Campbell Exchanges Luxury Suite For Fire Suit
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When the stock car portion of Speedweeks gets under way at Daytona International Speedway in February, Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell plans on having a front row seat.
The grandson of Martinsville Speedway founder Clay Earles, the 52-year-old Campbell has his sights set on competing in the ARCA Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200.
On Friday, Campbell turned his first laps on the 2.5-mile tri-oval during an ARCA open test while putting the No. 08 Spraker Racing Ford through its paces.
“This is auto racing. It’s Daytona,” said Campbell, just moments after his first run Friday morning. “I’ve been coming here since I was four or five years old. I think anybody that has any love for the sport would cherish the opportunity to drive Daytona.
“I’m a race fan, I love racing and it’s my life on the other side of the fence. But to be on this side, I’m just lucky.”
For nearly 25 years, Campbell has run a partial Late Model schedule throughout the Carolinas and Virginia.
Two years ago, he ran the majority of the events in NASCAR’s K&N East Series.
Earlier this year, he ventured onto a superspeedway for the first time when he started 34th and finished 26th in the ARCA race at Daytona’s sister track in Talladega, Ala.
“I had the chance to do Talladega, and I just jumped at it,” Campbell said. “You do the weekly tracks all year long and to have the opportunity to do that, it was incredible. It was the most fun I’ve had in a race car.”
Campbell doesn’t it find it the least bit odd that a high-ranking track official would swap a suit and tie for a racing fire suit.
“If you’re a kid like me growing up in the business, you’ve got to look forward to the day you drive a race car,” Campbell said. “I’ve always wanted to do it. I always knew that wasn’t going to be my career, but I’ve always had a passion for the sport and wanted to drive.”
One of Campbell’s biggest disappointments is that he’s been limited to the number of competitive laps he’s been able to run at the paper-clip track he manages in Virginia.
“I’ve only run the Allison Legacy Series at my place,” he said. “I’ve driven just about any type of car there, but never in competition.”
Martinsville hosts one of the country’s premier Late Model races each fall, normally just a couple of weeks before the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series comes to town.
But it’s also one of the busiest times of the year for Campbell, the track promoter.
As for the future, Campbell plans to continue chasing his dream behind the wheel of a race car while promoting one of the country’s most famous short tracks.
“As long as I’m healthy and can still do it physically and mentally, I don’t see any reason not to,” said Campbell, who will turn 53 in February just over a week prior to ARCA’s season opener at Daytona.
“With my job, obviously, there are time constraints on me. I don’t have the time that I used to have to do it. But to have chances like this, I am certainly going to do Daytona and am possibly looking at doing Talladega again. And there will be sporadic races here and there.”
– Jeff Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment