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Speedway officials take a different kind of spin
Aboard USS Harry S. Truman
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Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell (second from right) stands aboard the USS Harry S. Truman during a two-day NASCAR Distinguished Visitor tour of the Navy aircraft carrier. (Contributed photo)
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Friday, February 1, 2013

The world of racing in which Clay Campbell and Karen Parker work is one of high speed and cutting-edge technology with a fair amount of excitement. But for two days this week, the Martinsville Speedway officials were immersed in a faster, more high-tech world.

Campbell and Parker were part of a NASCAR Distinguished Visitor tour of the USS Harry S. Truman, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.

Most of the people on the tour were representatives of Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway. They flew out of Jacksonville, Fla., Tuesday morning on a Navy transport plane, landed on the deck of the Harry S. Truman, and spent the next 24 hours aboard the ship.

“The entire experience was one I’ll always remember,” said Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway. “To see the young men and women aboard the ship, how enthused they were about what they are doing and just their knowledge and dedication was amazing.”

“Next to giving birth to my twin girls, it was the most amazing 24 hours of my life,” said Parker, the speedway’s vice president of marketing. “It was truly a life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The ship is 1,092 feet long, almost a football field wide and has 13 levels, and the group covered a lot of that ground in 24 hours or so. They spent time on the flight deck observing flight operations and watching planes take off and land, spent time on the bridge and sat in the captain’s chair, had meals with members of the crew and visited with sailors.

“There are a lot of moving parts to a flight deck, but everyone knows what they’re doing and it’s just organized chaos,” said Campbell. “They were landing planes every 58 seconds. Everything is highly orchestrated.

“I guess for me, the most thrilling aspect of the experience was the arresting landing aboard the carrier and then the catapult takeoff from the ship. There’s no amusement ride on earth that can compare to that,” he added.

For Parker, spending time with the young men and women of the Navy was important.

“I was blessed to have seen our sailors at work. All of them were so nice and professional and they all loved what they were doing,” she said. “They work 16-hour days and seven days a week and all for the protection of our nation.

“They were getting ready to deploy for eight months. I have so much respect for the young men and women and truly recognize the sacrifices that they make for our country,” she added.

Campbell also came away with a greater sense of pride for our military.

“I’m more convinced now than ever, especially getting to see this first-hand, how important a good defense is to our country. Seeing our Navy out there doing their mission training, I know we are well-prepared. There are many places our government can cut spending but certainly this area is not one of them,” he said.

(Mike Smith is public relations director for the Martinsville Speedway.)


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