ROCKINGHAM — “We are bringing racing back to the Rock.”
That was the proclamation of Rockingham Speedway and Entertainment Complex’s Justin Jones just before noon Tuesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber officials and members and local dignitaries met in the pit road garages to officially welcome the track’s new ownership and management to Richmond County nearly three years after Rockingham Properties LLC purchased the venue for $2.8 million.
Jones came on board as vice president of operations earlier this year.
He said the track doesn’t belong to the owners, but to the community.
Chamber President Emily Tucker said the first time she met Jones, she “knew he meant business … knew he had a vision and a plan and was ready to make it happen.”
“We’re just excited that there’s life out here again and there’s some things going on and there’s noise coming out of here,” Tucker said.
Jones said he asked on a daily basis about racing’s return to the speedway. The next question, he added, is how they plan on doing it.
“By bringing back what made the Rock famous: grassroots racing … what made us famous in the beginning, what made us have 70,000 cars parked all over this land … we’re bringing all that back,” Jones said.
However, it’s not an overnight process.
“It’s a thousand-page book — we’re on page 19,” Jones said. “But we have the right pieces to the puzzle like our staff, our conviction, our passion.”
The historic track has six months of events in the rearview mirror with more coming up around the next turn.
One of the largest upcoming events is the Solid Rock Carriers CARS Tour race in November. It was originally scheduled for March, but was moved back so Hoosier could develop a new tire to hold up on the track’s surface.
Another grassroots effort is becoming the new home of the MB Drift Series, which was forced to leave Myrtle Beach Speedway. MB Drift has dates lined up through November for its events, with the final competition round slated for Aug. 14.
The speedway also hosted go-kart racing at the Little Rock in February and a Monster Truckz show the Fourth of July weekend.
This past weekend, Seat Time Racing School returned for the first time in more than a decade and is scheduled to have its next event at the Rock on Oct. 31. In addition, the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience is coming to the track in November.
Other auto related events include this coming weekend’s Gear’d Up Car Show and the Trucks Gone Wild East Coast Truck, Jeep and Offroad Festival in October.
Use of the property has also been expanded to include the Guardians Entertainment paintball arena, which held a charity tournament last month.
While not yet scheduled, Jones said the speedway plans to host concerts, ranging from rock and country to rap and R&B — and even electronic dance music.
“If you’ve lived in Richmond County long enough, you know that everybody says ‘There’s nothing to do,’” said Commissioner Andy Grooms. “Well, there’s no excuse for that anymore. They have a lot of things going on out here.”
Several people, including Tucker and Grooms, recalled memories from the track while growing up.
Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris said he could remember sitting in the stands during a cold race “and I never thought I’d be warm again.”
Following the ribbon cutting at the finish line, Morris took his grandchildren for a ride around the track to give them a new experience and memory.
“We want experiences to be made here and more memories to be made here,” Jones said.
Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris drives his grandchildren around the track at Rockingham Speedway.