Tuesday, 04 December 2018 18:40

Proposal for dirt track at Rockingham Speedway gains support

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The new owners of Rockingham Speedway are considering putting a dirt track at the Little Rock. The new owners of Rockingham Speedway are considering putting a dirt track at the Little Rock. Richard Ozzy Graham - Graham Kracker Aerial Photography

ROCKINGHAM ― The idea of bringing dirt-track racing to Rockingham Speedway is garnering overwhelming support.

Frank Bloom, tweeting as Rockingham Speedway on Saturday, asked for feedback on “hypothetically” turning the Little Rock into a dirt track.

Most of the responses were a resounding “Yes.”

Bloom, vice president of events, sales and marketing for Rockingham Speedway, said Tuesday that he was just trying to “measure interest” in dirt-track racing

He grew up going to dirt tracks in Georgia and said that type of racing is the roots of the sport.

“We’re really excited about all the opportunities,” he said. “The property just lends itself to so many options.”

The Little Rock is a half-mile track behind the speedway that was built by former owner Andy Hillenburg as a replica of Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, but with steeper banks.

Rockingham Properties, LLC bought the property for $2.8 million in late August.

It’s also plausible, Bloom said, that they could build a dirt track inside and keep the paved track as-is.

Most of those responding to Bloom’s tweet were in favor of the idea, though he thinks some were confused and thought he meant converting the 1.017-mile main track.

“Gotta start back somewhere and best to have some racing rather than nothing..we'll take it!!” replied Kim Sylvain.

Doug Demmons, former sports editor of the Rapid City (South Dakota) Journal, wasn’t as enthusiastic.

“I’ll be the fly in the ointment here. Don’t do it,” he said. “Focus on the big track. Little Rock would need grandstands, bathrooms, concessions, press box, lights, parking, equipment … Unless you’re rolling in money … it’s a huge drain of resources.”

Collin Fern, a Norwich, New York, native who started racing on dirt tracks, drove on the Little Rock in early 2016 during an evaluation for Marshville-based Level 1 Motorsports.

He said Tuesday that he was also supportive of a dirt track.

“Well, I think it’s great for the sport to really take in the grassroots part of racing along with trying to rejuvenate the legend that is The Rock,” Fern said. “Hopefully the added media attention will garner the fans focus to cheering on the success of the tracks, both regionally and nationally.”

The Richmond Observer launched a Facebook poll Saturday afternoon after seeing the tweet. By 3 p.m. Tuesday, 85 percent (287) of respondents were in favor of a dirt track and only 15 percent (52) were against it.

County Manager Bryan Land, whose grandfather Bill Land once owned the property and was instrumental in the development of the speedway in the mid-60s, said the dirt track idea is “worth looking at.”

“Racing has changed so much over the years … NASCAR isn’t what it used to be,” he said. “We’d love to get back to those days of the ‘70s, ‘80s, even the ‘90s, but … it does just not have the following it used to have. You look at many of the tracks and we have as many folks at a Richmond-Scotland football game as a good percentage of the NASCAR races have now.”

That’s why, he added, the county and speedway owners are looking at other opportunities to bring in visitors, including the Epicenter music festival slated for May.

Land said he wants people to realize the potential for the economic impact of these different events instead of focusing on NASCAR.

“The ship for NASCAR has sailed,” he said.

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 December 2018 19:02