Rockingham Speedway: a tortured history of financial ups and downs

By: From ESPN

ESPN has been keeping a running log of events affecting the Rockingham Motor Speedway, most of which has been gleaned from pages of the Richmond County Daily Journal. (Other contributors are noted.)

Following is an abbreviated account of track history, beginning in November 2016 and running backward two years.

Nov. 18, 2016/Rockingham Speedway for sale … again. One of racing’s most well-known tracks is up for sale, six months after a public auction drew no substantial bids. Iron Horse Properties LLC listed Rockingham Speedway on its Facebook page and several real estate websites around 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to Mark Baysek (of Iron Horse). He said the company negotiated with the property owner, BK Rock Holdings LLC, over several weeks, signing the deal to act as the real estate agent on Wednesday. With a purchase price of $3,795,000, Baysek said, the agreement is “strictly” for the real property and improvements on the roughly 250 acres. However, he added that “if someone made an enticing enough offer,” he feels the owners would “entertain” the idea of including the personal property, including the track’s pickup trucks.

The speedway property, which includes the 1.017-mile oval track as well as a half-mile track, is valued at $6.85 million, according to Richmond County tax records.

The last event at the track was a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in April of 2013. It was also used by the Super Cup Stock Car Series for tire testing in March.

A Raleigh attorney representing BK Rock Holdings placed a $3 million credit bid during a public auction at the Richmond County Judicial Center in May. According to court documents, Billy R. Silas is the manager of the Florida-based limited-liability company that purchased the promissory note from Farmers and Merchants Bank on Nov. 17, 2015.

Former driver Andy Hillenburg bought the track at auction in 2007, but in late 2014 — a year and a half after the last race — Salisbury-based Farmers and Merchants Bank began foreclosure proceedings against him and Silas.

The track opened in 1965 as North Carolina Motor Speedway and was a stock car staple for nearly 40 years.

The final Sprint Cup Series race at the speedway was Feb. 22, 2004, when Matt Kenseth edged Kasey Kahne at the line by 0.01 of a second, in one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.

May 20, 2016/No upset bids in Rockingham Speedway sale. Billy Silas is now the owner of Rockingham Speedway. There were no upset bids following the credit bid of $3 million made by James Hash — a Raleigh attorney representing BK Rock Holdings, managed by Silas — during a public auction May 5, according the Richmond County Clerk of Superior Court’s office.

The future of the historic track remains in question. Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, said the county has always been supportive of Rockingham Speedway and will work with Silas, or whoever winds up owning the track, to help promote it.

May 7. 2016/Bid made for Rockingham Speedway. The highest of the two bids made for Rockingham Speedway Thursday morning came from the company that owns the lien. James M. Hash, a Raleigh attorney representing BK Rock Holdings, placed a $3 million credit bid during a public auction at the Richmond County Judicial Center. According to court documents, Billy R. Silas is the manager of the Florida-based limited-liability company that purchased the promissory note from Farmers and Merchants Bank on Nov. 17, 2015.

April 13, 2016/Rockingham Speedway scheduled for public auction. A year after the deadline for a court-ordered sale, the legendary Rockingham Speedway is going on the auction block. According a notice-of-foreclosure sale filed in Richmond County Superior Court on April 7, the property will be sold “to the highest bidder for cash” at a public auction May 5.

April 7, 2016/Racing at Rockingham in doubt again. Plans to bring racing back to Rockingham Speedway have hit a wall. James Martin of Level 1 Motorsports in Union County announced on Facebook Monday night that the inaugural season for the X-Cup Series “is at least temporarily on hold.” An open test was planned for this coming Sunday so drivers could get their cars on the track to prepare for the opening race on April 23 — the first scheduled at the storied speedway in three years. Martin said he learned speedway co-owner Bill Silas — who holds the lien on the property and is a partner with Andy Hillenburg in Rockingham Raceway Park LLC, which owns the track — terminated the lease had signed with Hillenburg. “I was kind of as blown away as anybody else,” he said.

