CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WDBJ7) The NASCAR Hall of Fame inducted five new members Friday night, and Martinsville Speedway founder Clay Earles was honored on a special night in the Queen City.
It was a packed house inside the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center where Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell accepted the Landmark Award for contributions to the sport in honor and memory of his late grandfather, H. Clay Earles, who founded the speedway as a dirt track in 1947.
“It's really special for myself and my family to be here tonight and to see him honored for his contributions to the sport so it's a pretty neat day,” Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said. “I don't think he had any idea when he started the track that it would grow to what it is today but he had the vision to keep putting money back into it, always focused on the fans and if it weren't for the fans then we wouldn't be here. He always placed great emphasis on the fans, the media, the competitors and wanted to please all of them and he had enough vision to keep changing throughout time, and that's one of the reasons, not only have we survived for seventy years, we've thrived for seventy years.”
The Class of 2017 is highlighted by two of the most successful car owners in NASCAR history. Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick have 18 Cup Series titles between them.
“Only in America could a kid selling peanuts and popcorn at Bowman Gray Stadium have a dream. I look on this wall and think about all these great drivers and owners and crew chiefs have brought to our sport,” Childress said.
Rick Hendrick, who has 245 Cup wins as a car owner said: “It's just really hard for me to believe that a kid growing up on a tobacco farm in rural Virginia that dreamed about racing and hot rods, this has been a special night for me.”
Rounding out the class is the first winning car owner, Raymond Parks, Mark Martin, who won 96 races over the sport's top three series, and Benny Parsons, the 1973 Cup Series Champ who later served as a NASCAR broadcaster.