country-boy fun. I expect it still is.
It’s likely to rain all day Friday, but the weekend figures to be cool and crisp. Perfect.
I love Darlington more than any other track, but I might miss Martinsvile more. It’s a tough call.