NASCAR great, Mark Martin, raced for the first time ever in 1974 at a little dirt track called Independence County Speedway, better known now as the exciting, high-banked oval dirt track, Batesville Motor Speedway.

Connie Starr of BMS reports, “We already have 75 race teams coming from 15 states and Canada.”  (as of Sept. 22!)

Forty-three years later, after his Hall of Fame career with NASCAR, Mark has returned to his hometown in Batesville, Arkansas, and with his wife, Arlene, have opened a new chapter in their lives with the intent to help children in need.

Hope for Arkansas, Inc. helps to improve the quality of life for children and families across the state of Arkansas with a strong emphasis in Batesville and Independence County. The goal of the foundation’s efforts is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and families through providing shelter, access to public transportation, education and career and soft skills training.

The foundation is in the beginning stages, so Mark is looking to get it well-known throughout the country. After speaking with Batesville Motor Speedway promoter, Mooney Starr, Mark realized that the IMCA Modified division is the largest group of race cars in the world. So why not have the largest paying race for the IMCA Modifieds and reach people all over the country and have a venue such as the “RACE 4 HOPE “74 to help spread the news about the Hope for Arkansas Foundation.

The “RACE 4 HOPE ’74” will be a five-day IMCA Modified event with a lucrative payback in the seventy-four lap feature event.

Practice and qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire on September 20, 2013.

For 2017 we will be providing financial assistance to the Community Enrichment Organization as they work to provide shelter and rehabilitation to the homeless in our area. (Per Mark and Arlene Martin FB Page)

To learn more about the Mark and Arlene Martin Hope for Arkansas Foundation, go to

Sweet Manufacturing information can be found at

More information on dates and payout of the “RACE 4 HOPE “74” event will be available by June 2nd at


Ginger Smith joined OGTC in 2014 as a volunteer, and has lived in this area since 1972 when she moved to be near her parents, the late Doss and Vivian Burgess. Her late father was Independence County Appraiser and any time family, whether kids or grand kids, came to visit for even a short time, he would take them to A.D. Hill’s grocery store, and get them a soda pop and candy bar, see the talking bird there, and end up “checking out the great White River.” All the kids and grands have played on the banks there, picnicked, and played on the old train. Ginger is adamant, since she moved to Batesville, there is just no other place to raise a family. Her love for the area and desire to help promote it in her professional capacity led her to seek volunteering, and Charlie Morris, whom she met when she was a typesetter at the Daily Guard Newspaper, put her in touch with Cathy Drew, Executor Director of OGTC. She has been on board since then and says she has loved everything she has done and is proud to represent North Central Arkansas.
The last 20 years of her employment she worked for the late County Judge David Wyatt, West Elementary School Principal Jerry Harris, and Circuit Clerk Claudia Nobles and Judge John Kemp. At the Guard Office she says she made friends for a life time, and then the West Elementary teachers, students, and their families grew close to her forever. Her last job she was hired in a newly created position to collect felony fines and restitution. She was so proud that after three years she more than tripled the annual revenues that she retired! Her part-time retirement job was with the ortho docs, Drs. Allen and Angel where she also met many people from all over the area, and made another set of new friends! She is a published writer and has also written feature articles for the Batesville Guard TV Guide and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
She has a daughter, Misty Long Sparks, son-in-law Dloyd Sparks, and three grands, Dalton Lee, Victoria Lynn and Anna Rose, who own her heart, and three more heartbeat grands, Nico and Corbin of Washington, and a late granddaughter, Ginger Savannah. Her late husband, Ken Smith, was the Batesville Postmaster.
Totally retired now, Ginger offers her time and writing abilities to OGTC as she travels around the state and visits with so many nice folks, writes reviews, and tries to be a worthy representative for Ozark Gateway Tourism. She is a people person who really cares for all God has blessed us with in our beautiful state of Arkansas in the United States of America.