Local News

Richmond County Leaders Make Pitch For NASCAR Testing Facility

Posted May 25, 2004 6:59 a.m. EDT

— There is a new push to bring NASCAR back to the North Carolina Speedway.

Gov. Mike Easley wants to build a test track in the Charlotte area. Tuesday, leaders from Rockingham said there is no need to build a new track when they have one ready to use.

The race is on for cities and counties that want to be the home of NASCAR's new testing and research facility. With NASCAR removing Rockingham from its Nextel Cup Series schedule 10 days ago, local leaders wasted no time getting their dibs in.

According to Bennett Deane, of the Rockingham Chamber Commerce, NASCAR shut down Richmond County's economic engine when it waved the checkered flag at North Carolina Speedway.

"(Racing) drives our hotels, motels, restaurants, gas, groceries," Deane said. "It has a big impact, offers lots of part-time job opportunities for people."

That is why Deane and a delegation from Rockingham hit the road for the Legislature Tuesday to pitch "The Rock" as the perfect place for NASCAR's new test track facility.

The overall cost of the facility NASCAR wants is about $50 million. The governor wants the state to kick in $15 million to get it going.

Easley is recommending the track be built near Charlotte. Several counties are vying for it.

"Ultimately, we want to protect, preserve and promote the motorsports industry in North Carolina, no matter where it winds up," said Rep. Wayne Goodwin, D-Richmond County. "But at this stage, we've got to fight for our respective communities."

The delegation met with House co-Speakers Richard Morgan and Jim Black, calling for an independent study to determine which location is best for a new NASCAR track.

"The Rock" has two strikes against it:

  • Location -- Most of the race teams are based two hours away, in the Charlotte area.
  • Track size -- North Carolina Speedway is just more than a mile in length. NASCAR wants a track that is a mile and half.
  • Nevertheless, the delegation said the Rock has a big advantage: It already is built.

    "You've got a track already there," said Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Board of Commissioners. "I think you can probably convert that track a lot less expensively than building a brand new facility."