Rockingham Speedway Purchased for $4 Million
Posted October 2, 2007 3:00 p.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2007 10:35 a.m. EDT
Rockingham, N.C. — The nearly abandoned North Carolina Speedway has a new owner.
Andy Hillenburg, who competed in 16 NASCAR races and finished 28th in Indianapolis 500 in 2000, submitted the winning bid Tuesday – $4 million. His bid was one of fewer than 10 submitted.
Hillenburg, owner of a high-performance driving school in Charlotte, is trying to bring lower-tier NASCAR races to the track known as The Rock, which NASCAR abandoned in February 2004. He said he hopes to have engines revving at the track for the first race within 13 months.
"We'll definitely have racing here," Hillenburg said. "We'll have some driving schools. We'll have some movies and commercials, and have a few legends races and hopefully be an important part of the community. And that's the thing. I want to be a part of it. I want to be a part of this community. I love this sport a lot, and I want to make a difference."
Hillenburg plans to move his family to Rockingham from Charlotte by Christmas.
The speedway was put up for auction by Speedway Motorsports Inc., whose chairman is Bruton Smith. Speedway Motorsports owns tracks in Concord; Atlanta; Fort Worth, Texas; Bristol, Tenn.; Las Vegas; and Sonoma, Calif.
"Today is a win for Rockingham. No question about it," said Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin. "It's a win for this community. And I'll tell you what else. It's a win for race fans, too."
The North Carolina Motor Speedway opened in 1965 as a flat, one-mile track. It was reconfigured to a D-shaped oval in 1969.
North Carolina Motor Speedway merged with Penske Motorsports in 1997. The track was renamed North Carolina Speedway and held two NASCAR Nextel Cup races a year through 2003.
In 2003, the speedway was sold to International Speedway Corporation. One of its Nextel Cup races was given to ISC's California Speedway.
The track held its last race in 2004.
Since then, the speedway has been as a testing track and often a movie set. Scenes from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Days of Thunder were shot at the speedway.