ROCKINGHAM — Hours after the checkered flag dropped on the biggest race in Richmond County history, Andy Hillenburg still wanted to soak in the atmosphere at the track.
Hillenburg stood in the flagstand and tweeted a picture of a dark Rockingham Speedway because he didn’t want to leave.
“I was out there until about 11,” Hillenburg said.
And he had every reason to want to linger at the track. On a weekend dripping with anticipation from fans, drivers, owners and NASCAR officials, Hillenburg and his staff came through it all with flying colors.
Hillenburg’s reward for his hard work since NASCAR officially announced its intention to return to “The Rock” after an eight-year absence — an extra few hours of sleep.
“I actually slept in today,” Hillenburg said Monday night. “I didn’t go into work until 7 this morning.”
He punched out at 3 p.m., not to enjoy some much needed time off, instead, Hillenburg headed to Charlotte to talk about the aftermath of Sunday’s Truck Series race.
“I think I did five radio stations and one TV station,” Hillenburg said. “And now I’m driving back home.”
This was at 9 p.m. Monday and another 12-hour-plus workday for Hillenburg was about to be put to bed. In fact since purchasing “The Rock” at auction in 2007, Hillenburg can probably count on one hand all the days he didn’t work in some capacity at the track or with his Fast Track High Performance racing school.
Even his children weren’t immune to working during race weekend. His son, Casey, was manning the scoreboard, while daughters, Ashley and Belle, were busy selling merchandise. Hillenburg admits he owes his family a big vacation this summer.
“The suggestion box in the living room is getting pretty full,” Hillenburg said laughing.
But Hillenburg is OK with the long hours because he has been on a mission — to return to Rockingham Speedway to its glory.
“We put ‘The Rock’ back on the racing map,” Hillenburg said. “I’m proud of the community for their support. All the people out at the hauler parade. The attendance at Thunderfest. And all the businesses that welcomed the drivers and fans on the marque or with their signs.
“I had several drivers that told me they never felt more at home at any other race then they did here.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org