AccuWeather: It's snowing. Again...

I don't care what they say about seating capacity, television markets or aerodynamic downforce. Martinsville Speedway is my favorite stop on the NASCAR slate.

I remember thinking the 1st time I rolled in there that it easily could have been Wiscasset Raceway, with much bigger grandstands. Rolling hills for parking, short-short-short track where you can see everything in front of you and, of course, the hot dogs. None of it disappointed.

One minute you're rolling past an outdated shopping plaza on a 4-lane road; next minute a quaint little racetrack pops up on your left. It was crazy.

Of course, there was that time I got the frantic call from my wife while I was having a beer in the parking lot (well, parking field) at Martinsville. My son was just 6 months old at the time and had fallen and smacked the back of his head on a hardwood floor at his aunt and uncle's house on the other side of Virginia. Turns out, kids can fracture their skulls at that age!

Not to worry, though, loyal readers. It was nowhere near as bad as it sounds. Coop was fine -- well, as fine as you can be with me as half of your gene pool. Of course, we're still waiting on the paternity tests... So what if he likes baseball and drag racing and he's got my eyes? The kid's got hair -- which I obviously don't -- and he's only like 3 1/2 feet tall. I'm WAY taller than that.

But I digress...

Simply put, Martinsville Speedway is the last bridge to the NASCAR past -- back when these were the kinds of tracks teams raced on across the southeast. Small, cramped and outdated -- sure. But in a sport that forgets its past faster than you can say "Winston Cup," it's worth the fight to keep Martinsville on the map.

It's imperative.


I'm a bonehead, by the way.

Teams entering the Coastal 200 at Wiscasset in May will be entered in a drawing for free tires -- but the 2 winning teams will receive 4 tires each, not 8, as I erroneously reported. My bad.


(WARNING: "Media Rant Ahead." Some of you may not care about the following item. Feel free to skip to the next section!)

See that about Coastal 200 tires, Speed 51? When I need to run a correction, I will.

Of course, I'm still waiting on the first 51 Sports press release telling me about the PASS North Series. Oh wait -- that's right! -- they're not handling PR for PASS North. You know, as I first reported last fall before being accused of all kinds of nasties for doing my job.


I've wanted to take a strong stance against NASCAR's recent announcement that it will move the Toyota All-Star Showdown from November until January, beginning this season. The race for the Camping World Series teams pits the top teams in the 2 series against each other in a "championship race" format, one of a couple of races on the card that weekend.
Like I said, I've wanted to, but I can't.

A few years ago, this would have been crippling for the small, regional teams trying to support NASCAR racing at the local level. At a time when part-time teams needed all the hours they could find to get cars ready for a new season, NASCAR would have been forcing them to travel across the country months after the conclusion of the last calendar.

But here's the deal: with all the Sprint Cup influence and development teams in Camping World East now, it's just another race. Full-time teams with fully outfitted shops just move along without a glitch -- they could race again locally in a month. As it is now, they don't have to race again until mid-April.

It's just another sign that our little Busch North Series is all grown up now.


Coastal 200 follows Oxford lead

In an effort to generate interest from Late Model teams for last year's TD Banknorth 250, Oxford Plains Speedway management offered free entries and a chance to win free tires in the winter of 2006 to teams that signed up early for the 250.

Wiscasset Raceway is entering teams into a drawing for free tires this season in its own marquee Late Model event. Dave Lind Racing of Norfolk, Mass., an American Racing Tires distributor, has agreed to give 2 teams 8 free tires apiece for the $10,000-to-win Coastal 200 on Memorial Day weekend.

The difference from the Oxford format? Teams don't need to register early for the Coastal 200, they just need to register sometime prior to the green flag. Race director Derek Mingo said all teams have to do to be eligible is be present at the driver's meeting. That's when the random drawing will be held to determin the winners.

Last year, D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, N.H., held off Mike Rowe of Turner for the win in a 33-car Coastal 200. Fewer than 40 cars attempted to qualify for that event.


Corey Williams represents what we've got to look forward to

Take the case of Corey Williams, for instance.

In good equipment, Williams has the ability to make Super Late Model racing under the PASS banner his personal playground. He dominated the South Series last year, and with his win in the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway over the weekend, he's the early favorite to win the first-ever PASS National Championship in 2008.

But the smalltown racer from Boothbay, one who took a job working for Andy Santerre Motorsports last off-season, is only the most recent illustration of how dire the straits of the stock-car racing world can be. He's got a ton of talent, an easy smile that ought to be a marketing strategist's dream and the desire to relocate to pursue his goals of a full-time driving career.

But without nearly $1 million in the bank, he's without a NASCAR ride -- even at the lowest levels.

Rumor was that Santerre would have loved to have Williams drive his No. 44 Chevrolets in the Camping World East Series this season. But Williams didn't have $850,000 to fund the ride -- the going rate for that seat, the one that went to Peyton Sellers.

The stories of drivers -- and we need look no further than Maine -- with talent but not enough money to buy their way into the sport are too many to list. A couple of years ago, Johnny Clark thought about purchasing second-rate Craftsman Truck equipment with help from financiers but balked at the costs that came without guarantees. Cassius Clark can drive just about anything -- but even his Super Late Model is run on a shoestring budget. Oxford Plains champ Travis Adams has proven able in Late Models, but he's not sure about funding a full ACT run, let alone a big-time NASCAR one on a family dollar.

On and on and on it goes...

For years we've lamented that the sport isn't what it once was -- that too many young drivers come and go too fast to build any rapport with the fanbase. Maybe what we're seeing, though, is a renaissance of sorts, one where the best talent -- though perhaps not by choice -- is racing closer to home because it's all they can afford.

Kind of like the good ol' days.

No one's suggesting these young talents don't deserve a shot to compete against the best that's out there. Who doesn't love to see that? But if the big talent is staying in the northeast more and more frequently, then maybe instead of cursing the rising costs of big-time racing these days, fans and media should embrace it.