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Short Track Swingin’: These are the Best Martinsville NASCAR Races

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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Heading into Martinsville, we take a look at some of the more memorable races of the track's long history.

I love short track racing. That’s no secret, I LOVE IT! My favorite part of the NASCAR schedule every year is the “short track swing” which starts at Richmond, goes to Bristol Dirt, and concludes with Martinsville, though some say it continues on with Dover…even though I don’t consider Dover a short track.

Short track racing is NASCAR at its purest and with the return of North Wilkesboro to the NASCAR schedule this year, I, along with many other fans, I’m sure, am salivating for more. Next up, Martinsville. Here’s what I think are the best races and moments in Martinsville history. Check it out:

Honorable Mention: Dale Jr.’s 2022 Martinsville Start

I live in north-east Tennessee which means that I have a few tracks that are easy for me to get to. Bristol is my home track and I’ve been to probably around 20 races there even though it has been 8 years since I last went (that will change this September for similar reasons as to why I attended this race).

Aside from Bristol, Darlington is an easy one to get to and I’ve been there twice. I went to North Wilkesboro last August to watch some late model racing. And, last spring, I attended the Xfinity Series race at Martinsville, my first and only thus far at the facility.

I don’t beat around the bush, I went for one reason and one reason only: to watch Dale Jr. race. Since 2018, I’ve been to every Xfinity race Jr. has run in his “retirement” years (except, of course, 2020’s run at Homestead which NOBODY attended in person). For the first time in my life, I got to experience the beauty and small town atmosphere in Martinsville, Virginia and I had a helluva good time!

My boy didn’t have a great race but, hey, it was just great seeing him out there mixing it up. So, yeah, I’m a little partial to this one…even if Junebug made a smidge of contact with his teammate, Josh Berry…

This race also marks one of the earlier instances where Ty Gibbs was sort of viewed as a “punk” by fans. I remember this fight. It was great to witness live!

The storyline here was somewhat continued in the fall Martinsville race later that year. I guess you can consider that one your honorable-honorable mention.

While Brandon Jones went on to win the spring race, he got taken out by his own teammate in the closing laps. Ironically enough, Jones is now racing the No. 9 car for JR Motorsports.

#6: Rusty Wallace’s Final Win in 2004

You just can’t have a Best of Martinsville list without the short track king himself, Rusty Wallace! Wallace, like Darrell Waltrip before him, dominated the short tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Heck, he even helped design Iowa Speedway (man, I wish NASCAR would go back there!) after Richmond.

Wallace won a total of 7 times at Martinsville including his last victory which took place during the 2004 season. Wallace was going through a long winless drought. This race in what would be his second-to-last season was a statement victory for the NASCAR legend.

#5: Dale Jr. Gets His Grandfather Clock in 2014

No surprise here, another Dale Jr. centric race makes my list. This is the most significant race at the track in Jr.’s career because he finally won it. As many NASCAR fans are aware, Dale Jr. is a huge NASCAR history buff. Martinsville is one of NASCAR’s oldest tracks and gives out one of the coolest trophies to its winner: a grandfather clock.

In 2014 amid a late career resurgence, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finally got his clock. He was already out of the playoffs by then but believe me, that didn’t stop Junior Nation from partying hard!

#4: Jeff Gordon’s 93rd and Final Win in 2015

A year after his teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s triumph, Jeff Gordon in his final season captured his final checkered flag. The track, Martinsville, has meant so much to Jeff Gordon’s career and to Hendrick Motorsports in general.

To see him cap off his career this way and punch his ticket to that year’s Championship 4 was the definition of divine. It was his storybook ending.

Of course, that race is…infamous for something else. This ending might not have even happened if Kenseth, who was in a season-long rivalry with Joey Logano, didn’t take out the dominant No. 22 car…

Of course, this would not be Jeff Gordon’s final race at the historic track. That would come a year later as he filled in for an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2016. He would finish the race in 6th, his best showing in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevy.

#3 Logano Wins The Battle Before Winning The Damned War in 2018

While 2015’s running of the fall Martinsville race wasn’t Joey Logano’s finest hour (or two), “Sliced Bread” would go on to capture his grandfather clock in 2018 enroute to winning his first NASCAR Cup Series Championship. He certainly did go on to “win the damned war” even after tangling with another Toyota driver, Martin Truex Jr.

Needless to say, Martin Truex Jr. was not a happy camper. Unfortunately for Truex fans, Logano went on to win the damned war. This is where our soundbite comes from:

#2: Just Waltrip Being Waltrip in 1987

It’s never been a secret that Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt had a long and storied rivalries in the 1980s. Who can forget when the two wrecked each other at Richmond in ’86? Classic! But what we’re going to talk about today is a year later at Martinsville in 1987…because the plot thickened.

’86 was the last season where DW would drive for Junior Johnson’s No. 11 Budweiser team. The two would part in the offseason on not the best of terms and for the ’87 season, Waltrip would take his short track talents to Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 17 Tide ride.

It came to a shock to no one that Waltrip was in the running to win at Martinsville. That and Bristol were his stomping grounds back in the day. But what made this particular race even more juicy was rather than it just being another typical installment in the Earnhardt vs. Waltrip saga, the incident would collect Terry Labonte who replaced Waltrip over at Junior Johnson and Associates in the No. 11 car.

#1 Johnson vs. Gordon in 2007

2007 was the last year Jeff Gordon truly contended for a championship. His greatest rival that year? His protege and eventual 2007 Nextel Cup Series Champion, Jimmie Johnson. There are a handful of races that season that really amp up this storyline of the passing of the guard and the Goody’s Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville is one of them.

There was a lot of chatter at the time following Jimmie’s first championship in 2006 about whether or not Jeff Gordon was still the top dog at Hendrick Motorsports. In truth, he wasn’t, but he went down kicking and screaming in 2007. He gave Johnson a run for his money for sure.

Okay, Daily Downforce family! What are your top Martinsville picks? Shout it out! Let us know!

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts