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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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”