The Roanoke Times, November 21, 2010
RICHMOND -- When it looked as if Martinsville Speedway could lose one of its two NASCAR Sprint Cup races earlier this year, officials in one of Virginia's most economically troubled regions turned to Richmond for help.
Track operator International Speedway Corp. had decided to add a second Sprint Cup race at its Kansas City track, shifting an event from one of its other 12 venues on the Cup circuit. It was not the first time Martinsville faced the prospect of losing one of its races. But, as Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said, "This time it was serious."
"It was not just a rumor or speculation," Campbell said. "It was fact it was going to happen from somewhere, and we certainly didn't want it come from here. It could have been a devastating blow, not only to our economy here locally, but to the state, as well."
Enter Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the "chief job creation officer" in Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration. Bolling traveled to Daytona, Fla., in March with Campbell and a delegation of officials from Martinsville and Henry County to meet with International Speedway Corp. executives.
"We met with the ISC folks and listened to their situation and made our pitch about how Virginia is NASCAR country, and how these two races are of critical importance to the economy of southern Virginia, and how Martinsville is one of only three short tracks, and you don't want to lose those short tracks," said Bolling, recalling the meeting months later. "We made our case and offered to do what we could do to make sure that they kept both races in Martinsville."
Mark Heath, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., was in the room that day and said of Bolling: "He laid a really good presentation on the table and said, 'You need to tell us what to do.' "
Five months later, Bolling was at Martinsville Speedway announcing that both annual races would remain at the short track for at least the next five years, thanks to a deal that included a state grant to help upgrade infrastructure, a new access road to improve traffic flow on race weekends, and a plan to add the Sprint Cup races to the state's national tourism marketing. Observers said Bolling played a key role in putting the package together.
"He was there from the get-go, was very involved in just about all the negotiations," Campbell said. "He wasn't just doing it to be there at the very end, to be there in the picture-taking."
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