- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2005

ROANOKE — Martinsville Speedway will open its race season this week with a new policy, offering for the first time unlimited beer at track concessions but limiting how much fans can carry in coolers — a signature of the circuit.

Martinsville will usher in the policy at this weekend’s Advance Auto Parts 500. Qualifying starts Friday, and the race is Sunday.

The rules are part of the corporate policy already in place at NASCAR tracks owned by International Speedway Corp. (ISC) of Daytona Beach, Fla., a spokesman said.

“If you look, rarely do you see any alcohol-related incidents at motorsports facilities,” spokesman David Talley said. “We feel our fans will conduct themselves in an appropriate manner.”

But a psychology professor at Virginia Tech contends the rules are counter to other sports that are increasingly limiting beer consumption.

“From my perspective, this new policy increases the risk of alcohol abuse and alcohol-impaired driving,” professor Scott Geller said.

“At the NASCAR event, people will consume alcohol and will be driving immediately after the consumption,” he said.

While Martinsville will not restrict the sale of 12-ounce cups of beer once the race begins, Mr. Talley said concessionaires will have some discretion.

“Certainly, if someone stumbles up to our counter and is clearly inebriated, we’re not going to sell him any more beer,” he said. “Our people are trained to look for that.”

When the Martinsville Speedway was privately owned by the family of its current president, Clay Campbell, it permitted fans to haul in coolers that could handle two six-packs, but sold no beer from the concession stands. The new policy limits coolers to roughly a six-pack of 12-ounce beverages.

“For years prior to 9/11, people were bringing in large coolers,” he said. “We found after 9/11 that it became so cumbersome to look for glass items, weapons and other items that it posed a safety problem.”

“This is a move we think will help make entry to the grandstands smoother because now gate security will have much less to search, therefore speeding up the process,” said Mr. Campbell, whose grandfather founded the speedway. “This policy has worked well at other ISC tracks, and we believe it will work well here, also.”

Besides Martinsville, ISC owns Daytona and Homestead in Florida, Talladega in Alabama, Darlington in South Carolina, Watkins Glen in New York, as well as tracks in Arizona, Michigan, California and Kansas and a 37.5 percent interest in Chicagoland, Mr. Talley said. ISC also owns Richmond International Raceway.

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