Helen Murphy (left) and Donna Lawhon get in the racing spirt at the Garden Club of Virginia's 98th annual meeting.
May 16, 2018

Garden Club ‘Thrilled’ With Visit to Martinsville Speedway


The Garden Club of Virginia may be known for their green thumbs, but after Wednesday’s festivities at Martinsville Speedway, there could be grease under their fingernails instead of soil in the future.

As a part of the Club’s 98th annual meeting, the Martinsville chapter brought more than 100 members to the Speedway to highlight a “gem of Martinsville and Henry County,” according to annual meeting chairperson and Martinsville resident Donna Lawhon.

“We wanted to highlight the gems of Martinsville and our theme for the event is centered on the Speedway – Women on Track,” Lawhon explained. “The Garden Club has been in existence for over 100 years and the members have been women on the track to success, so the theme worked well with the Speedway in mind.”

The annual meeting rotates among the state’s 47 chapters and Lawhon noted plans had been in the works for the last five years.

One of the highlights for Lawhon and the membership was hearing Speedway Vice President of Marketing Karen Parker’s success story in an industry with a largely male leadership.

“I thought Karen was an obvious choice to be featured as a woman on track, being a female in a male-dominated industry,” Lawhon said. “She is holding her own in that environment and gave a great overview of how she faced that through the years.”

Parker said she was delighted to share her story with the visitors from across Virginia, some of whom were unfamiliar with NASCAR before their visit.

“It was an honor to speak to these wonderful ladies about my career,” Parker said. “I have a passion for racing and it was a joy to hear how much the Garden Club appreciated a topic that may have been new to them.”

The club started the morning with pace car rides, which former Garden Club of Virginia President Helen Murphy said was a thrill of a lifetime.

“Absolutely thrilling. It was not on my bucket list, but I’ve put it on there and checked it off,” Murphy said. “I love to do most everything at least once, but this was a huge thrill.”

Murphy said she has attended races in Martinsville and Richmond in the past, but was impressed with the changes in the facility at Martinsville in the last 30 years, including the state of the art LED lighting system.

“I had been here before and to a NASCAR race in Richmond, but this is a lovely, lovely place,” Murphy said. “My mother is from Halifax County and my father is from Pittsylvania County, so my roots are in this part of the world. I’ve always enjoyed visiting here and I was very impressed with the improvements over the years.”

The group finished their visit with a bite to eat - the Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog, of course - before heading to other locations in the area to finish their annual meeting.

Lawhon said there were a few new NASCAR fans in the group who could make Martinsville a regular trip in the future.

“It far exceeded expectations,” Lawhon said. “It will be a memorable experience for these women. They will be talking about it for a long time to come.”

The fall racing schedule at the historic half-mile facility begins with the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 on September 29. NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious Late Model Stock Car Race is set to run under the lights for the second year in a row, and will again pit rising stars and veteran racers against each other in prime time.

Tickets to the First Data 500, which was regarded by fans and media alike as the best Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of 2017, are on sale now. Prices for the October 28 event start at $40 can be purchased through a payment plan for as little as $10 down.

Tickets to both race weekends are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

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