When fans go to concession stands at Martinsville Speedway next weekend seeking the “Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog,” for the first time in nearly seven decades the red hots and chili will not be produced by Jesse Jones Southern Style Hot Dogs.
Calling it a business decision, the track has elected to switch to Valleydale Hot Dogs, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, which is a primary sponsor on Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Sprint Cup car of Aric Almirola.
But according to Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway, the new hot dog and chili will taste the same as the old standby. And the price will remain the same at $2.
“Does anybody think I’m crazy enough to change something so iconic and so cherished as the ‘Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog?’ ” Campbell told NASCAR Talk. “We’re not in the habit of taking steps backward, we’re always going forward. The fans will still have the ‘Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog,’ and it’ll be just as good as it has been. I assure you that.
“We wouldn’t do anything to change that. No. 1, my grandfather (speedway founder H. Clay Earles) would come back to get me if I did, and Bill France Jr. would be after me. So we’re not changing it to where fans will notice any difference whatsoever. The color, taste and texture will still be the same.”
The move ends one of the longest relationships between a speedway and vendor in NASCAR annals, Jesse Jones motorsports marketing director Stephen Drummond said.
“This goes back to 1947, it was a handshake agreement,” Drummond told NASCAR Talk. “We had no desire to pull the plug, we just didn’t have the funding to compete with an international company (Smithfield Foods).”
Drummond, whose company markets primarily in the Carolinas and Virginia, estimated that more than 1 million Jesse Jones hot dogs have been sold at the 0.526-mile short track in southwest Virginia over its 132-race NASCAR history.
“We’re a very small company that produces a very unique hot dog,” Drummond said. “Martinsville adopted us as their hot dog. They decided that this hot dog is unique and wanted us to be their hot dog.”
This is the second time that Martinsville Speedway has changed hot dog vendors. The first time lasted just a few hours when, shortly after International Speedway Corp. purchased the track in 2004, the company’s Americrown food service subsidiary took over concessions at the racetrack.
“The teams came in there for testing and qualifying and complained profusely to Bill France (Jr.), and before the end of lunch that day, they had switched back to Jesse Jones hot dogs,” Drummond said. “There’s a lot of emotional attachment with the fans to the hot dogs.
“It doesn’t make or break us, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just a tradition that’s gone along the wayside, and it’s really more that it’s going to be upsetting to I think everybody.
“The most important thing to us is people understand and know that it’s not a Jesse Jones hot dog.”
Race fans in the area still will be able to buy the hot dogs at local stores, as well as at racetracks such as South Boston (Va.) Speedway and Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C.
While it’s hard to change tradition after 67 years, Campbell said Jesse Jones has been a great partner over that time.
“We’ve had a great relationship throughout the years,” Campbell said. “They did a good job for us, and in turn, we sold a lot of hot dogs for them. A lot. It worked both ways, but sometimes things just change, and that was the case here.”