News & Media

Six Pack: Hall-of-Famers reminisce about Martinsville

November 06, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Four NASCAR Hall-of-Famers who recently sat down at Martinsville Speedway to talk about racing -- Junior Johnson, Ned Jarrett, Dale Inman and Leonard Wood -- answer this week's six questions.

1. Junior, what is one of your favorite memories at the storied Martinsville track?

Junior Johnson: I'm about as old as Martinsville. ... When I was driving for Holly Farms, we came up here once, and it was about the first time we had used two-way radios. I was about two or three laps up on the field, and [car owner Fred Lovette] came on the radio and said, "Slow down!" But when I slowed down, the car started pushin' real bad, so I picked it back up to where when I'd go to turn it, it wouldn't feel like it was going to go into the wall. And he kept on telling me to slow down and finally got to cussin' me, so I just cut that radio off. I went around and lapped the field again, and he fired me when the race was over with.

"They threw [the broadcast] down to me -- and there I was standing in the john."


2. Ned, you never won here as a driver, but you did have some great memories of broadcasting races from the track, didn't you?

Jarrett: After I got into broadcasting, the most famous story that I like to tell and people seem to like to hear was when I was working for Motor Racing Network and Richard Petty was leading the race. The restroom was where it still sits now, near pit road. I had told [the rest of the broadcast team] that during the [commercial] break that I needed to go to the restroom. It was 50 or 60 laps before the next scheduled pit stops, so they said, "Go ahead." Well, then Richard Petty made an unscheduled pit stop. He had a tire going down or something, so they threw [the broadcast] down to me -- and there I was standing in the john.

Well, I heard him come into the pits. I heard him stop and I had my stopwatch with me, so I just clicked it on when I heard him stop. And I could hear the air wrenches and everything else going on, so I just described the pit stop. And when he went back out, I clicked the stopwatch off and told everybody how long the stop took. No one really knew I faked it.

3. Wow. What did the guy next to you in the bathroom think or say?

Jarrett (chuckling): I didn't look around.

4. Leonard, how about sharing some of your first Martinsville memories?

Leonard Wood: I was at Martinsville as a spectator for the very first [Sprint Cup] race in [1949]. ... I think Red Byron won that race on dirt. [David] Pearson always ran well here for us. [Brother and fellow NASCAR Hall-of-Famer] Glen [Wood] won a convertible race here. They later took it away for some reason or another, but I always counted it anyway.

5. Dale, how did you and your cousin and driver, Richard Petty, manage to win a record 15 times at the short track?

Dale Inman: One thing about Martinsville is that we were only about an hour away from home. We would come up here with Lee Petty as the driver. Me, Richard and Maurice [Petty] were the pit crew. I guess we were young back then, and the first time I can remember coming up was about 1953. But we were so close to home that we would come up and practice and qualify the car on Friday, and then we would take the car back home with us on Saturday. We wouldn't even take part in the Saturday practices. We'd just bring it on back with us on Sunday and race. As you all know, times have changed a lot in this sport since then.

Richard just really knew how to take care of the brakes in his car back in the day. He just had a knack for getting around this place, I guess. I knew how much abuse the car would take, how much the tires would take, and how much the brakes would take. ... The set of brakes they put on a race car today probably cost more than some of the purses we won for winning races. It's unreal how good the brakes are now. But Richard just had a knack. He knew with those old brakes that if he had to pump 'em three times, he was pretty close to being out of 'em. And we were pretty lucky sometimes, too.

6. Junior, with all the news recently about Dale Earnhardt Jr. having to get out of his car because of a concussion, do you think you ever suffered one during your driving days?

Junior Johnson: I guess I had more wrecks than anybody because when Goodyear and everybody was trying to figure out how to make a tire that would last, most drivers would be a little cautious. I'd just take off, and when the tire blew and I went sailing into the wall, everybody knew then just how long that tire would last. But I never had any problems with my neck or head, and I probably hit the wall as hard and more times than anybody else.