Martinsville president finishes third at Daytona
February 15, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- On a team that features three different drivers sharing seat time, Clay Campbell describes himself as "the restrictor-plate guy."
"Or the crazy guy. However you want to look at it," he added.
On Saturday, the "crazy guy" scored a career-best third-place finish, trailing race winner Grant Enfinger and veteran Frank Kimmel across the stripe in the Lucas Oil 200, the season-opening event for the ARCA Racing Series here at Daytona International Speedway.
Campbell, 54, is president of Martinsville Speedway, the track founded by his grandfather, Clay Earles. He's been around racing all his life. "Whether on this side or the track operations side," he said.
"I love racing and it's all I've ever cared about since I was a kid and dreamed about running here. I used to run a go-kart years ago with some friends of mine and pretend it was Daytona. To finally get to run here? I mean there are very few people in the world that can say they've run here. It's a small percentage. To do it and have a good run, I'm the luckiest guy in the world."
His late grandfather likely would have been pleased with his result on the 2.5-mile superspeedway, he said, but would have scolded him for being behind the wheel.
"I can't tell you what he would think," Campbell said. "… He was adamant about me never getting in a race car. In fact, he told me he'd kick my you-know-what if he ever caught me in one. He did catch me in one a few times. I spent many Monday mornings in his office getting chewed out for driving a race car rather than doing what I was supposed to be doing."
A former Limited Late Model track champion at Caraway Speedway, Campbell spent the past couple of seasons running in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series for team owner Jeff Spraker. When the opportunity to run the ARCA Series events at Daytona and Talladega for former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ken Schrader surfaced, Campbell jumped at the chance.
Schrader will compete in 10-12 ARCA events in the Federated Auto Parts-sponsored No. 52 Chevrolet, with Matt Tifft to handle the remaining races.
Campbell, who finished 14th here last year, said the most stressful part of the opening event was "just having to ride, be patient and stay in a single line.
"You want to make a move and once you make a move, yeah, you made one, you're going straight to the back," he said. "Tab Boyd, my spotter, he did an excellent job coaching me and telling me to stay patient. He said 'it's boring but just stay in line.' He had a lot to do with what we did."
A caution that forced a restart with less than 10 laps remaining brought with it the opportunity to make a bold move as well as the potential for trouble.
"I was afraid once that caution came out and we had a restart, we had a good shot at a good finish and now there's no telling what's going to happen on the restart," he said. "The first few restarts we were in third gear -- really should be in second but they were going so fast, rolling quick enough that I had to start in third. That's kind of a detriment to your momentum. Luckily that last one I had it in second and that way I was able to stay with Frank and that made a big difference.
"If we had started in third, it may have been a different outcome but I was bound and determined to stay on Frank; no matter where he went, I was going with him."
Schrader was one of several who eased over to congratulate his driver following the race.
"He's got a lot more experience than people realize," Schrader said. "He doesn't have as much Daytona and Talladega experience, but he has been here. He's got as much as a lot of people he's racing with, too. He's so calm. We were looking forward to it. We knew he'd be good. He did a hell of a job."
The owner said he stayed off the radio for most of the race, offering up a single comment when the situation dictated it.
"They've got a deal, they call it the race-safe system -- it's a yellow light on the dash (that lights) when the yellow comes out," Schrader said. "He said 'our race-safe isn’t working.'
"I said, 'there ain't nothing safe about this deal.' "