Dec. 15, 2015/Super Cup Stock Car Series expected to race at Rockingham. (The) Super Cup Stock Car Series is reportedly going to close its 2016 schedule with a race at Rockingham Speedway, the former NASCAR track that’s been idle for almost three years. SCSCS has operated for eight seasons, primarily in the Northeast but extending as far west as Columbus, Ohio. Its 2016 schedule currently lists eight dates, but half of those are shown as “To Be Announced.” The track last hosted racing in April 2013, with a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. (From the Fayetteville Observer)

Dec. 11, 2016/A Union County-based motorsports team is planning to bring affordable racing back to Rockingham Speedway in 2016. James Martin of Level 1 Motorsports said his group is creating a new race series, the X-Cup Series, to race at the legendary track, which will “hopefully” start in April. “They’re all gonna be ran at Rockingham,” he said in a recent telephone interview, adding it would be a 10-race series with eight events on the 1.017-mile track and two on the infield road course.

Jan. 20, 2015/Veterans’ charity plans to buy Rockingham Speedway. The troubled Rockingham Speedway could soon have new life. A judge gave owners a Jan. 1 deadline to find a buyer or put the property up for auction in March. A veterans charity called Help-Vets.Org … told (WSOC) Channel 9 that it plans to buy the track and the property and turn it into a reintegration center for veterans.

Jan. 3, 2015/No word on Rockingham Speedway sale or auction. Owners have yet to announce a sale or auction of Richmond County’s NASCAR track following a Thursday deadline for the court-ordered deal. Superior Court Judge David Lee’s Oct. 14 consent order required Rockingham Speedway owners Andy Hillenburg and Bill Silas to “enter into a binding agreement with a third party for the sale or other disposition” of the track by Jan. 1 in order to avoid foreclosure. No new documents have appeared in the case file since Dec. 15.

Dec. 30, 2014/Deadline nears for Rockingham Speedway sale. Owners have three days to sell the historic Rockingham Speedway or agree to auction off the property in order to avoid foreclosure. The clock is ticking on Superior Court Judge David Lee’s October consent order, which set a Thursday deadline for the signing of a sale or auction agreement on the former NASCAR track. The speedway must change hands or go on the auction block by March 15.

Oct. 16, 2014/Rockingham Speedway avoids receivership. Like a real-life Rocky Balboa, Andy Hillenburg refuses to stay down. After spending the last seven years battling to revive the legendary Rockingham Speedway, the former ARCA racing champion has taken his share of lumps. Hillenburg and his partners returned NASCAR racing to The Rock in 2012, when the track hosted an event on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The trucks raced there again in late 2013, but a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event scheduled for November of last year was canceled, with the sanctioning body saying that the track “failed to meet its obligations.” Since then, there has been little in the way of good news from the Richmond County oval. Until now. Battered, bloodied but unbowed, Hillenburg climbed off the canvas yet again … confirming that after a hearing in Richmond County Superior Court, a new plan is in place to save the track from financial receivership.

UPDATE/Oct. 21, 2014. The Rockingham Speedway, formerly the North Carolina Speedway, is going to be sold for the second time in less than a decade because its current owners have run into financial trouble. (from WCNC)

Sept. 19, 2014/Bank may take possession of Rockingham Speedway. A Richmond County Superior Court judge will hear a motion next week which, if granted, will allow The Finley Group — a managing agent for Farmers and Merchants Bank — to “take immediate and exclusive custody” of Rockingham Speedway.

UPDATE, Sept. 27, 2014. An 11th-hour deal that could save the Rockingham Speedway from foreclosure is in the works following closed-door negotiations Thursday. Superior Court Judge David Lee extended a temporary restraining order to allow attorneys for speedway co-owners Andy Hillenburg and Bill Silas more time to hammer out an agreement with Farmers & Merchants Bank of Salisbury that would stall foreclosure proceedings.