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  • EscapeVelocity EscapeVelocity Apr 20, 2012 1:09 PM Flag

    SPENCER on Rockingham: Make It Right

    Make It Right

    It's time for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to return to Rockingham...

    Jimmy Spencer | Posted April 19, 2012 Charlotte, NC



    It’s time for NASCAR to step in and buy Rockingham, assuming Hillenburg is willing to sell it, sink some money into it and give it a Cup date.

    I don’t care that it can’t seat 90,000 people. I don’t care that it’s not surrounded by tons of tourist attractions (other than Pinehurst, a golfer’s paradise). I don’t care that there aren’t dozens of fancy, high-rise hotels across the street or extravagant amenities on track property.

    All I care about is what I saw on Sunday. I saw fans who were so excited to be there. I saw drivers, both rookies and veterans, who couldn’t contain their enthusiasm to be racing at The Rock, and probably most telling in all of this, I saw crew members and team executives who were thrilled to be at work.

    When was the last time crew guys and everyone who travels on a weekly basis in NASCAR truly looked forward to going to the next track, just like a small child eagerly awaits Christmas morning?

    Some might say returning the Cup Series to Rockingham is a step backward for the series and the sport that has expanded to most major markets and large cities in the U.S. However, putting Rockingham back on the Cup schedule wouldn’t be a step backward – it would be a step forward in sustaining the sport’s future. It would pay homage to its roots and give fans a reason to remain interested in what we do on a weekly basis.

    Ontario and Riverside lost their dates out in California, and Auto Club Speedway has been a poorly-attended mess. The locals could care less if NASCAR is in their backyard or not. The folks in Los Angeles don’t give us the time of day. I’d be willing to bet that with some additional grandstands, Rockingham could draw a bigger “paid” crowd than Auto Club Speedway – fans who actually purchase their tickets instead of receiving comp’d ones. For some reason, the West Coast fans just don’t show up, so it’s time to look at those who do – at tracks like The Rock.

    The fans come to see a great race, and Rockingham never disappoints. Remember the exciting finish back in 2004, NASCAR’s final race there, between Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth? It was spectacular. The track is so worn out and the tires fall off beautifully throughout a run. They could repave Rockingham and it would be worn out one year later because of the toll the sand and sun take on it. We go to several tracks in large markets that put on good races but not great ones. It’s Rockingham’s surface that lends it to such competitive racing, and you couldn’t duplicate that surface if you tried.

    Additionally, imagine the money it could save team owners to go to Rockingham once or twice a year as opposed to the numerous trips they make to the West Coast to race in front of a crowd that often is less than half capacity.

    NASCAR hasn’t been able to hit a homerun on the West Coast, despite ditching Rockingham years ago to shoot for the stars in bigger markets like Fontana. They could, however, hit a homerun at Rockingham. If you take the smaller seating capacity of Rockingham into account, they knocked it out of the park on Sunday.

    Fans are hungry for great, throwback racing and a return to what the sport used to be, and that’s exactly what Rockingham and last weekend represented. Sometimes you have to take what might seem to be a step backward in order to go forward, and it’s time for NASCAR to go forward with Rockingham. It’s time to make it right.

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