ROCKINGHAM — Gov. Pat McCrory said motorsports helps drive our economy.
No one knows that better than Rockingham Dragway owner Steve Earwood, who says times have never been better at the track.
Earwood talked to the Daily Journal about the impact of the sport on the heels of McCory proclaiming May Motorsports Month in North Carolina.
“Racing and motorsports have helped define our state and drive our economy,” McCrory said in a statement. “We are proud of the rich history of motorsports in North Carolina and that so many teams, tracks and events call our state home.”
Earwood said the motorsport of drag racing has certainly been good for the local economy.
In 2005, the North Carolina Motorsports Association — of which Earwood is both a founding and current board member — went to Raleigh and got funding from the Golden Leaf Foundation to conduct an economic impact study. They found that drag racing brought $4 million per year to North Carolina, a figure that includes nearly 30,000 full time jobs.
“Just this week alone we’ve had five days of testing on our track. That’s unheard of in this industry. If NASCAR is the giant of racing, drag racing is the sleeping giant,” Earwood said. “People are surprised to learn how big drag races are in North Carolina. We have about 3,000 racers in North Carolina. With 20 dragstrips, North Carolina is second only to Texas in drag racing.”
To fill jobs in motorsports, some colleges and universities in the state have created courses of study directly aimed at preparing business and engineering students for careers in racing.
“Part of our mission as the NCMA was to start these programs,” Earwood said. “There are business and engineering programs in motorsports at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, at Sandhills Community College and Belmont Abbey College.”
North Carolina A&T State University also offers a program of study in motorsports described this way on its website:
“The program’s objective is to teach students the basic knowledge and skills necessary to perform pit crew activities in a real world application. Students are taught NASCAR rules and regulations, motorsports demographics, and the interdisciplinary involvement of technology, engineering, management, marketing, communications, and graphic design in motorsports.”
Some upcoming events at the dragway in May:
May 16 through 18, International Hot Rod Association Nitro Jam racing series
May 23 through 26, Big John Memorial Weekend Iron Man Bracket Championship
May 24, Carolina Model Drag Series #4
May 28 and 29, Johnny Vickers Nitro Harley School
For information, call 910-582-3400 or visit www.rockinghamdragway.com