Although a slightly smaller crowd than expected gathered at the Rockingham Dragway last weekend for the American Drag Racing League’s Dragpalooza IX, owner Steve Earwood said he saw more families in the stands.
In the midst of sunshine and warm wind, several generations sat together as drag cars and motorcycles tore down the two-lane blacktop. If you were among the fans, get ready for Round 2 in September, when the ADRL comes back to “The Rock.”
According to Earwood, the Rockingham Dragway is the only venue in the country that brings the ADRL to its track twice a year. He said he works tirelessly, competing against tracks in Southern California and Philadelphia, to make sure the organization comes back to Rockingham.
Three days of racing brought drivers and spectators from at least 37 states, according to Earwood, as well as from several different countries including the United Kingdom, Aruba, Puerto Rico and Sweden. This makes Earwood proud.
“That’s one of the reasons I do it, to help the community,” said Earwood, who is at the track seven days a week. “I want these people to fill hotels and shop with our merchants.”
The economic boost is great for the county, and the event is great for fans, especially with three days crammed full of racing. There is something for everyone.
Drag racing is growing again as a family event, said Earwood. And I could see why on Saturday as I headed through the dense crowd. I spotted moms and dads with their children, teens with their friends and couples. The smell of tempting fried foods was in the air and there were plenty of vendors with shirts boasting “First on Race Day” for Ford fans and the like.
Even Earwood’s family is a racing family. He’s been going to races each weekend since he was 5 years old. His father was a professional racer as was his brother. The business aspect was more attractive to Earwood, and he said it has been more rewarding. His son-in-law and grandson have a drag strip in Michigan, and came down to Rockingham for last weekend’s event. You could say racing runs in their blood.
It also runs in the blood of many Richmond County families, and plenty of families outside of the county. You’ll see the fever grow as we head into April, when NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series comes back to the Rockingham Speedway for its second go-around. Earwood’s campground will once again fill, and the air will fill with the smell of burning rubber and fried goodies. And we know race fans just can’t wait.