Martinsville is one of the most historic tracks in NASCAR and, as such, has been the site of many significant moments. From Bobby and Donnie’s famous twin-brother feud in the 50s and the introduction of banking in place (Bingo), to today, when the track is best known for its annual car show and race, the place is packed with history.
But perhaps the most significant thing that Martinsville has seen is how many people have pitched their tents and rolled up their sleeping mats and enjoyed the race there. To wit, the Blue Grass Arena now houses the Richard Petty Green Monster Challenge, an annual green-track camping battle that pits J.D. Benton, John Bowers, and the rest of the Nascar Camping World teams against each other in a battle of entrepreneurial spirit, with the winning campers taking home valuable prizes.
The Evolution Of Camping At Martinsville
It all began with the famous Richard Petty Green Monster Challenge, which was established in 2005 as a means of bringing the best of NASCAR’s up-and-coming stars together with the drivers who have made the most out of the 1.5 mile oval. After missing the field the year before with an injured ankle, Kevin Harvick surprised everyone by showing up and winning the inaugural challenge, defeating Denny Hamlin, who would go on to win the next two events as well. Since then, the tradition has continued, with Josh Burton taking 2007 and 2008, and Chris Buescher winning the most recent event, in 2018. This year will mark the 11th anniversary of the Richard Petty Green Monster Challenge, and the track will host its first event in eleven years, on April 6th.
Though it was originally designed as a three-day event with the Monster Challenge on the first night, the campers have stuck around for almost the entire weekend. On Friday night, attendees get to witness the spectacle that is the Budweiser Bud Bowl, an annual tradition at NASCAR racing tracks since 1953. On Saturday, the campsite hosts its own version of the Bud Bowl, complete with silent auctions, live music, and camper rides. On Sunday, the track plays host to the Nascar Grand Prix, which is the oldest active sports car race in the United States. All in all, it is quite an eventful weekend, which the whole family can enjoy.
Why Are The Richard Petty Green Monster Campers So Popular At Martinsville?
As we’ve established, the Richard Petty Green Monster Challenge is a bit of a beast. It is a three-day camping event where the best NASCAR teams from around the country come together to battle it out on a unique blend of dirt and asphalt, all in an effort to make a unique spirit animal, Doug Jones’ famed bluegrass finch, green. These teams, which include some of the biggest names in NASCAR, drive the same cars that they would compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season, and spend most of their off-season preparing for it, with the exception of those who are in the offseason. Not many other festivals or camps in NASCAR offer the same opportunity to drive your own vehicle on a unique track, where you can actually camp out for the weekend, and it seems like the entire community comes out to support it.
The track itself is a gem. Not only is it a 1.5 mile oval, but it is also unique in that it is one of the few remaining dirt ovals in NASCAR, with its original surface dating back to 1919. But while the track has an incredible history, it doesn’t hold up very well. The banking is very shallow, which forces the drivers to really push their cars to make an effort, and it has a very high center, making it difficult to pass. When the cars are going fast, the surface underneath gets a bit slippery, as the track is often referred to as a “cookie sheet” because of its rough surface. When Jones brought this problem to NASCAR’s attention, the response was to adjust the track. In 2012, the track was resurfaced, though concrete was used instead of dirt, which some have criticized as lacking in character. Still, with its iconic green finish, it has not lost its charm.
Another reason the Richard Petty Green Monster Campers are such a hit at Martinsville is the unique blend of entrepreneurial spirit and camper life that they represent. Most of the teams are sponsored by smaller, independent craft breweries, who partner with the drivers and organize the teams, often buying out the entire garage and office space for the whole event. This encourages the participating teams to form closer bonds, while also providing them with the necessary equipment to pull off the challenge. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
What Are The Future Of Camping At Martinsville?
One of the things that make the Richard Petty Green Monster Campers so special is that they allow attendees to be a part of an event that not many others can claim to experience. Not only does it bring together some of the best teams and drivers in NASCAR, but it also allows them to interact with fans, many of whom have followed their career since they were kids. Though this type of event will never be able to hold the same appeal it once did, with legalized gambling now an option at the majority of the tracks, it will be interesting to see how the next iteration of the challenge plays out.