Southside businesses optimistic for NASCAR race weekend turnout with new restrictions

NASCAR fans have been waiting a long time for this weekend. For the first time ever, the track will host three consecutive nights of racing and the most fans they’ll have in more than a year.

The weekend of racing kicks off Thursday night at Martinsville Speedway.

For last year’s spring race, the speedway had empty stands with zero fans due to the pandemic. Then in the fall, 1,000 fans were allowed. Now, the speedway can operate at up to a 30% capacity.

Fans aren’t the only ones excited, the businesses that support them are too.

When out-of-town fans visit their trip isn’t limited to the speedway; they visit gas stations, go shopping and grab a meal or two.

As we’ve reported, a Washington Economics Group study shows the two NASCAR races per year put $170 million into the local economy. That was before the pandemic.

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It would be so busy that Clarence’s Steak and Seafood near Martinsville Speedway would typically see a 30% increase in business per day on a race day or weekend.

Despite low numbers in the fall, waitress Breanna Hopkins said they don’t know what to expect but are optimistic. It’s still all hands on deck.

“The last race we had we really weren’t. We were busy but it wasn’t like a normal race weekend. A normal race weekend there’s nowhere to sit in here, it’s lined up out the door; that was before COVID and everything,” said Hopkins.

The deputy director of Martinsville Henry County Chamber, Sharon Shepherd, said this last year without fans or significantly less fans has impacted many of their business members.

The speedway has always made a great difference to communities even beyond Henry County.

“It’s a huge boost for the whole region and that’s Danville, Pittsylvania County, Rocky Mount, Franklin County and even going into North Carolina. It’s huge for this whole reason because you know we can’t accommodate everyone here in Martinsville, Henry County so they do have to stretch out for the region,” said Shepherd.

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