Really. It could have been.
When Brasington (yup, the same fellow that built our Lady of Race Tracks, Darlington) built the North Carolina Motor Speedway, it was ten miles between the towns of Rockingham and Hamlet.
Both towns knew exactly what a race track would bring- revenue, people, excitement and, heck, racing! Both the towns insisted that the Speedway was within their town limits. And they both wanted the track to be named for their communities. Hamlet Speedway! Rockingham Speedway!(Hey- that’s got a nice ring..come to think on it)! Rockinghamlet Speedway!
To make everyone happy, the track was named after the great state of North Carolina- it would belong to everyone. But to make everyone really happy, Brasington registered the phone number to the track in Hamlet and the mailing address in Rockingham!
And, to make double sure, a grandstand each was named for the towns.
Along the frontstretch, Rockingham Grandstands..along the back, Hamlet Grandstands.
The track held its first race on October 31st, 1965. The American 500 was the talk of the town(s) and the Blue Laws were even lifted for the event.
48,000 race fans showed up for that race!
Curtis Turner won the race in his 1965 Wood Brothers Ford. Even more exciting, this was Turner’s return to racing after a ban imposed by Bill France. Tim Flock and Curtis had started to organize a union for the drivers, with some encouraging from the Mob. (yes, that mob) France wasn’t having any of it. He enforced his “any driver in a union will not be allowed on a NASCAR track” with a pistol, and banned the two drivers for life.
Well, for almost Life.
The track was actually built using a computer- it was the most high tech race track of the time. 8,000 tons of asphalt were used- the track’s original banking was at 16 degrees. That was changed in 1969 to 22 degree banking in Turns 1 &2 and 25 degree banking in Turns 3 &4.
North Carolina Motor Speedway has been through a lot. The rough sandhill surface eats tires like no other track and it has always been a favorite among drivers and fans both. Even though some drivers have said some pretty nasty things about it, it must have been a love/hate kind of thing. Its one tricky track and it had some of the best racing in NASCAR.
As we know, Rockingham was lost to the NASCAR circuit during the “Realignment”- the great search for the New Fan.
And as we know, our hero, Andy Hillenburg, saved The Rock in 2007 and had cars on the track by 2008. Rockingham Speedway combined history, heritage and the racing of today when they hosted the 2008 Inagural Carolina 500 in May of 2008.
The track hosted some of the most exciting racing of the weekend just this past Sunday. If you missed the ARCA race, you missed a doozy.
An interesting article on the differences between the way in which the television coverage of the major NASCAR series races vs ARCA can be found on The FrontStretch in Matt McLaughlin’s column today. “Like A Rock” talks about the ways in which the ARCA broadcast of the race at Rockingham was far superior to the Fox broadcast of, well, any of the races so far this season.
I highly reccomend it. I love my sport but I constantly worry about how much of racing we’re losing to Media Needs. But that’s not my blog. I’m just going on about the tracks..
Hope you enjoyed today’s little bit of history. In the next day or so, I’ll post about Talladega. Another track from the 1960s and a track many drivers didn’t want anything to do with.
PS. “Rockinghamlet” comes from an article in the Richmond County Journal, which had fabulous coverage of the forth coming North Carolina Motor Speedway.