The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) will be making its second trip to Rockingham Speedway for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock presented by Cheerwine, and local officials are hyped about the event this weekend.
“I’ve been looking forward to it and it looks like the weather is going to be great — I can’t wait,” said State Representative Ken Goodman, of Rockingham. “It’s a good community event that really pulls the county together. It’s a tremendous sport and I think it’s going to be a great race.”
Goodman, owner of R.W. Goodman furniture store on Lee Street in Rockingham, lends his customer parking lot to the City of Rockingham for ThunderFest, which unfolded Friday afternoon and evening.
Race weekend is three days worth of entertainment for race fans, said Richmond County Manager Rick Sago, who said he took his job in Rockingham because he is a NASCAR fan.
“I had been to Rockingham several times when I lived in Raleigh, for races,” said Sago. “I never missed a single race out there since I got here in ‘97.”
Sago said it’s great to have a place in the county where everyone can go to have fun together.
“Hopefully the race fans enjoy themselves and leave a little bit of their money here,” said Sago.
“Tourism is economic development,” said County Board Chairman Kenneth Robinette. “This is going to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the county, and hopefully help Richmond County become a destination community.”
As race weekend ramps up, the energy in the county builds.
“It’s very exciting to see something like NASCAR come back,” said Robinette. “It’s great for the sport. It was a big effort to bring NASCAR back, and it shows what Richmond County is all about. It speaks volumes about the leadership we have here.”
Robinette said this occasion makes him proud of the community, with businesses waving banners, welcoming race fans.
“When (NASCAR) pulled out, who thought we’d get it back?” Robinette said. “It’s all about fannies in the seats.”
NASCAR surprised everyone, and made a historic move, when eight years after leaving the Rockingham Speedway, the racing association came back last year. NASCAR had never before returned to a track it left. Andy Hillenburg, owner of Rockingham Speedway, had SAFER walls installed beginning in November 2011 as part of an effort to keep up to date with NASCAR regulations. The walls cost more than $1 million and bolstered turns one through four and the back stretch.
The first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race was held at the track on Sunday, April 15, 2012.
Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris said he looks forward to meeting people from out of town this weekend.
“For decades the Speedway and NASCAR has been a point of community pride,” said Morris. “When you leave here and say you’re from Rockingham people say, ‘oh yeah, you have races there.’ I hope we can do a better job of promoting other tourism destinations in the county to our race fans, like our museums, sporting clays at DeWitts in Ellerbe, and our canoe trail.”
Morris said he attended the first race at The Rock in 1967, and said he has been a loyal local race fan. He said he also looks forward to seeing state officials at the race this weekend.
“Often times we have people from state government that visit,” said Morris. “This is a great opportunity for them to learn other things about us. It’s a good way for us to network.”
There will be plenty of racing and other events at the speedway on Saturday.
The NCWTS garage opens at 8 a.m. Saturday. At 11:10 a.m., there will be the two lap UARA qualifier.
From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. there will be NCWTS practice. At 1:40 p.m. there will be UARA introductions and at 2 p.m. the UARA race, which is 75 laps, will take place. From 3 to 4 p.m. there will be NCWTS final practice. At approximately 4:15 p.m., there will be the FKSSN driver introductions and the FKSSN race, which is 100 laps, will be begin at approximately 4:45 p.m. At 6 p.m. the NCWTS garage closes.
Once the garage closes, musicians will take the stage for an evening concert. The music begins at 6 p.m., outside of turn 2, with the Chris Lane Band gracing the stage. At 7:40 p.m. Ty Brown will take the stage and at 9:15 p.m. the final band, Hoss Howard Band, will play.
The weekend will end with race day on Sunday, April 14. At 8 a.m. the NCWTS garage and registration opens and at 11:05 a.m. the two lap NCWTS qualifying race will take place.
The big race, which is 200 laps, will begin at 2 p.m.
Tickets, suite packages and camping accommodations for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock presented by Cheerwine are now available at www.rockinghamspeedway.com or by calling 910-205-8800. Saturday general admission tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the gate, with grandstand tickets for Sunday’s NCWTS event beginning at $20.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.