Cup Scores Big With Georgia Football Expert

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 10 2022

Georgia football expert Todd Holcomb and wife Tammy took in their first NASCAR race Saturday in Martinsville, Va.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Regarded as the consummate resource on high school football in the state of Georgia, Todd Holcomb pulled a flea flicker of his own Saturday when he showed up at Martinsville Speedway to experience NASCAR for the first time in person.

That was welcome news for track president Clay Campbell, who constantly strives to put new butts in the stands at the picturesque, paperclip-shaped half-mile oval.

The oddity is that Todd and Tammy Holcomb, who accompanied her husband on Saturday, are both a generation older than NASCAR’s targeted audience.

“It’s kind of surreal,” the 59-year-old Todd Holcomb said while walking around Martinsville Speedway under a light drizzle. “You see all of this on TV, but there’s something about seeing it right in front of you where you just have to stop and pause and take it all in.”

Todd and Tammy watched Saturday night’s race from row 23 of the grandstand overlooking Turn 1, ensuring them of a birds-eye view of the anticipated beating and banging as the Next Gen cars cicled the south end of the speedway.

Prior to the race, they received an extra treat when they took a guided tour of the garage and pit road.

“It’s so cool to be a few feet away from a car or see a driver walk by and then to sit up in the stands, be close to the track and hear the sights and sounds of it all,” Holcomb said.

Todd Holcomb grew up in Georgia in Oconee County, a relatively short drive to the east of Atlanta. His father, Charles Holcomb, was the small county’s sheriff from 1964 through 1988.

His childhood was a page straight out of the Andy Griffith Show, considering Charles Holcomb rarely carried a gun. And Todd would often field law enforcement calls at their home in Bishop on behalf of his dad.

“He’d tell me to just tell them ‘that’s a 10-4’ and he would get over there to assist them as quickly as he could,” Holcomb recalled with a grin while pointing out that in the 1960s the Oconee County Sheriff’s department consisted of his dad, two part-time deputies and a jailer, who actually lived at the jail along with his family.

Holcomb’s upbringing also included racing go-karts against his brother and frequent visits to the rough-and-tumble Athens Speedway, a now-defunct dirt track.

“Growing up, we used to watch (NASCAR) on TV,” Holcomb said. “My brother Kent was really into racing. There was a guy that lived across the street from us who would go to Athens Speedway every Friday night and stand up on the top row. And we would go with him.”

As Holcomb’s career in journalism began to take shape, he wound up becoming a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the first step on the ladder of becoming a know-it-all of Georgia high school football.

As he became more entrenched in reporting, Holcomb’s passion for NASCAR had faded by the time Bill Elliott finally walked away from the Cup Series in 2012.

“I lost some interest in NASCAR after he retired,” Holcomb admitted. “I still liked it. But for me to really get into a sport, I need a team or person to pull for.”

Awesome Bill’s retirement coincided with the launch of son Chase Elliott’s career on local and regional short tracks which, ultimately, led him to the upper echelon of NASCAR. And Holcomb took notice.

“When Chase came on the scene and was good and was relevant and was a factor, I started watching it again on Sundays,” Holcomb said. “Now, it’s just turned into a Sunday routine. I’m watching it on TV or listening on the radio while I’m doing something around the house.”

Holcomb continues to break high school football news for the AJC and provide content for the popular Georgia High School Football Daily email newsletter, which he co-founded along with longtime friend Chip Saye, while living in Apex, N.C., a suburb of Raleigh.

Chase Elliott’s ascent to NASCAR stardom coupled with Holcomb relocating to the state self-labeled as the hotbed for stock car racing fueled his renewed desire to follow the sport.

“I moved to North Carolina a few years ago and it feels like I’m closer to (NASCAR) now,” he said “In driving to places around the state, I’ve passed places like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro and Charlotte, as well.

“All of these things came together and made me a bigger fan.”

And it was enough to convince him to purchase two tickets for Saturday night’s Blue-Emu 400.

“I’ve wanted to go to one that’s a small event in a smaller town that’s easy to get in and out of,” he said. “And Martinsville is only two hours ago for us. And it had become something to do on the to-do list.”

After arriving four hours prior to the start of Saturday night’s event, the Holcombs visited the midway on speedway property before touring the track.

Despite the cold weather, Tammy Holcomb enjoyed her first venture into the world of NASCAR and seemed keenly interested in the spectators.

“I love seeing the fans and all the people that have camped here,” she said. “They look so excited.

“And you could tell the families are out. This is what they do. You can tell this is their thing.”

So was Saturday night’s event, won by William Byron, enough to lure Todd Holcomb to a future race?

“I think so,” he said. “I’m probably 2 ½ hours from Darlington and 2 ½ hours from Charlotte. And I’m in Georgia a lot, so Atlanta would be a close one for me as well.

“In fact, even before I got here today I started looking at the calendar because I’ve so excited about coming to this race. I can’t think of another event I’ve been so excited about.”


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 10 2022
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