ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — As a race car driver rounds the final turn and sprints toward a checkered flag their car needs to have raced in perfect harmony. The mechanics of the engine, the dynamics of the body and the care of the driver are catalysts in victory. But time could be the most important component of all. At Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, time is awarded a whole new meaning.
“This goes back to 1956, as far as the Ridgeway clock being the trophy for the Martinsville race, so there’s a very deep history,” Mike Wallace, executive vice president at Howard Miller said. “It started out with a Ridgeway floor clock; it still is a Ridgeway floor clock. Ridgeway was manufacturing these clocks within miles of Martinsville Speedway.”
Those clocks are handcrafted, meticulously assembled, Ridgeway Grandfather clock. It’s also the trophy that’s been handed out to the NASCAR winner at Martinsville each year and will continue to be the prize Sunday for the Xfinity 500.
The clocks were originally produced about 3 miles away from the historic half-mile track. But when Howard Miller bought Ridgeway, they continued to make the clocks right in Zeeland.
“One of the first things that a winner of a NASCAR race says is where is my clock. That’s awesome,” Wallace said. “We take great pride of that in this organization.”
The organization is the world’s largest grandfather clock producer. They hand make between 250 and 300 a day and ship them all over the world. Each year around the time of the Martinsville race, internet traffic for the Ridgeway clock will peak. But this year, Wallace says business is booming.
“Since we came back from the COVID shutdown, we’re having difficulty keeping up. We’re working overtime, trying to keep up to meet the market demand,” Wallace said.
From the time it takes the company to first cut the wood, shape and assemble it, stain it, along with the nine to 14 other manual steps in between, Wallace says it takes about three months to finish a clock.
“Our founder once said a grandfather clock makes a house, a home, and that’s really true today where you have people spending more time at home,” Wallace said as he noted the increase in demand.
It also makes a NASCAR driver a Martinsville winner. And it makes the crew at Howard Miller NASCAR fans, even if just for the day, as they watch their work tick before a national crowd.
“They look for that driver typically with a clock right there with them. Unfortunately, that clock is getting spilled with the celebratory liquids, but it gets wiped off and it looks beautiful again,” Wallace said about his employees tuning in for the Martinsville race. “There’s a lot of pride throughout the operation.”
You can watch the Xfinity 500 from Martinsville Speedway on WOOD TV8 at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1.