As president of Martinsville Speedway, Clay Campbell most assuredly does not have to race in the NASCAR K&N Pro East Series for the prize money. And, although the series is becoming a training ground for multiple likely NASCAR stars, the 51-year-old Campbell harbors no delusions about becoming one of them.
But he'll be on the starting grid when the green flag drops on the VisitHampton 175 at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Langley Speedway for a reason all the youngsters he's trying to beat can understand. He loves racing.
"This is a great series for developing drivers, but obviously I don't fall into that category of being developed as a star of the future," Campbell said. "And I've already got one career, so I don't need another.
"I race because it's something I'm passionate about. I grew up in the business and always wanted to be a race car driver, but that's not the direction my life took.
"What I've been groomed for all along is what makes sense."
With all of the big names and big-time connections expected to be on hand, Campbell is the closest thing to racing royalty other than Ben Kennedy, a K&N driver and member of the France clan that has administered NASCAR since its inception. Campbell is the grandson of H. Clay Earles, who in 1947 founded Martinsville, which hosts two Sprint Cup Series races annually.
His childhood dream was to race for a living, but shortly after high school he realized his destiny would be to help run the family business: Martinsville Speedway. Clay Earles was his teacher.
"He was the best professor I ever had, especially from the standpoint of fans," Campbell said. "I feel like he wrote the book on the things we're trying to do today with fan amenities.
"He felt that fans who plunked down their hard-earned money should get their money's worth, plus some. He taught me values like being honest and treating people with respect that I carry with me today."
But even after accepting that he'd be sitting at a desk for a living, he never lost the desire to sit behind a steering wheel for fun. So, he's raced regularly the past 20 years, mostly in Late Models at weekly tracks in South Boston and Radford.
"I won a track championship at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, North Carolina about 10 years ago and figured it would be a good time to hang it up," Campbell said. "That lasted about a year, then I felt the need for speed again.
"It's still a lot of fun. When spring rolls around, a lot of guys look forward to going on the golf course but I want to be in a race car.
"To experience of being on that side of the fence is a dream-come-true."
He's run four of the six K&N races this season for Spraker Racing, with a best of 13th at South Boston. And while he's old enough to be a grandfather to many of the drivers, his objectives are similar to the young drivers.
"Our goal is to learn and bring the car home in one piece," he said. "You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run.
"There's a lot more horsepower in these cars than in Late Models. It's a tough series, with cars from Joe Gibbs, Michael Waltrip and Hendrick (Motorsports), so there's no gimmie anytime you go out there.
"That's what I like about it. I enjoy competing against these young stars of tomorrow."
K&N Pro East Series at Langley Speedway
WHEN: Saturday at 8 p.m.
WHAT:175-lap touring series race.
NOTEWORTHY: In addition to Campbell, several drivers whose families possess long-time NASCAR ties will be on hand. They include: Chase Elliott, son of former Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott; Ben Kennedy, great grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France; Coleman Pressley, son of former Cup driver Robert Pressley; and Corey LaJoie, son two-time Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times