MARTINSVILLE, VA:  The pace lap for an early Modified stock car race at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)
The pace lap for an early Modified car race at Martinsville Speedway. (ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

Notable Modified races at Martinsville: the early years

Modified racing at Martinsville is filled with memorable moments. Leading up to the Modified return to the track, here are selected some of the biggest and most important races in Martinsville history.

1948: The Birth of a Jewel

In a field including NASCAR founder Bill France, Buck Baker and Tim Flock, it was Fonty Flock who won the first race at the dirt half-mile oval. While Modifieds wouldn’t race at Martinsville for 18 more years

1966: A Return to Glory

After a nearly two-decade absence, the Modifieds returned to Martinsville on April 23, 1966. Ray Hendrick took the checkered flag, the first of nine Modified victories he picked up at the track. He also earned his first grandfather clock, which the track began awarding to the race winners just two years prior.

Hendrick would go on to be the winningest driver in track history with 20 victories, and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007.

1970: Hendrick Sweeps

Hendrick continued his dominance at Martinsville, becoming the first driver to sweep both the Late Model feature and the Modified feature when he won both races at the Cardinal 500 on Nov. 8, 1970.

It was a banner year for the Richmond, Virginia, driver at the half-mile. He drover his Modified to a win in the Dogwood 500 on April 12, beating runner-up Fred Desarro by six laps. Just two weeks later, he picked up a 100-lap win over Jerry Cook in a NASAR Modified event.

For the November doubleheader, he won the Late Model Sportsman race from the pole in his 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle, then drove his Chevrolet Camaro to a win over runner-up Cook in the Modified race.

1981: Evans Catches Fence and Checkers

Hendrick’s final win at Martinsville came in 1975, the year after Rome, New York, legend Richie Evans earned his first win there.

Evans would win nine times at the “paperclip” but probably none more famous than on March 15, 1981.

In arguably the greatest finish in the history of both Martinsville and Modified racing, Richie Evans rode the frontstretch catchfence to the win over Geoff Bodine.

“I got him sideways off of 4,” Geoff Bodine says. “I should’ve kept spinning him out, but I let him go. That was my mistake. I was too nice a guy. I didn’t want to wreck him, I just wanted to beat him.”

1985: A Poignant Season Finale

Just four years later, Martinsville and Evans were intrinsically linked again, but for another reason.

In the first year of the NASCAR Winston Modified Tour, Evans won 12 of the first 28 races to clinch his ninth NASCAR modifified title heading into the final race of the season at Martinsville on Oct. 27, 1985.

Three days before the race, Evans crashed in practice, dying when a stuck throttle sent him into the turn-three wall.

The Tour raced on that weekend, with Johnny Bryant collecting his only career Tour win. Bryant was driving for North Carolina car owner David Riggs, and they are the last southern car owner and driver combination to win a Modified race at Martinsville.

“I still remember that win,” Bryant told the Martinsville Bulletin in 2014. “We had a good car that day and I got some breaks and was able to win a race here. He prepared a good car for me.”

MARTINSVILLE, VA - 1981: Although his car is a bit the worse for wear, NASCAR Modified driver Richie Evans raises another trophy after an obviously hard-fought victory over Geoff Bodine in the most spectacular bump-and-grind finish at the track. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)
Although his car is a bit the worse for wear, NASCAR Modified driver Richie Evans raises another trophy after an obviously hard-fought victory over Geoff Bodine in the most spectacular bump-and-grind finish at the track. (ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)