On Sunday, September 24, 1949 NASCAR’s Strictly Stock Tour (now the Cup Series) rolled into the little town of Martinsville, Va. for a 200-lap race on the half-mile dirt track there. It was the sixth race of the inaugural eight-race season of NASCAR stock car racing.
Red Byron, driving Raymond Parks owned 1949 Oldsmobile, won the race that day leading 97 of the 200 laps. Curtis Turner led the first 16 laps of the race, Fonty Flock led the next 85 before yielding the top spot to Byron. His winners share that afternoon was $1,500.
It was Byron’s second win of the season, his first was on the beach course in Daytona. By the end of that Martinsville race, Bryon had a comfortable point lead. In fact his lead was such that he clinched the championship at the next race of the season at Heidelberg Raceway in Pittsburg…. a race that he did not even compete in.
This weekend NASCAR’s top series rolls into Martinsville for a critical round in the 2020 Championship run. Eight drivers remain eligible for the Championship, only Joey Logano is locked into the final round next week at Phoenix. That leaves seven drivers racing for three spots to keep their Championship dreams intact.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV’s and Outdoors Truck Series likewise will determine their final four drivers in races at Martinsville.
As a critical race in the playoffs Martinsville has always delivered excitement, especially in recent years.
Remember 2015 when Jeff Gordon won what would be his final NASCAR Cup Series race, and a transfer spot into the Championship round.
A year later Jimmie Johnson struggled much of the day, yet in the final 100 laps found his way to the front and win into the final round, the race where he won his seventh Cup Series Championship
In 2017 playoff contenders Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin got together first during the race, then after the race. While the two debated the racing, it was Kyle Busch by a narrow margin over Martin Truex Jr. and into the final round.
In 2018 Joey Logano “moved” Martin Truex Jr. in turns three and four on the final lap for the win. That was the year of “The Big Three and Me” when Truex, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch combined to win 20 race. Logano, with the Martinsville win went to Homestead Miami Speedway and took out the “Big Three” to win the Championship.
Last year Truex turned in a dominant performance, leading 464 of 500 laps, to win. While celebrating the win he watched the pushing and shoving post-race match between Hamlin, Logano and their teams.
From Red Byron and the first chapter of Martinsville Championship-importance 71 years ago, to this weekend; Martinsville always delivers action and excitement; on and sometimes off the track.