The smell of charcoal, roaring engines and the sound of laughter will be in the air over the extended Memorial Day weekend in Richmond County.
The local landfills and box sites will be closed on Monday,
From Friday through Monday the Memorial Bracket Nationals and North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame Race will have the Ironman Classic at Rockingham Dragway. This is the 16th year for the event.
On Friday it will be gamblers choice. On Saturday, the prize is $5,000; on Sunday the prize is $10,000; and on Memorial Day, the prize is $5,000.
Over the course of the four-day event, drivers in Top Eliminator, Footbrake and Jr. Dragster classes will divide more than $30,000 in cash while racing for points that apply toward Rockingham Dragway track championships and the IHRA Team Bracket Finals to be contested at The Rock Oct. 21-24.
“The races always attract fans to Richmond County,” Mayor Gene McLaurin said.
The daily top eliminator and the daily Footbrake winner will race for the IHRA Iron Man after the conclusion of each days race.
“This is more of a participant race, just for the public,” said Rockingham Dragway President Steve Earwood.
Chip Johnson of Laurel Hill is a three time Rockingham Dragway track champion and multi-national event winner. He runs in the Top Eliminator class in his 1968 Camaro.
“Rockingham is paying good money. You can win $5,000 on Saturday, $10,000 on Sunday and another $5,000 on Monday. Plus I have a chance to win my fourth track championship at Rockingham Dragway as well as gain points in the national IHRA Summit ET Series,” Johnson said.
Daily races count towards the Rockingham Dragway Track Championship and IHRA Team Finals.
One driver may enter two or more cars; two drivers may enter one car. No down-track stutters or throttle stops, no gold card or silver cards and no IHRA cards are accepted.
“We appreciate everything that they do to make the drag strip and the drag races successful. It’s something that we enjoy. It certainly brings people and revenue into Richmond County,” County Manager Rick Sago said.
There will be no refunds or break passes issued this weekend.
On Friday, gates open at 3 p.m. Test and tune will take place from 5 - 10 p.m. Gamblers start at 7 p.m. and the gates close at 10 p.m.
On Saturday, gates open at 8 a.m. Time trials are at 9 a.m. The run for cash is at noon, with eliminations to follow.
On Sunday, gates open at 8 a.m. A church service will be held at 9 a.m.
Time trials are set for 10 a.m. The dash for cash is set for noon, with eliminations to follow, including the Chuck Martin gamblers race for $10,000.
“In the current economy, everyone is looking for added value,” Earwood said. “The money’s always nice, especially the $10,000 we’re paying to Sunday’s Top Eliminator champ, but the chance to race for an Ironman, that’s something that’s not available just anywhere.”
“This entry-level class is free to enter and pays $1,000 a day to win,” Johnson said. “I have maybe five more years of racing and this gives me an opportunity to pass the torch to the kids.”
On Monday, the gates open at 8 a.m., with time trials for new entries at 9 a.m. and the first round to follow.
“There are races at the track every week, not just this weekend,” Earwood said.
“Steve and his staff do a really good job of promoting the events,” McLaurin said. “We are excited about hosting the fans of racing, and we hope they enjoy their stay here,” McLaurin added.
“It’s a great way to spend Memorial Day Weekend for a racing family as both my sons, Chris and Tommy, will be racing in the Footbrake class,” Johnson said. “We’ll cook out and race through Monday - a great way to spend the holiday.”
The cost of daily admission is $15. A four-day pass is $50; the three-day pass is $40, and there will be daily gambler races if time allows.
Hollie Nivens can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 19 or by e-mailing at email@example.com