ROCKINGHAM — Rockingham Dragway owner Steve Earwood knew he had to change with the economic climate.
So he turned his focus towards hosting events with a regional pull instead of the larger national ones.
Earwood knew it was a risk, but it was something he felt would benefit the track in the long run.
The move paid off as Earwood weathered the economic downturn and is now set to welcome the IHRA Spring Nationals back to “The Rock” after a two-year absence.
“Racing is a tough business,” said Earwood. “But that’s what I love about it. It’s constantly changing and if you don’t change with it, you won’t survive. It’s important to listen to your customers. That’s been the key to our success and I think that’s reflected in the 2014 schedule.”
Earwood has scheduled 53 events at the track over 38 weekends beginning with the Racers Free Entry Appreciation Race Feb. 22 and 23.
“It’s not as many as we had a few years ago,” Earwood said. “Last year I think the country hit the bottom economically and we are bouncing back. A lot of our customers rely on the construction industry and I think it is starting to pick back up again.”
Earwood added the last few years has allowed him and his staff to discover the events which attract the most fans and that are also “good for the community.”
“Some times it is not all profit-driven,” he said. “Some times you have to do what is best for the community even though it may be marginal for us.”
Among the events scheduled for “The Rock” this year are diesel drag races, the BioMoto pit crew challenge, radio controlled model car races and drifting. In addition, there will be two AMRA All-Harley drag races featuring the Top Fuel and Pro Fuel bikes.
In addition, the calendar is highlighted with the return of the Mopars at the Rock in April as well as the Super Chevy Show in October.
But the big feature of the upcoming schedule is the return of the IHRA Spring Nationals and the nitro Funny Cars and the Saturday night “Rock Show,” a trademark of the Nitro Jam Series.
“That’s big for our fans,” Earwood said. “It wouldn’t have happened if the IHRA hadn’t changed its format. When we got out of the series a couple years ago, it was because they decided to go to an entertainment format instead of a racing format. Our fans were very vocal about that. Now, though, we have a new opportunity.”
Rockingham Dragway’s entire 2014 schedule can be viewed at www.rockinghamdragway.com.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.