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The Best Historic Races at Rockingham Speedway

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Joshua Lipowski

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With Adam Stern dropping his report about a bright future for Rockingham Speedway, it has NASCAR fans feeling nostalgic about the history of Rockingham Speedway. Plenty of great NASCAR moments have happened at the race track. Here are the top 5 races in the history of Rockingham Speedway.

With Adam Stern dropping his report about a bright future for Rockingham Speedway, it has NASCAR fans feeling nostalgic about the history of Rockingham Speedway. Plenty of great NASCAR moments have happened at the race track. Here are our top 5 races in the history of Rockingham Speedway.

5. 1973 American 500: Benny Parsons Limps to a Championship

In 1973, Benny Parsons entered the season finale at Rockingham with a comfortable lead. All Parsons needed to do was stay out of trouble to get a solid finish, and the championship would be his. On lap 13, Parsons found trouble as he was involved in a six car accident that damaged the entire right side of his car.

His team refused to give up as Parsons had his car “repaired,” if you can call having the entire right side sheet metal removed with the roll cage exposed as “repaired.” This is one of those things that would never happen in NASCAR again.

Parsons came back onto the track and ran just enough laps to finish in 28th place and win the championship by 67 points. It was Parsons’ only Cup Series championship.

4. 1981 Carolina 500: ESPN Introduced to a Fuel Mileage Thriller

In 1981, NASCAR on TV was starting to gain some traction, and one of NASCAR’s best TV partnerships began. Bob Jenkins and Eli Gold brought NASCAR to ESPN for the first time for the fourth race of the season, and it was a dandy.

Cale Yarborough led 320 laps on the day, but the race came down to fuel mileage. Yarborough ran out of fuel with 24 laps to go, handing the lead to Richard Petty. Petty, who had won the Daytona 500 three races earlier on fuel mileage, tried to stretch it again, but he could not.

Darrell Waltrip would inherit the lead with three laps to go and outlast the field on fuel to win his second race of the season. Waltrip would win 11 races en route to his first Cup Series Championship.

3. 2002 Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400: Johnny Benson Finally Gets a Win

Johnny Benson, Jr. was the 1996 Cup Series Rookie of the Year, but he could not find victory lane. As a matter of fact, Benson would finish second three times before the Cup Series traveled to Rockingham for the 34th of 36 races in the 2002 season.

The 393 lap race was dominated by the Roush Racing duo of Mark Martin (144 laps led) and Kurt Busch (105 laps led). Benson took the lead from Busch with 28 laps to go with Martin in hot pursuit. Martin was second in points heading into the race and desperate for a win.

The two battled all throughout the final laps of the race, but it was Benson who held of Martin for the win. It was Benson’s only career Cup Series win, but he would also go on to win the 2008 Craftsman Truck Series championship.

2. 2001 Dura Lube 400: Steve Park Helps DEI Heal

After the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500, the last place that many in the NASCAR community wanted to be that next Sunday was at Rockingham Speedway. However, the NASCAR circuit trudged onward to a rainy Rockingham for the second race of the season. Sunday was a struggle as rain plagued the start of the race, forcing NASCAR to suspend the race after 52 laps and postpone it to Monday

On Monday, sunny skies greeted the field and the top three starters of Jeff Gordon (180 laps led), Steve Park (167 laps led), and Bobby Labonte (32 laps led) swapped the lead all day. Park took the lead from Jeff Gordon with 55 laps to go, but Bobby Labonte was closing in.

Labonte came back from almost two seconds back with 10 laps to go to catch Park. Park held on for dear life, and took home a much needed win for Dale Earnhardt Inc. It was the second win in Park’s career, and one that the organization needed to keep going.

1. 2004 Subway 400: “The Rock” Goes out with a Bang

In 2004, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Rockingham Speedway. Low attendance figures and, similar to North Wilkesboro, close proximity to more prominent tracks, called the tracks future into question. Now relegated to one race, the track seemed to be on its’ way out, but it was not going to go out without a bang.

Defending Cup Series Champion Matt Kenseth dominated the day leading 259 laps, but he would have to earn the win in the closing laps. A three-way battle for the lead ensued in the final laps between Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, and rookie Kasey Kahne. The battle went all the way to the final lap where Kahne dove under Kenseth in turn four, but Kenseth would edge Kahne by only 0.01 seconds.

It was Kenseth’s eighth career win and his first of 2004. Later that year, it was officially announced that Rockingham would be taken off the schedule to give a second race to Texas Motor Speedway.

Maybe the history of Rockingham Speedway is not done quite yet. It still hosts events to this day, and with the recent report, the Cup Series might come back to Rockingham in the near future.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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