Two weeks after NASCAR made its most recent visit there, Martinsville Speedway's infield was transformed from a racing venue to a prom after party for students of Martinsville High School. (Photo courtesy Martinsville Speedway)

True Americana with a racing twist: Martinsville Speedway once again hosts high school prom after-party

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What do Martinsville Speedway, New York’s Central Park and a prom after-party have in common?

They’re all one-in-the-same – kind of.

For over a decade every April, NASCAR’s oldest racetrack has played host to Martinsville (Va.) High School’s prom after-party.

The latest edition, which came two weeks after the annual spring NASCAR race, was this past Saturday, when the infield was transformed into “The Stars Are Out in Central Park,” with almost 200 teens enjoying music, dancing, games and prizes and turning what typically is a horsepower arena into a “fun power” host.

“I love having after prom, but having after prom at the speedway is even better,” senior Cassidy Agee, who was this year’s prom queen, said in a media release from the track. “There is so much to do in a fun and safe environment. There are games, a casino and many other fun activities and tons of free stuff. There are many reasons why I go to after prom, but the main reason is to have a great time.”

A group of parents and volunteers work year-round with Martinsville-area businesses to raise funds, decorate, set up and staff the midnight to 5 a.m. event.

“This has really grown into something the students look forward to,” Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said. “We didn’t know what to expect the first time they held it here, but the kids loved the experience and that continues today.

“The parents and the students do such a great job of putting it on, there’s very little that our staff has to do. It’s good, safe fun for the kids. It’s something we love to work with, and we hope we can keep doing it for many years to come.”

Once students enter the infield at the beginning of the After-Prom Party, they cannot leave and return, nor can anyone without a ticket enter.

“After Prom gives us a place to let down all of our bobby pins … well for the girls, and just be teenagers,” Martinsville High senior Ashley Buck said. “Not only do I have a blast each year, but it makes me happy to see the people and students who are all ‘rough and tough’ laughing and going through the obstacle course or having their hair whipped all around in the money machine.”

The After Prom Party is just one of many civic and community events that the Speedway hosts each year. Others include an annual toy drive, Fourth of July celebration, Red Cross blood drive and various fundraising events.

“Being a good corporate citizen is an important part of what we are about here at Martinsville Speedway,” Campbell said. “We all live in Martinsville and Henry County and have a vested interest here. We want to do everything we can do to make this a great place to live.”

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Esteban Ocon secures Mercedes DTM seat for 2016

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C8733
© GP3 Series
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2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.

Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.

The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.

“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.

“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.

“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”

Trident completes 2016 GP2 line-up with Armand

2015 GP2 Series Test 3.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 4 December 2015.
Philo Armand (INA, Status Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _L0U4261
© GP2 Series
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Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.

Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.

Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.

“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.

The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.

Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.

Marchionne calls for Alfa Romeo to consider F1 entry

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  The Alfa Romeo 4C on display at the Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood Alfa Romeo Ride and Drive luncheon at The Polsky Residence on February 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.

Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.

Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.

“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.

Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.

“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.

“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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© Romain Grosjean
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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.