This past Sunday, Matt Kenseth went two for two on the season after winning the Auto Club 500 at California. The race was decent compared to years past, but the question in some fans' minds still looms - "Was California worthy of receiving Rockingham's race date?" Since 2004, NASCAR has gone out west for the second race of the year. But making changes to a good thing does not always have good results.
The Auto Club Speedway has struggled to put butts in the seats since the dawn of the new millennium. This past Sunday's race was no exception as the track offered two for one tickets to attract more fans. Even with the promotion, rumors were swirling that only 35,000 fans were going to be in attendance.
If true, less than half the seats were sold, which is a slap in the face of NASCAR. Factor in that the California Speedway is an hour from L.A. and still has problems attracting fans. The Rock would sell out a race with 35,000 fans. (Note: 30,000 seats from Rockingham Speedway were taken to be placed at the new Charlotte Drag Strip last year.)
It has been four years since the Rockingham Speedway last hosted a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Many reasons linked to the closing of the track was the lack of tourist attractions and a city that was small and unaccommodating. But one thing that always brought the fans back was the great racing and close finishes.
What could be even more appealing is that the new owner is former driver Andy Hillenburg. If anyone cares the most about good racing, it's a former driver. The speedway has brought the ARCA Series in for an annual race and is looking to host a Camping Truck Series or Nationwide Series race in the near future.
Since Rockingham's demise, many teams from the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series have come to the Rock to test their cars. With NASCAR's ban on season testing earlier this year, The Rock has turned into a premier track for testing. Hillenburg and his crew improved the facilities when they finished building a half-mile oval behind the track that resembles Martinsville. With the new track, teams can now prepare for short track and mile and a half races without ever leaving Rockingham.
Now I know that bringing a race back to Rockingham is a strech and might sound crazy, but why take a good thing away from the fans? Instead of having stretched out fields with little to no excitement, bring racing back to where it belongs. Instead of a "Sunday Drive" why not have a white knuckled, knock down drag out fight? The proof is in the pudding; bring NASCAR back to where it belongs.
To Rock or not to Rock?
I think you already know the answer.