Kurt Busch NASCAR Cup Series - Martinsville
October 14, 2008MARTINSVILLE, 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."
This weekend's schedule at Martinsville Speedway begins on Friday with practice scheduled from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. Qualifying is set for 3:30 p.m. and will determine all 43 starting positions for Sunday's race. Saturday's schedule calls for practice sessions from 11:10 a.m. till 12:10 p.m. and from 12:50 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. Sunday's TUMS QuikPak 500 has a scheduled 1:30 p.m. EDT starting time and features live coverage by ABC-TV and MRN Radio.
--Kurt is looking for a "Pal" for "Al" in this weekend's TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Say what? Read this week's advance that follows (and attached) to find out what it's all about...
--"Rain Man" back in action at Martinsville this weekend...Kurt, Pat and team are racing their "PRS-574" Miller Lite Dodge Charger in this weekend's TUMS QuikPak 500. This car debuted at New Hampshire in the June 29 Lenox Industrial Tool 301, where Kurt started 26th and used fuel strategy to win the rain-shortened race. Appropriately, Kurt named the car "Rain Man" after that race. "It's a pretty appropriate name when you consider what all unfolded during that race," Kurt said, in explaining his choice of the name. "I always loved that movie with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise hitting the road in that classic Buick Roadmaster convertible. I know that Don Miller always had that as a special nickname for (Ryan) Newman. It was my third win on the track and Penske Racing's fourth Cup win there, so it was pretty special." In its only other outing, "Rain Man" started 20th and finished 10th at Richmond on Sept. 7.
--Still a few seats remaining for the Kurt Busch Celebrity Poker Charity Tournament set for tomorrow -- Tuesday, Oct. 14 -- at the Sierra Gold Ultra Tavern in Las Vegas. Cost is $500 per seat and is limited to 100 players. All proceeds go to the Kurt Busch Foundation. For additional information, please contact Charlie Legeman at (248) 227-4616 or e-mail him at: email@example.com
--Kurt's career record at Martinsville Speedway boasts one win, two top-five finishes, four top-10 finishes and one pole in 16 races. He has a 19.750 average start and a 21.125 average finish. "It was a pretty long learning curve for me to get the hang of racing at Martinsville," Kurt explained. "It's such a demanding track on the driver and especially the equipment. It's one of the toughest tracks to find your own space because there are so many cars and somebody is always on top of you. It's hard to protect your race car. That's the thing you have to do at Martinsville, know you're in it (race) for 500 laps and that you can't get into too big of a hurry in the early portions of the race because anything can happen."
--Kurt live at Barrett-Jackson...this Thursday (Oct. 16) between 4:10 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. local time in Las Vegas (PDT - 7:10 to 7:20 Eastern) at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Events Center. Kurt will help auction - live on SPEED-TV - the Miller Lite Dodge he raced last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with all proceeds going to the Kurt Busch Foundation benefiting the Victory Junction Gang Camp. "The plan is for me to drive the car onto the stage, hop out of the car and begin the bidding," Kurt explained. "The car will be sold to the highest bidder." For additional information, please contact Charlie Legeman at (248) 227-4616 or e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
--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."