The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock Presented by Cheerwine on Sunday came with beautiful weather, cheering crowds and an exciting race.
The day started at 8 a.m. when the NCWTS Garage and registration opened and ended when the race was over at around 4:30 p.m.
Die-hard race fans were happy to be at Rockingham Speedway for another thundering competition on the blacktop.
Keith Hardee, of Calabash N.C., said he attended his first car race in 1956. He said he loves everything about racing “…. the noise, the smell, the people we see.”
Terry Genrette said the truck race was his first but he’s been going to NASCAR car races since 1980.
Wayne Smith said he’s been watching races since 1970. Smith said he loves the excitement, the competitiveness and the wrecks that could happen.
It was a full day at “The Rock,” and even at 9 a.m. — a full 5 hours before the start of big race — a few rows of the stadium seating were filled as people came early to watch the NCWTS qualifier that started at 11:05 a.m.
The official welcome took place at 1:35 p.m. with remarks from Andy Hillenburg, Rockingham Speedway President. The honorary starter, Tony Johnson, who was a guest of the North Carolina Education Lottery, was introduced at 1:39 p.m.
NCWTS drivers were introduced, followed by NASCAR special awards, at 1:40 p.m. Jeb Burton, number 4, was awarded the MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Race Award and the Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award. Johnny Sauter, number 98, was awarded the Mobil 1 Command Performance Driver of the Race Award.
At 1:55 p.m., the Paraclet XP Sky Venture Skydivers with U.S. and POW/MIA flags dropped out of the sky and parachuted to the Turn 1 side of the infield.
The United States Army 528th Sustainment Brigade Color Guard presented the colors at 2:03 p.m. and the invocation was provided by Rockingham Speedway Chaplain Joe Louis. The National Anthem was performed by the Hoss Howard Band at 2:04 p.m.
At 2:18 p.m., the green flag dropped and the 200 mile, 200 lap race began with Benny Parsons 1973 Championship Car on first pace lap. Pyrotechnics lite up the sky behind the backstretch as the cars came around Turn 2.
When the checkered flag dropped, it was 20-year-old Kyle Larson driving the No. 30 truck who earned the win.
Longtime race fans and local officials could be spotted in the VIP lounge behind the grandstand. North Carolina State Senator Gene McLaurin of Rockingham was glad to see so many visitors to his hometown.
“This is a good race,” said McLaurin. “It’s exciting to see so many people here.”
Richmond County Commissioner Don Bryant said he has attended many races at the track. He lives close by in Marston, and said he always enjoys himself at the speedway.
People from out of town found plenty to do around Richmond County during their stay. Parents took their children to the newly established Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham, which was not yet open during last year’s NASCAR return to Rockingham.
Museum Director Katie Rohleder said she was excited to see tourists visiting.
“We had another busy weekend at Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham welcoming a lot of new faces and no doubt race fans,” said Rohleder. “Our Speed Shop that features a race car and pit stop has proven to be one of the museum’s most popular theme areas. We hope that it inspires future mechanics, engineers and drivers.”
— Staff Writers Dawn M. Kurry and Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15 or 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.