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Local History

Mark Martin

 Photograph of Mark Martin that appeared in the newspaper.Ozarks Public Television will celebrate the rich history of auto racing in the Ozarks with the premiere of On The Fast Track: Racing in the Ozarks.  The program will air at 7 p.m. on June 7.  To see the trailer for this special feature, click here.

Current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Mark Martin was a frequent competitor at the Fairgrounds Speedway in the late 1970s.  One of the most respected drivers in NASCAR, he has 40 career wins and is driving for Michael Waltrip Racing.     

From the Springfield (Mo.) Leader & Press, April 11, 1977, page 10.

17 year old is feature victor

"Sunday’s late model stock car program at the Fairgrounds Speedway promised a few treats for the kiddies from the beginning.  Promoter Max Speak saw to that with a special Easter egg hunt.

"But what Speak, and most everybody else didn’t expect was a youngster grabbing most of the purse for winning the late model feature race.  It happened with a few of the country’s best drivers on hand.
"Mark Martin, the 17-year old Batesville, Ark. driver passed Kansas City’s Bill Crane on the fifth lap and held on to win the 30 lap feature.  He did it with Springfield’s Larry Phillips breathing down his pipes and Tom Reffner, Rudolph, Wis., lurking behind in third place.  

"'We just had everything right,' said Martin after his second appearance on the Fairgrounds half mile asphalt oval.  'I just hustled.  Everything was fine tuned today and we got some breaks.  The pit men really had my car in super condition.  They did their homework.'

"Martin’s Chevrolet Camaro carried him to a top-ten finish earlier this year in short track racing’s World Series at New Smyrna Beach, Fla.  In his first Fairgrounds race April 3, he placed fifth in the feature, which Phillips won.  'It was a good race,' said Phillips Sunday.  'He (Martin) was running good.  We had no problems---we just got outrun.'
"Phillips defeated Martin in a hotly contested third heat race, but sat out the trophy dash, which the youngster won.  Terry Blevins, the second year NASCAR driver from Shawnee, Kan. won the first heat and Crane captured the second.  'It just wasn’t our day, I guess,' said Reffner.  'This is only our fourth race with this car (an American Motors Hornet).  We’ve got to learn how to adjust it better.'
"Rusty Wallace of St. Louis finished behind Reffner for fourth with Blevins fifth.  Marionville’s Wayne Woody was sixth, followed by Dave Williams, Bob Johnson, Fred Tiede, and John Behee.
"Kansas City’s Roger Arnhart won the second heat, trophy dash and feature for a sweep of the mini-stock races on the asphalt track.  Jerry McCall and Wayne Graybeal also won heat races.  Gene Cohee, who finished third behind Bill Allen and Bill Stokes in the first heat, returned for victory in the late model Class B feature.  Racing will be under the lights for the first time this season starting at 8 p.m. Friday.  Gates open at 6."

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