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, Va. 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.
Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell announced Tuesday (March 27) 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.
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, Calif., 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 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.
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