The Frontstretch: Dollars And Sense: The Making Of The Martinsville Hot Dog by Jesse Medford -- Thursday March 29, 2012

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Dollars And Sense: The Making Of The Martinsville Hot Dog

Jesse Medford · Thursday March 29, 2012


Just as Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers announced they are going to be selling a $26, 2-foot long, 1-pound hot dog, NASCAR Nation takes their weekly caravan to Martinsville Speedway, the home of their own famous Wiener: the Martinsville hot dog.

This half-mile, paperclip-shaped racetrack in Martinsville, Virginia has by far the most famous trackside food item, selling in excess of 50,000 hot dogs during a race weekend. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has said that he eats about three or four a day when NASCAR is in town.

But these Martinsville dogs are nowhere near the size of the “Boomstick,” to be sold at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Instead, this NASCAR staple is just a regular-sized Jesse Jones hot dog boiled in water, then wrapped in a roll and topped with chili, mustard, onions, and coleslaw.

That which does not kill me, makes me stronger. Or fatter. Either way, sponsor Goody’s will have a captive audience of interested consumers this weekend at Martinsville should fans go Jonestown on the delicious dogs.

Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell announced Tuesday that the track and Jesse Jones, LLC have partnered to bring official status to the wiener, just in time for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 race weekend.

“We have obviously been partners for many years, ever since my grandfather H. Clay Earles made the first famous Martinsville Speedway hot dog, but this makes it official,” said Campbell. “Our hot dog is the most iconic concession item in all of racing, and the key reason for that is the Jesse Jones wiener. We have our special, secret way of dressing it, but the dog is at the heart of it all.”

Hot dogs are also a food item where any track can make a good profit. With the very low cost to produce and the high demand for food at the track, a concessionaire has been able to charge much more than a typical hot dog is worth.

But Martinsville doesn’t go that route. At an extremely sensible $2 each, most fans aren’t willing to pass up a chance to see if this dog is worth all the hype that it receives. So in 2004, after the track changed ownership, the new caterer Americrown made a huge mistake of trying to cut costs with a slightly different wiener and packaging.

They also let the customer put the toppings on the dog themselves.

Picking your own toppings is a common practice at most places where you would buy a hot dog. After all, not everybody wants onions, relish, etc. on their dog. And many people from places other than the Southeastern United States have never even heard of putting slaw on a hot dog. The concessionaire can save a lot of money by not adding these condiments themselves.

But the customers, in this case were outraged! The red-colored hot dogs returned to Martinsville very quickly, to include the original toppings and packaging.

Hot dogs have been arguably the most popular food at sporting events in the United States for over a hundred years. They are easy to make at a low cost and can be very satisfying to suppress mild hunger. Most adults enjoy eating them at outdoor events and kids love hot dogs at just about any time; it’s easy to see why they land first on NASCAR’s list of favorite foods.

Tony Stewart proudly displays how many Martinsville hot dogs he plans to consume after Victory Lane ceremonies have been completed.

Coming in at a distant second place in speedway food tradition is lobster at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It’s not nearly as inexpensive or kid friendly, but lobster is definitely distinguishable to NHMS.

Last week NASCAR was at Fontana, California where they are trying to create something for everyone, as opposed to a signature food item. Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker said in an interview with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, “I always believed food was such a special part of an experience. At a birthday party, the thing you look forward to is the cake. At any special event, food can enhance the experience.”

The fast food restaurant chain King Taco is a popular local fare to the fans at the speedway, but the track has been trying to create a higher quality, made-to-order variety of hamburger and hot dog instead. David Talley, ACS director of communications tells Frontstretch that feedback on the new food was phenomenal. “On a usual race weekend, we tend to sell about 6,000 burgers and 10,000 hot dogs,” Talley explained. “Speaking to the food, even with our rain-shortened event our sales were right on target with expectations.”

Meanwhile, another fast food chain is also attempting to start a new NASCAR dining tradition in the southeast. Bojangles’ recently made a five-year agreement with International Speedway Corporation and Darlington Raceway to sponsor the Bojangles’ Southern 500, joining Subway as the only restaurants to be NASCAR Sprint Cup title sponsors.

Darlington Raceway president Chris Browning is happy with the new partnership. “During our negotiations, it was very obvious that the team at Bojangles’ recognized and respected the significance of the Southern 500,” he said. “I can already see we are going to do some great things together.”

Bojangles’ will start their NASCAR dining tradition by selling food at the tracks in Darlington, Martinsville, Daytona, Talladega and Richmond. But one thing is for sure: it will take more than just five years to make a tradition anywhere near what the famous Martinsville hot dog has attained in over six decades of existence.

Contact Jesse Medford

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03/29/2012 07:34 AM

I wish Gossage would put something as sensible as a $2 hotdog on the menu at Texas Motor Speedway. He has included $1 discount coupons for food items inside the speedway for season ticket holders but that still makes most items at least $6+. Heck, a stupid turkey leg is now $9!

03/29/2012 09:02 AM

Up here at my home track, Delaware Speedway, it’s all about the massive $10 funnel cakes! Get two forks, no one can finish it by themselves.

Carl D.
03/29/2012 09:18 AM

I’ve seen those Martinsville hotdogs up close and personal. That’s one scarey-looking piece of tube steak. I’ll pass.

Bojangles is a great addition to Darlington and other tracks. Charlotte Speedway used to have a small Bojangles booth in the infield that served biscuits in the morning, but for some reason it disappeared a few years back. It’s nice to see that they are sponsoring the Southern 500. Their chicken and biscuits and sweet iced tea are quite popular here in the heart of Dixie.

Jesse L. Medford
03/29/2012 10:26 AM

Hey RickP, my wife and I really regret buying a turkey leg at Charlotte a few years back. It was terrible! We always talk about that terrible memory when we discuss food at the track.

03/29/2012 01:57 PM

The thing I remember best from NHMS is Jordan’s Ice Cream. Homemade and could get it sandwiched between huge chocolate chip cookies. Heaven on a hot July day!

The Mad Man
03/29/2012 02:23 PM

I had 3 of the M-ville Gut Bombs last year and spent the next 3 days with my head in a bucket and my butt on the toilet. Never again will the neon pink gut grenades pass my lips.

wes paul
03/29/2012 06:40 PM

OVERATED…… Martinsville hot dogs and South Bostons balogna bugers are both terrible excuses for racetrack food. You must have poor taste buds if you think this is good food.

03/30/2012 10:41 AM

Martinsville hot dogs are good but the best are at Oswego.

03/30/2012 11:40 PM

I love to eat a good taco. YUM.