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The Rock lives again.
Thanks to new owner Andy Hillenburg; Rockingham Speedway will again roar to life this weekend as the ARCA RE/Max Series visits the famous racetrack that is held near and dear by many NASCAR fans. After a four year absence of competitive racing, the city of Rockingham has embraced this revival of big time stock car racing.
There are several twists to the ARCA event. Bringing back two day knock out qualifying will be a hit amongst fans. Qualifying, that at last count, would see fifty-seven cars vie for fifty starting positions. That’s right FIFTY starting spots. While NASCAR has vehemently held to its forty-three car fields, ARCA and The Rock will venture where few have been willing to go in recent years.
Charlie has long beat the drum for expanded fields in the Sprint Cup Series; it took Hillenburg and ARCA to realize that bigger may well be better. There are some inconveniences involved. There are only forty-three pit stalls, so poor qualifying teams will be sharing pit space until cars start falling out of the race. The front runners will be lapping back markers within laps of the start, causing some huge traffic problems. But this race has all the makings of a must attend event, from both a fan and team standpoint.
Hillenburg was a guest ON PIT ROW on April 29th and made a point of mentioning that this event could become one of the best attended “one off” races for drivers who don’t normally drive on the RE/Max circuit. Kenny Schrader and Bobby Hamilton, Jr. will compete. Tony Stewart will be on hand to wave the green flag; while Stewart crew chief Greg Zippadelli will be piloting the pace car. Ricky Rudd will be parading in the 51st starter with a lucky fan in the passenger seat.
When asked about the possibility of Rudd tossing the passenger and starting the race, Hillenberg replied:
We will only have enough fuel in the car for Ricky to make the required parade laps; therefore ensuring that doesn’t happen.
On-track testing begins at 2pm on Friday. The first round of qualifying is set for 11am on Saturday, with the second round slated for 2:30. The green flag is set for noon on Sunday to be televised on SPEED. Be sure to tune in to our ARCA Insider Phil Parsons and the rest of the SPEED team for live coverage.
Fifty cars - FIFTY. If ARCA can pull this off, then NASCAR will need to take a serious look at expanding their fields as well. It will give more teams and more importantly, more sponsors more for their sponsorship dollars. And we all know it’s not about the dollars–it’s about how many dollars - and cars.
photo credit: rockinghamspeedway.com