The Rockingham Civitans gathered on Thursday to recognize this year’s Citizen of the Year, Andy Hillenburg. Each year, the group casts a series of nominations, and the Rockingham Speedway President was surprised to learn he had been chosen for the award.
“I’m very rarely at a loss for words,” said an emotional Hillenburg at Thursday’s meeting. “We moved here four and a half years ago and viewed this as an adventure, and it has definitely been that. We’ve been embraced in the community and you have no idea what this means to us. We love Rockingham, our racetrack, and we’re glad you love it, too.”
Hillenburg was a professional race car driver for 25 years, racing in two of the largest races in the world — the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500. He has been the chief instructor for Fast Track High Performance Driving School since 1991, and in 2007 he became the president of the Rockingham Speedway where he recently announced the return of NASCAR to the facility for next spring.
Hillenburg has been involved in many groups and societies within the county, and supports causes like the American Red Cross, the Humane Society, Relay for Life, Boy Scouts, Richmond Senior High School football and band, and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Directors at United Way.
He has been married for nearly 21 years to his wife, Michelle, and has four children, Ashley, Belle, Casey and Dustin.
The Citizen of the Year is someone within the area that has done a lot for the county, said Dan Allen, Civitan Treasurer.
As he presented the award Thursday evening, Allen referred to Hillenburg as a “silent supporter” of Richmond County in all that he does.
Hillenburg also gave the Civitans a progress report on the speedway and its impact on Richmond County during the meeting.
“We’re coming back and making a lot of noise,” he said about the return of NASCAR. “In five years, look what our community has accomplished — we did something NASCAR hasn’t ever done before. We’ve returned.”
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.