Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rockingham Speedway will not host NASCAR Trucks race in 2014

   Rockingham Speedway, which began hosting NASCAR races again two years ago after an eight-year absence, will not host a Truck Series race in 2014, speedway owner Andy Hillenburg confirmed.

   The 1-mile track located about 90 miles southeast of Charlotte remains open for track rentals but won’t be hosting any NASCAR events in 2014.

   “We’ve got a number of issues that have to be resolved before we can host races again,” Hillenburg told The Observer on Thursday. “These issues have been mounting over the last two to three years.

   “I’m not giving up on this. My plan is to keep doing it. I want it and NASCAR wants it and I’m determined to have it continue.”

   NASCAR is expected to release its 2014 Truck schedule as early as Monday – the last of its three national series scheduled to be released.

   NASCAR spokesman David Higdon would not speak specifically about Rockingham’s date but said the schedule would be released soon. “We are still finalizing a few last pieces,” he said.

   Rockingham already lost one NASCAR event this season.

   In September, NASCAR officials canceled a K&N Pro Series East race at the track. In a statement announcing the decision, NASCAR said the track failed to meet its financial obligations.

   A permanent loss of the NASCAR event could have serious consequences for the surrounding community.

   When plans for the inaugural Truck race were first unveiled in 2011, city and county officials said the race would bring $4.2 million into the local economy.

   The first race in 2012, won by Kasey Kahne, was considered a success with a near capacity crowd on hand. Attendance was down at this year’s race, won by Kyle Larson, but the venue was still considered to have a home on the series schedule.

   From 1965 through 2004 Rockingham Speedway hosted races in NASCAR’s premier Cup series.

   Hillenburg bought the track in 2007 from Speedway Motorsports Inc., which bought the facility from the International Speedway Corp. in 2004. SMI moved the Cup race from Rockingham to Texas as part of a settlement in an SMI shareholder lawsuit, leaving the track void of NASCAR events.

   “This has been six years of my life and I want to see it succeed,” Hillenburg said.


  1. It is painful to watch something you love die a slow death of a thousand cuts; which is what we NASCAR fanatics have been witness to over the last decade. Jim, any idea what the "number of issues that have to be resolved before we can host races again" are? My guess(es) is/are local government and/or local resident opposition. I am sure Andy is exploring every option for future success and I wish him well; it is truly painful to watch a traditional track's demise. A possible move that occurs to me would be working with Bruton Smith to bring an All Star race to Rockingham; The Rock would certainly provide a better venue for the no-holds barred action the All Star race attempts, with spotty success and in front of less than capacity crowds, to provide than CMS. Could be a win-win.

    1. You're deluding yourself.

      Here is the fundamental problem with the track - the audience for it basically dried up at the end of the 1990s. It became painfully obvious that the demographic for the track simply isn't as good as people want it to be when it reopened and got race dates that ostensibly were more fan-friendly than its last five-plus seasons with Cup - and the fans for the most part still weren't coming back. To run the All-Star Race at Rockingham is beyond stupid - the track has proven it can't support what it had.

      Moreover the romaticized image of Rockingham as a great race track with great racing is a myth. Between the technology arms race of the racecars, the small size of the venue, and the ludicrously poor condition of the surface, the racing was rarely good anymore there - when it was last repaved, it saw the memorable Carolina 400 of 1996 (the Earnhardt cheapshot of Hamilton race) and some good racing in 1997 and 1998, but after that the place deteriorated as a competition venue.

      We all love Andy Hillenburg and that he's gotten this far with the track leaves one with some reason for optimism, but we need to be realistic. Unless and until NASCAR starts spending real money on its lower divisions the options are limited there.