Eric Estepp reached the final stop on the Moonshine and Motorsports Trail, Rockingham Speedway. A track with deep ties to both NASCAR and North Carolina racing history. Is there a place for Rockingham Speedway in NASCAR, and what is the track up to now?
Eric goes into depth on the past of Rockingham Speedway, a former staple of the NASCAR schedule. He mentioned a poll in which members of the NASCAR community talked about Rockingham Speedway. Some such as Terry Labonte was optimistic and hopeful about NASCAR returning, while others such as Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were more pessimistic.
Regardless, it does not dismiss the history of Rockingham Speedway as Eric points out. The race track was a staple of the NASCAR schedule from the track’s inception in 1965 until 2004, when the track ran its’ final race.
Save for the Craftsman Truck Series returning briefly in 2012 and 2013 as Eric points out, the race track has been devoid of racing. It was foreclosed in 2015, but it is now under new ownership. Sparking some optimism for the track’s future.
Track owner Dan Lovenheim gave Eric the opportunity to walk and drive around the iconic race track. Eric got a firsthand look at some of the upgrades the race track received thanks to the $9 million from the State of North Carolina. This included a repaved racing surface and brand new safer barriers in the corners.
Eric was then given the unique opportunity to drive around the iconic race track. He did it under the guise of “helping to age” the repaved racing surface.
In order to do that, Eric took every lane the race track offered. From down low around the apron to up high around the wall, Eric tried to run over every inch of asphalt. He even made a stop on pit road to finish off the day.
The race track appears to be in very good condition given what was there. Eric even mentioned how the track is looking to add lights at some points soon, and that the track is also going to host events such as music festivals. This opens up the conversation about what the future goals of the track are.
From there, Eric goes into depth about some of the goals of the track. The track is now being branded as more than just a race track. Rather, it is also being branded as an “Entertainment Complex”.
There are races being planned at the “Little Rock” short track right beside the big Rockingham Speedway race track. Eric even mentioned that Rockingham had conversations with NASCAR about a return at some point. When Eric pressed further for an answer about how recently those conversations, the response was, “We are working on a lot of stuff”.
Many people have wondered about the potential for Rockingham to work its’ way back onto the NASCAR schedule. Eric goes into depth on what he feels about the future of the race track.
Eric loved what he saw at the track, and he talked about how there is still local pride in the track. However, he did mention the one big obstacle that Rockingham has in its’ way, oversaturation. Eric’s estimation is that there are around 13 races within five hours of Rockingham Speedway.
More specifically, he looked at tracks such as Charlotte, North Wilkesboro, and Martinsville. Each of which are at or around two hours away from Rockingham Speedway.
As for where would it go on the schedule, Eric also mentions that due to the track being independently owned, there is really no place on the schedule for Rockingham. Only two race tracks on the schedule are independently owned being Pocono and Indianapolis, but they are probably not racing there anytime soon. Eric says that maybe if they moved the second race of the year from Auto Club Speedway to Rockingham is a potential option, albeit not ideal.
Is there a place for Rockingham on the NASCAR schedule? Eric is not sure, but he establishes that there would be nothing like it if it did return.