Racin’ today’ The cup scores big with the Georgia soccer pundit

Georgia football pundit Todd Holcomb and his wife Tammy took part in their first NASCAR race on Saturday in Martinsville, Virginia.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Considered the consummate resource on high school football in Georgia, Todd Holcomb pulled his own chip flick on Saturday when he showed up at Martinsville Speedway to experience NASCAR for the first time in person. .

That was good news for track president Clay Campbell, who is constantly striving to fit new butts into the stands of the scenic, paperclip-shaped half-mile oval.

The oddity is that Todd and Tammy Holcomb, who accompanied her husband on Saturday, are both a generation older than NASCAR’s target audience.

“It’s a little surreal,” said Todd Holcomb, 59, as he cruised around Martinsville Speedway in a light drizzle. “You see all of this on TV, but there’s something to see right in front of you where you just have to stop and pause and take it all in.”

Todd and Tammy watched Saturday night’s race from row 23 of the grandstand overlooking Turn 1, ensuring a birds-eye view of the knocks and beatings predicted as the Next Gen cars rolled around the southern end of the fast lane.

Before the race, they received an extra treat when they took a guided tour of the garage and pit lane.

“It’s so cool to be a few feet away from a car or see a driver go by and then sit in the stands and be close to the track and hear the sights and sounds of everything. that,” Holcomb said.

Todd Holcomb grew up in Georgia in Oconee County, a short drive east of Atlanta. Her father, Charles Holcomb, was the sheriff of the small county from 1964 to 1988.

His childhood was a page straight out of the Andy Griffith Show, as Charles Holcomb rarely carried a gun. And Todd often fielded calls from law enforcement at their Bishop home on his father’s behalf.

“He would tell me to just tell them ‘it’s a 10-4’ and he would go over there to help them as fast as possible,” Holcomb recalled with a smile while pointing out that in the 1960s the Department of Oconee County Sheriff’s Department consisted of his father, two part-time deputies, and a jailer, who actually lived at the jail with his family.

Holcomb’s upbringing also included racing karts against his brother and frequent visits to the Athens Speedway, a now defunct dirt track.

“Growing up, we watched (NASCAR) on TV,” Holcomb said. “My brother Kent was really into racing. There was a guy who lived across the street from us who went to Athens Speedway every Friday night and stood in the front row. And we would go with him.

As Holcomb’s career in journalism began to take shape, he eventually became a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionthe first step on the ladder to becoming a Georgia high school football know-it-all.

As he rooted himself in reporting, Holcomb’s passion for NASCAR had faded by the time Bill Elliott finally left the Cup Series in 2012.

“I lost a bit of interest in NASCAR after he retired,” Holcomb admitted. “I still liked it. But for me to really get into a sport, I need a team or a person to shoot for.

Awesome Bill’s retirement coincided with the launch of his son Chase Elliott’s career on local and regional short tracks which ultimately led him to the top echelon of NASCAR. And Holcomb took notice.

“When Chase came on the scene and was good and was relevant and was a factor, I started watching him again on Sundays,” Holcomb said. “Now it’s just become a Sunday routine. I watch it on TV or listen to the radio while I do something at home.

Holcomb continues to announce high school football news for the AJC and provide content for the popular Georgia High School Football Daily e-newsletter, which he co-founded with longtime friend Chip Saye, as he lived in Apex, North Carolina, a suburb of Raleigh.

Chase Elliott’s rise to NASCAR stardom coupled with Holcomb’s move to the state self-proclaimed as the hotbed of stock car racing fueled his renewed desire to follow the sport.

“I moved to North Carolina a few years ago and I feel like I’m closer to (NASCAR) now,” he said. Good.

“All of those things came together and made me a bigger fan.”

And that was enough to convince him to buy two tickets for Saturday night’s Blue-Emu 400.

“I wanted to attend a small event in a small town where it’s easy to get in and out,” he said. “And Martinsville is only two hours away for us. And it had become something on the to-do list.

After arriving four hours before the start of Saturday night’s event, the Holcombs toured the middle of the speedway property before visiting the track.

Despite the cold, Tammy Holcomb enjoyed her first venture into the world of NASCAR and seemed keenly interested in onlookers.

“I love seeing the fans and all the people who have camped here,” she said. “They look so excited.

“And you could say the families came out. That’s what they do. You can tell that’s their thing.

So was Saturday night’s race, won by William Byron, enough to lure Todd Holcomb to a future race?

“I think so,” he said. “I’m probably two and a half hours from Darlington and two and a half hours from Charlotte. And I’m often in Georgia, so Atlanta would be close for me as well.

“In fact, even before I got here today, I started looking at the calendar because I was so excited to come to this race. I can’t think of another event that got me so excited.

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, April 10, 2022

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