H. Clay Earles
- Awarded: 2017
- Position:Owner / Executive
One of the original pioneers of stock car auto racing, H. Clay Earles played an integral role in the early years of NASCAR's development. Earles built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, and the short track remains the only facility to host NASCAR premier series races every year since the series’ inception in 1949.
The speedway held its first race on Sept. 7, 1947 – three months before the creation of NASCAR. That initial race drew more than 6,000 fans to the track, which had just 750 seats ready. Built as a dirt track, the .526-mile asphalt and concrete speedway has grown from a dusty, primitive operation into a multimillion-dollar facility covering over 340 acres. The track’s unique paperclip shape makes it especially challenging, with 800-foot straights and tight turns banked at only 12 degrees. In 1964, Earles decided it was time for a “different” type of trophy for his race winners. He gave winners grandfather clocks, a tradition that continues today. Earles passed away on Nov. 16, 1999, as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the speedway.