Among those most excited about the American Drag Racing League’s return next month to Steve Earwood’s Rockingham Dragway are a handful of public officials who likely don’t have a clue that nitrous oxide is anything but a dental anesthetic.
What they do know, however, is the impact the ADRL had on the local economy when it debuted at Rockingham in 2006, at the time delivering the largest one-day crowd in track history — one in excess of 25,000.
“We’re definitely excited to have the ADRL back at Rockingham Dragway,” said Rick Sago, Chairman of the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority. “The crowds that attended the inaugural events were eye-openers for a lot of people and I know Steve has high expectations with new races in March and September.”
Indeed, Earwood is expecting the ADRL series to fill a couple of gaps in “The Rock’s” special events schedule for 2013. Dragapalooza IX will be contested March 9 and March 10, as the season’s first major spectator event. It will be followed on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8 by Dragstock X.
The usual cast of characters is expected with much of the attention focused on the Pro Extreme and Pro Nitrous hot rods that have given the series its unique personality.
“This is Pro Modified country,” Earwood said of the Carolinas, “so it’s great to have the ADRL back on the schedule again. We’re looking forward to a great event in March followed in the fall by Dragstock, which still is the record holder for attendance.”
“When they ran the ADRL events in the past, our members told us that they filled every available room,” said Emily Tucker, President of the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce. “So we’re always excited by that kind of potential. We’re just grateful that (ADRL founder) Kenny Nowling saw fit to put two such events in Richmond County,” she said.
Martie Butler, Richmond County Economic Developer, and Steve Morris, Mayor of Rockingham, share Tucker’s enthusiasm.
“Any time we’re able to attract a large group of people from outside, it gives us an opportunity to tout the economic benefits of the county,” Butler said. “Racing is big business in North Carolina and it’s big business in Richmond County, too.”
“We’re looking forward to showing off our city to fans of the ADRL series,” echoed the mayor. “And we hope that racers, sponsors and fans all take the opportunity to play some golf, eat in our restaurants and make plans to come back and see us in the fall,” Morris said.
In addition to two ADRL events, Earwood said the track’s feature schedule also will include five major motorcycle races, model specific events for Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge enthusiasts, the second Big John Memorial Day ET Classic plus a full complement of Outlaw Pro Street races.