Business and community leaders met at Rockingham Speedway for the monthly Chamber of Commerce “business after hours” event on Thursday.
In anticipation of NASCAR’s return to “The Rock,” the meeting had an air of excitement as folks buzzed about the upcoming NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200 presented by Cheerwine, on April 15.
“We need a lot of fans to come out and support the track,” said Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin. “A lot of hard work has taken place to prepare for this. It’s a big deal, and I hope businesses and community members support it. It’s a great sign for Rockingham and the county. We’re part of the heritage of NASCAR — we helped build the sport and now we’re ready to start a new chapter.”
This race will mark the first time NASCAR’s truck series has visited “The Rock,” and also the first time NASCAR has returned to a track it vacated.
“This is exciting that Andy was able to pull this off,” said Terry Greene, Chamber of Commerce chairman, referring to Andy Hillenburg, Rockingham Speedway owner.
“We need community support and participation at the race and other events at the Speedway,” Greene said. “We are encouraging businesses to put up signs welcoming race fans, so that fans and race teams know the community is excited to have them here. The influx of business will be good for the local economy, and we want to put our best foot forward.”
TRG Sign Company of Rockingham, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, is offering a special discount to Chamber members who purchase a banner for their business.
“Our local businesses will be the ones benefiting from these large events, as this will be a big economic boost for our local economy,” said Chamber President Emily Tucker. “This additional signage has been successful over the past years with many businesses participating, so let’s show NASCAR that Richmond County is where they belong and the race fan is welcome here.”
“We want to give NASCAR a big welcome back,” said Monty Crump, Rockingham city manager.
A major obstacle the track faced in trying to win NASCAR back was the lack of the NASCAR required SAFER barriers or “soft walls.” Hillenburg made it a priority to install the SAFER barriers around the 1-mile track.
“The return of NASCAR to the Speedway brings with it a very big sense of pride for the community and their racetrack being restored as one of the blocks in the foundation of racing,” Hillenburg said.
Race weekend kicks off with Thunderfest on Friday, April 13, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in downtown Rockingham, and on Saturday, April 14, there will be a pre-race concert on the grounds of Rockingham Speedway featuring Little Texas. Chris Lane Band will open for Little Texas. Tickets to Saturday or Sunday’s race will grant fans free admission to the Saturday concert.
“We need a lot of fans to come out and support the truck race,” said Tommy Deese, who has never missed a race at The Rock and was named Grand Marshall of the Speedway last year. “If the race teams see that the event has good fan support, it will put us in good shape for a national race.”
For upcoming race schedules and other information about the speedway, visit www.rockinghamspeedway.com.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org