The Frontstretch: Truckin' Thursdays: Inside NASCAR's Return to The Rock by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday April 12, 2012

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Truckin' Thursdays: Inside NASCAR's Return to The Rock

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday April 12, 2012

 

It’s finally here!

That’s right, NASCAR’s much-anticipated return to Rockingham Speedway is upon us, and it’s sure to prove an exciting weekend at the one-mile track nestled in the Sandhills of North Carolina. And if that’s not enough, track owner Andy Hillenburg has done everything he can to make the weekend’s festivities fan friendly. From opening the drivers’ meeting (which I’m actually against) to an autograph session before the green flag flies and everything in between, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

But just a few years ago, this race wasn’t even a remote possibility. From the inaugural Cup Series race in 1965 won by Curtis Turner, The Rock hosted NASCAR through the 2004 season before it was dropped off of the schedule just five years after International Speedway Corp (ISC) purchased the track. Then, thanks to an anti-trust lawsuit brought on by Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) shareholder Francis Ferko, ownership of the track once again changed hands.

If you re-build it… they better come! At least Andy Hillenburg hopes so, as he’s on the hook for $4.4 million for reviving The Rock which plays host to its first NASCAR sanctioned race in eight years.

Just as the case was expected to go to trial in 2004, the anti-trust lawsuit was settled but not without consequence. As a part of the settlement, Rockingham was sold to SMI, and the ownership group had to agree to use the track only for non-competition NASCAR events. In October 2007, SMI put Rockingham up for auction and who could blame them? After all, the inability to host any NASCAR-sanctioned events considerably reduced their income and made it financially irresponsible and impossible to hold onto. But at that auction entered Andy Hillenburg, who scored the track for $4.4 million and immediately set to work lining up races and making much-needed improvements to the facilities.

Fast forward to last September and the NASCAR world received the news it had been hoping for—the Truck Series was headed out to North Carolina for its first ever event at The Rock. Though the Truck Series has yet to run at Rockingham Speedway, there’s no doubt it will be a great race with an equally exciting finish. After all, the last NASCAR-sanctioned event at the track ended with Matt Kenseth edging Kasey Kahne for the win at the line by a scant 0.010 seconds.

*Previewing the Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200 Presented by Cheerwine*

Author’s Note: New this season is a feature very similar to the Frontstretch Folio found in Friday’s edition of The Frontstretch Newsletter where I’ll preview the upcoming race weekend. Love it? Hate it? Wish something more were in it? Let me know in the comments below.

Track: Rockingham Speedway
Date: Sunday, April 15th
Length: 200 laps / 200 miles
Broadcast Information: 12:30 PM EDT on SPEED
Weather Forecast: Partly Cloudy; High 85, Low 61
National Anthem: Little Texas
Honorary Starter: Donnie Allison

Sunday’s race will mark the first time NASCAR has visited the facility since 2004 and it will also mark the Truck Series debut at the track.

Drivers and Crew Members on Racing at Martinsville

“The return of NASCAR to Rockingham will be something special, and for it to happen with the debut of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at the track is cool. The racing will be great as the track has 3 to 4 lanes of racing, which makes for a highly entertaining race. As it has been in the past, tire management will be crucial for everyone since the tires fall off dramatically after just a few laps. I was able to spend a day testing at the track last year and I think that should benefit me in getting up to speed quicker.” Jason White

“You really have to have a truck that is just well balanced. There is a lot of self-control that goes into it. The last thing you want to do is overdrive it. Rockingham is such a historic race track because of how long it has been around. After about five laps there is absolutely no grip because the surface is so worn out and it is pretty rough.” Todd Bodine

“It’s going to be really special. I know when I won the ARCA Racing Series race, they still gave out the old style Rockingham trophy, the old wooden one. That was really cool. Just the history that goes into that place, the race track is worn out, it’s going to be great racing. These trucks have great races anyway. You can go out two or three-wide on that track, so I can’t wait. All the history that goes into a place like this, it’s almost like if you can get a win, it’s like winning at Martinsville Speedway or Daytona International Speedway or the tracks that have been around for a very long time.” Ty Dillon

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john
04/12/2012 11:55 AM
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Looking forward to this all winter.

SHOEMAN
04/13/2012 08:58 AM
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Can’t wait to see the TRUCKS at the ROCK.

theo
04/13/2012 11:59 AM
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My hat is off to Andy. He won’t get rich at the Rock but maybe he can pay a few bills. He will maks a bunch of fans happy with good racing and thats what counts. Thanks NASCAR for doing something right for a change.

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