Last October, Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell to make the biggest announcement in track history – adding permanent LED lights. This Saturday, nearly one year later, another Earnhardt, Dale’s sister Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, will lead the field to green in the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, serving as the Honorary Pace Car Driver in the first race under the lights.
“I think it’s absolutely awesome. I can’t wait to be a part of that,” Earnhardt-Miller said. “When Clay called and Dale was a part of the announcement and he called to say they were going to be putting in lights and this race would be the first run under the lights, it was really cool and really special.”
For Campbell, asking Kelley to drive the pace car in the biggest NASCAR Late Model Stock Car race in the country, was an easy decision.
“The Earnhardt family is such an important piece in not only NASCAR’s history, but Martinsville Speedway’s history, as well,” Campbell said. “Kelley’s father, brother and husband have all won races here. Her grandfather raced here. She’s a former Late Model Stock Car driver herself. She and Dale own Late Model cars that race every weekend. So, I was really excited when she said she would be able to come lead the field to green.”
Earnhardt-Miller raced Late Models in the mid-90s with her brothers Dale and Kerry. While she never raced at Martinsville, she knows the importance of the race, and, most likely a few of the drivers in it.
“The Martinsville race is always ‘The Race,” the prestigious race,” she said. “It’s always the one we talk about - the car counts, the drivers that show up – you always want to be a part of that race, You always want to make that race.
“I’ll probably be leading a few people that I raced against 20 years ago.”
And while racing is in her blood, she said she won’t be entering the pace car in the race.
“The thought might cross my mind, but I know better,” she said. “No chance of that. I’m sure I’d get run over pretty quickly, but it will make me think about my time in a racecar and how much fun that was and how much fun short-track racing is.”
The experience of driving the pace car is enough.
“It’s just a really cool thing to do,” she said. “I was honored to be asked. It’s something I’ve never done before. To be able to lead the field, especially at a place like Martinsville that’s a very intimate, downhome, old-school place.
“It’s already a magnificent race to see, and under the lights it’s going to be even better.”
The ValleyStar Credit Union 300 is NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious Late Model Stock Car race. Race day – Saturday, September 23 – starts with three 25-lap qualifying races to set the field, followed by a 25-lap “last chance” qualifying race. Fan gates open at 2:00 pm, followed by an autograph session on the frontstretch at 2:30. The qualifying races will start at 4 with the main feature set to begin at 8. Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 1-877-RACE-TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.