Welcome back, NASCAR, it’s nice to see you here again.
We’ve missed you.
NASCAR has never returned to a track it abandoned — until now. Until this week. Right here in our backyard.
With a rolling rumble, a fleet of more than 36 tractor and trailers the size of office buildings zoomed into downtown Rockingham on Thursday evening, met by race fans of all ages, waving and shouting.
Make no mistake: The return of NASCAR-sanctioned racing to Rockingham Speedway is a BIG deal.
We here at the Daily Journal hope you gathered that from our coverage on the news and sports pages in these weeks leading up to the grand event this Sunday.
To Rockingham, let us offer an enthusiastic congratulations. We are making history.
The last NASCAR-sanctioned race was held back in 2004, and for several years the fate of “The Rock” was questionable.
Investment and the installation of safety walls around the famed track helped lure NASCAR back to Rockingham.
It was in early September 2011 that Rockingham Speedway announced it would once again be home to NASCAR-sanctioned racing, with the addition of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200 on April 15, 2012.
“In 2007, we set a goal to return Rockingham Speedway to its roots,” said Andy Hillenburg, president of Rockingham Speedway. “The introduction of the truck series to Rockingham Speedway is representative of years of hard work and the support of the county, city and state government officials, who understood the positive economic impact a NASCAR-sanctioned race could offer to the Piedmont region. We are very excited about this news and know our supporters are just as proud to have Rockingham’s national racing roots become a reality once again.”
The thrill of race fans lining the streets on Thursday for the haulers parade, and the significance of that scene, was not lost on Emily Tucker, President of the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce. She said she couldn’t say enough about the folks supporting NASCAR.
“Ticket sales have been great,” Tucker said. “The camp sites are full. People have been in town buying gas and groceries, and the hotels are full. I’ve seen ‘Welcome Race Fans’ signs everywhere … It’s great to have NASCAR back where it belongs.”
And here’s another person who gets it: Long-time race fan Tommy Deese, a regular at The Rock. He has never missed a race at the speedway.
“This is a big deal,” Deese said, when interviewed about his devotion to the track. “It will bring a lot of money to Richmond County. I hope people understand how important it is, and support it. We have to fill the stands to keep this ball rolling.”
And while Hillenburg is the spark plug of this newly tuned engine, history could not have been made without the strong support of city, county and state leaders who saw the vast benefits of bringing NASCAR back to its roots.
Welcome back, NASCAR, we hope to see you again real soon.