Community members lined the streets of downtown Rockingham on Thursday evening to cheer for the NASCAR hauler parade making its way to the Rockingham Speedway.
The gleaming rigs made a show of hauling the racing trucks to the speedway for the upcoming NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200 presented by Cheerwine on Sunday.
Honking and tossing hats, fliers and shirts out windows as they glided by, drivers looked down on smiling faces and clapping hands from the towering seats of their rigs.
One race fan, Sonny Broadway of Rockingham, has purchased an entire row of seats for his friends and family to see the race on Sunday.
“I’m glad to see that Andy (Hillenburg) did all this,” said Broadway. “He poured his heart and soul into this. I bought the whole bottom row of section 43. I’d love to see them sell out.”
Broadway said he bought the tickets for friends and family because, “I just wanted everybody who wants to see the race to be there.”
“I was at the last NASCAR race that was held at the speedway,” he said. “I was so disappointed to see it leave. I kept going to races in Charlotte, but that track is just no comparison to Rockingham.”
The parade marked the beginning of a weekend of race festivities: ThunderFest on Harrington Square in Rockingham on Friday, URA and Frank Kimmel Street Stock racing and a concert at the speedway on Saturday — all culminating to the day Richmond County residents have been waiting on for years.
“This is a victory for small town America, and for Richmond County,” said Charleen Morrow, of Rockingham. “It made me sick when NASCAR left. I stopped watching races after that — sort of a one person protest. I will start watching them again now.”
Other parade attendees echoed similar sentiments.
“We’re glad to see NASCAR return,” said Teddy and Brenda Cook, of Rockingham. “We’re out here (at the parade) to let the teams know we’re glad they’re here. It’s taken a long time to get them back. We’ll be at the speedway Saturday and Sunday.”
The family of Andy Hillenburg, the driving force that brought NASCAR back to The Rock, was also in attendance at the parade.
“This is a huge deal,” said his mother, Willa Yeager. “We’re here from Indianapolis, and we’ll definitely be at the speedway all weekend. Looking at the lineup, it’s going to be an amazing race.”
On Saturday, the racing action at Rockingham Speedway will get under way at 2 p.m., with the Twin 75’s, a double-header event featuring UARA late model series and Frank Kimmel Street Stock Nationals. At 8 p.m. the Chris Lane Band will headline an on-site, pre-race concert featuring the country band Little Texas for ticket holders.
Sunday will herald NASCAR’s official return to The Rock with the Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200 presented by Cheerwine, beginning at 1 p.m.
Tickets to the race are available by calling the Rockingham Speedway ticket office at 910-205-8800. To purchase a ticket for a soldier, mention “Send a Soldier” donations.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com