Next year is shaping up to be a really big one for Martinsville Speedway.
After it was announced earlier this spring that the track will host a NASCAR Cup Series night race in May, the final Cup Series playoff race before the championship and the NASCAR Xfinity Series in October, the track made one more big 2020 announcement Tuesday.
After nine years, the NASCAR Whelen modified tour will return to Martinsville on May 8, a Friday, as part of the NASCAR spring weekend.
The modifieds will run under the lights, with the Cup race to run the next night. Max Pro Window Films has signed as sponsor.
“We’re pretty thrilled with the schedule for next year … and this just adds more to it,” Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said Tuesday. “It’s going to be a great time bringing the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour back. We’re really thrilled to have those guys back.
“Everybody asks us all the time, ‘When are you bringing the modifieds back? When are you going to run under the lights? When are you going to get a better date?’ One move took care of all three issues. So we’re really excited about it. It’s going to be a great year in 2020.”
Martinsville hosted yearly modified races from 1960 until 2002 and last hosted the series in 2010. Wood Brothers Racing founder Glenn Wood is a former winner. Ray Hendrick has the most modified victories at track they call The Paperclip, with 13.
And the winner of the race in May will get a traditional grandfather clock trophy, too.
NASCAR started the modified tour in 1947, the same year as the first race at Martinsville Speedway.
“It’s everything, candidly. When you look back at the history, both Martinsville Speedway and the modified tour are cornerstones on which the sport is built,” Brandon Thompson, NASCAR’s managing director of the touring series, said at the announcement. “Obviously both being founded in 1947 and obviously the rich history that comes along with both the speedway and the modified tour I think are significant and obviously very fitting that we would come back.
“The competitors have been asking. The fans have been asking. It just all seemed to marry up at the perfect time, and we’re excited about it.”
Campbell pointed to the long history of modifieds at the track and what the series has meant at The Paperclip.
“If you look along the wall of this media center … you can see the importance of modifieds to Martinsville. At least three pictures on these walls are of the modified series,” he said. “They have always meant a lot to us. We can’t say how thrilled we are to have them back. Especially now, I think the Whelen Modified Tour is better than it’s ever been. Brandon has done a great job with NASCAR in bringing everything up. … It’s an awesome series, and to see modifieds on this track, if you haven’t seen it before, you’re in for a treat. It’s awesome.”
Campbell said the timing of having the Cup Series race on Saturday night was perfect for adding the modified race on Friday, which is why officials ended the long hiatus. He said the hope is to return the series as another yearly tradition.
Looking ahead to 2020, there are a lot of changes in store for The Paperclip, but it’s something Campbell said he’s excited for fans to see, and fans have already shown it’s something they’re looking forward to.
“After the first announcement was made about the night race, going through our ticket office, I’ve never seen anything like it. The phones were ringing off the hook. The interest with the modifieds coming back, people are so excited. That’s what they wanted, so we can’t wait to see the reaction now that it’s out there,” he said. “It’s going to be a super weekend bringing more people into town. It’s going to be huge for the area.
“And then for the fall, bringing all three series in here, another huge weekend. So I think that economic impact number is going to go higher.”
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is NASCAR’s oldest division, and is part of NASCAR Home Tracks, running primarily on paved short tracks around the northeast. It is the only open-wheeled division that NASCAR sanctions.
Martinsville will be one of the biggest tracks the tour hits up next season.
“It’s one of those race tracks you have to be a really good race car driver to win,” said Tommy Baldwin of Tommy Baldwin Racing, a team that competes on the modified tour. “If you look back at the history of this place, the best of the best have won the modified races here because it is a track like no other that we go to across the northeast. There’s a lot of braking, there’s a lot of throttle control, and you have to have really good handling race cars and a lot of horse power.
“A lot of places that we go to you can probably get rid of one of those and still win, but you have to have your stuff together here to win races. That why when you go back in the history book and all of those stars that have won races here, that’s why. When you win, standing in Victory Lane with that clock, it’s so important.
“When the drivers walk in here they feel a different way in their heart, and they have a lot of care about this place. We’ll always have a lot of care about this place running the modifieds and that’s why it’s so special.”