Hall of Famer Terry Labonte Says NASCAR Should Look at Rockingham
Rockingham hosted its last NASCAR Cup race in February 2004.
At the time, it was owned by International Speedway Corporation, which had obtained it in 1999 as part of its acquisition of the speedways owned by Roger Penske.
The speedway is now owned by Rockingham Properties LLC and is known as Rockingham Speedway and Entertainment Complex.
Now that North Wilkesboro Speedway has been resurrected, two-time Cup champion and 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Terry Labonte says he would like to see the one-mile track in Rockingham, North Carolina, return to NASCAR’s schedule.
“Rockingham was one of the best tracks,” said Labonte, who won two races at the speedway. “You could race to the bottom, race up high, race in the middle of the track. It was a great track.”
Rockingham hosted its last NASCAR Cup race in February 2004. At the time, it was owned by International Speedway Corporation, which had obtained it in 1999 as part of its acquisition of the speedways owned by Roger Penske. Two years earlier, Penske had purchased the track from L.G. DeWitt’s family, who had been involved with the facility since its opening in 1965. At that time, it was known as North Carolina Motor Speedway. Penske renamed the facility North Carolina Speedway.
ISC eventually sold the track to Speedway Motorsports Incorporated. Prior to the sell, Rockingham had lost one of its race dates. SMI moved the remaining date to Texas Motor Speedway and closed the track. The backstretch grandstands were dismantled and moved to zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, where they remain as the dragstrip’s grandstands.
Located in North Carolina’s Sandhills, Rockingham is 30 miles south of the famous golf resort Pinehurst and 70 miles east of Charlotte.
“I understand it’s in the middle of nowhere,” the two-time NASCAR champion said. “At the time that we lost Wilkesboro and Rockingham, the sport was really growing, expanding further out west, new tracks, Kansas, Chicago, and the new track in Fontana (California) was there. I understand all that, but it’s really nice to see Wilkesboro come back.”
NASCAR returns to North Wilkesboro Speedway May 19-21 for its annual All-Star race, the first time it has sanctioned a race at the track since Sept. 29, 1996.
“I would love for some day to see Rockingham come back on the schedule,” Labonte said. “Maybe not run it every year, but enough to where you could rotate it on the schedule. I think the fans would really love it because it’s a great track.”
The speedway is now owned by Rockingham Properties LLC and is known as Rockingham Speedway and Entertainment Complex. State officials allocated $10 million from the American Rescue Plan to the track for infrastructure and repairs. Since the money was awarded, track owners have repaved the facility. North Wilkesboro Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway also received $10 million each from the plan.