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NASCAR Returns to the Rock – Fan’s Take
In the Sandhills of the Carolina's sits one of the best race tracks in all of the United States. With not a bad seat to be found around a storied one mile facility, NASCAR is coming back after nearly a decade hiatus.
The Camping World Truck series will be running on Sunday April 15th for the Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200. Interestingly, while many of the other NASCAR divisions have run often at Rockingham, this will be the first appearance by the Trucks.
NASCAR first started running at the Rock back in the mid-60s when it was known as North Carolina Motor Speedway and drivers such as Richard Petty, Fred Lorenzen and Curtis Turner used to battle it out on the flat one-mile oval. A few years later, the track was reconfigured as a high banked D-shaped mile. Then for roughly four decades, NASCAR brought the Cup teams to the southern part of North Carolina to grind their way around the abrasive track.
Every year, NASCAR would visit Rockingham in late winter and then again in the fall. The seating was increased to 60,000 in 1999, but relatively quickly over a few years, attendance started to slump and there was a need for the series to branch out west at the same time. So eventually, it became apparent that the track would lose one of their two races, especially with the battle between NASCAR's France family and Bruton Smith. Smith was always pushing for more dates at his tracks and southern tracks like the Rock were the target.
See, there isn't a large population base in Rockingham. Heck, the track isn't even in the town of Rockingham - but about ten miles east. And with competition less than two hours away with Charlotte Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, it became evident that the Rock was drawing the short straws.
The fall race was lost first and then the other race went quickly the next season and all of a sudden, the Rock was out of business. But thanks in part to midget and sprint car great Andy Hillenburg purchasing the venerable track, well, it's back. He built an additional half-mile track next to the one-miler (nicknamed the 'Little Rock') and the facility became busy with racing including ARCA, Pro Cup and NASCAR's Pro series. NASCAR Cup teams can use the track for testing since it's not on the series schedule. The facility also is used for movies.
Weather used to be an issue with the old Cup dates but spring time might prove to be better. Now the Trucks come to visit a track that really never was a bad track, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It has a sentimental place in stock car racing and maybe Hillenburg said it best: "I feel like we're unique. I want to be the facility that's an old comfortable pair of shoes; a nice evening on the porch. We're that race track. All those old memories that you can relive as well as build new ones, that's what I'm after."
Source - Rockingham Speedway, Racing Reference
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus blogged about every type of racing for several years.
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