Longtime Martinsville Speedway PR man dies
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP)Dick Thompson, a pioneer in auto-racing public relations during nearly 40 years at Martinsville Speedway, died Wednesday, the track announced. He was 74.
Thompson was working as a racing writer for The Roanoke Times in 1966 when the late Martinsville Speedway founder, H. Clay Earles, hired him to help publicize events at the track, said W. Clay Campbell, Earles' grandson and now the track's president.
Thompson was the track's first public relations director and was only the second full-time public relations representative in NASCAR, the speedway said in a news release.
Using innovative strategies and gimmicks to attract interest, Thompson helped usher the half-mile track - and NASCAR - into an era of sponsorships and other growth.
When he retired in January 2005 after nearly 40 years, NASCAR was the fastest-growing sport in America, routinely drawing more than 60,000 people for races at Martinsville.
"Dick Thompson was one of the pioneers in track public relations," Campbell said.
The track's press box is named for Thompson.
Thompson's funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Martinsville. Burial will be at Roselawn Burial Park in Martinsville.