The names may have changed on the leader board at Rockingham Speedway, but the racing is as competitive as it has ever been at the historic one-mile oval.
Once a staple on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the track, then known as North Carolina Speedway, fell victim to economic changes and lost its spots on the schedule. But in 2007, former driver and car owner Andy Hillenburg purchased and renamed the facility Rockingham Speedway, bringing it back to life and adding new venues at the site on U.S. 1 just north of Rockingham, NC.
Built in 1965 and re-designed in 1969, Rockingham Speedway played host to NASCAR’s top division until 2004, when the last race saw Matt Kenseth just slip by then-rookie Kasey Kahne for the win. Since then, it has seen action as a movie set for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and even an Indian Bollywood film. Current NASCAR teams continue to use the facility for extensive testing to skirt a rule that bans practice at tracks currently used on the circuit.
In 2008, Hillenburg brought the roar of competition back with events run by the USAR Pro Cup late models and the ARCA RE/MAX Series. In addition, the facility hosted national events for Legends Cars, Bandoleros and Thunder Roadsters on its road course that snakes its way around part of the oval and through the infield.
The ARCA RE/MAX series returned in October 2010 for the America 200. The series runs full-bodied stock cars that are similar to those the Sprint Cup series used prior to the switch to the Car of Tomorrow. Joey Logano, who drives the Sprint Cup Home Depot No. 20, won the Carolina 500 ARCA RE/MAX race at Rockingham in 2008. He represents the future NASCAR talent who regularly race in the series. This new generation of drivers at Rockingham is connected to the track’s history through the trophies they receive. Each award, which continue to be created by Hayes Jewelers in Lexington, NC, is identical to the ones presented to the NASCAR race winners prior to the track’s closing in 2004.
The track is known in racing circles for offering great views of racing action from every seat in the house. Camping sites without RV hook-ups are available on the speedway grounds during events.
If sitting behind the catch fence at “The Rock” doesn’t cure your racing fever, the track is home to the Fast Track High Performance Driving School. For a fee, you can take a ride in a full-up race car; or under the guidance of experienced instructors, take the wheel for yourself.
Located behind the backstretch, the speedway has added half-mile and quarter-mile ovals. Currently, the half-mile oval is used only for testing. In the future, plans call for it to host late model and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events.
On the new quarter-mile track, INEX Legends and Bandoleros will be raced at least 20 times in 2010. These cars will also be back in action on the road course during the season.
To order tickets, view the latest additions to the racing schedule or set up a time with the driving school, visit rockinghamracewaypark.com.
added: December 10, 2008
updated: October 11, 2010