ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County’s legendary racetrack is getting ready for a repave.
Rockingham Speedway Vice President of Operations Justin Jones confirmed Thursday that work is expected to begin on the track Oct. 24, weather permitting, and is part of the efforts to attract larger race series like NASCAR — which hasn’t held an event there since the 2013 truck race.
The last Cup series race was in 2004.
Carolina Design and Construction, based out of Raleigh, will be managing the project, according to Jones, and the paving will be done by Texas-based Sunmount paving, which has previously resurfaced a number of NASCAR tracks including Texas Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“We’re very thrilled to have them in our corner,” Jones said, adding that the plan is to mill about 2 inches down and repave.
This will be the first major work done to the track more than 30 years, according to Jones.
On Wednesday, Jones posted a teaser photo to the speedway’s Facebook page featuring Rockingham-based Superior Cranes, which he said will be moving paving equipment around the track.
The price tag for the paving project will be “just south” of $3.5 million — more than the $2.8 million the new owners paid for the property in 2018 — Jones said, with the bulk of the bill being covered by part of the $9 million allocated “for water and sewer and related infrastructure projects” in the state budget.
“Without Governor (Roy) Cooper and local government, we wouldn’t have this opportunity,” Jones said.
With the funding earmarked for infrastructure, County Manager Bryan Land was concerned earlier in the year that there wouldn’t be enough for track improvements.
The “biggest-ticket item” is installation of a wastewater line, which Land said Thursday would cost around $6 million, leaving the remaining $3 million to put towards the track.
There are currently around 50 septic tanks on the speedway property, according to Land.
“To be a world-class venue … wastewater is crucial,” said Economic Developer Martie Butler.
Extending the wastewater line will also benefit Rockingham Dragway — which received more than $400,000 from the state for improvements — and opens up for industrial opportunities along N.C. 177, according to Land and Butler.
“We’re thrilled to see some activity out there,” Land said about the slated improvements. “Hopefully it’ll lead to some big events.”
With fresh asphalt, Rockingham stands a chance at being a major player in the racing world once again.
Rockingham Speedway topped the poll with 50%, followed by North Wilkesboro at 26% and Nashville Fairgrounds at 20%.
Last month, NASCAR announced that the 2023 All Star Race would be held at North Wilkesboro Speedway — which celebrated its own revival this year.
During a 2020 podcast, after it was announced that Rockingham would host a CARS Tour race — which was subsequently canceled with a tire shortage being cited as the official reason — Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that the track would need to be repaved before a series could return.
About a month ago, Earnhardt seemed a little more positive, but still insisted on new pavement.
During the Ask Jr. portion of The Dale Jr. Download, the retired driver was asked: “…what other tracks would you like to potentially see revived in the near future?”
“I don’t know what Rockingham might have left in the tank,” Earnhardt said. “I know a lot of people bring that up; it seems like when you talk about Wilkesboro, a lot of people bring up Rockingham as well as a track that could still offer something.
“It needs a new surface, and that would be rather expensive,” Earnhardt continued. “I think if it had really really good asphalt — unlike North Wilkesboro, it’s asphalt has not survived as well, there’s some bigger issues, I think down in Turn 1 especially — but if it had better asphalt or could get a repave, a real conversation could be had about what could happen at Rockingham.”
Despite the rough surface, the track has hosted several smaller-tier races since reopening in early 2021.
The Allison Legacy Race series competed on a roval course at the open house in March, Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge held a race in July and there was a truck and rig race several weeks ago.
Seat Time Racing School and the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience have also been at the track.
The repaving isn’t the only renovation planned for the historic speedway.
Jones said they plan to add lights to both the main track and Little Rock by next summer to accommodate nighttime motorsports events.
He added that his phone has been “blowing up” with inquiries about securing dates for 2023 and 2024.
The project won’t interfere with the rest of the speedway’s 2022 schedule, according to Jones, which includes the Dirty South Showdown Car and Truck Show slated for Nov. 18-20 and the Christmas light show throughout the month of December.
Jones said he’s hoping the repaving will be done by December so attendees at the light show will be the first to drive on the new surface. If not, paving should be complete by early spring.
The National Auto Sport Association returns to the speedway this weekend for its annual Speedtoberfest and MB Drift will have its final event of the year — on both tracks — the weekend before construction starts.