Erik Jones (51) and David Starr battle at Rockingham Speedway in 2013. (NASCAR photo)

N.C. Governor Proposes State Funding For Rockingham

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. – The potential for a revival of racing at Rockingham Speedway has received a big boost thanks to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

Within Cooper’s proposed state budget, revealed to the public on Thursday, is a planned $8 million investment to Rockingham Properties LLC and The Rock Speedway and Entertainment Complex.

The seven-figure spend is earmarked for capital improvements to the facility, which came under new ownership last August and was subsequently renamed.

Planned upgrades include improvements to needed infrastructure, such as wastewater and water extensions, a pedestrian bridge, repaving the speedway, upgrades to speedway facilities and the adjacent Rockingham Dragway, bathrooms, and grandstand repairs and erosion control.

Cooper’s budget statement called all of those improvements “vital” to completing the capital improvement project, which seeks to turn the former NASCAR venue into “a world class events venue, as well as attract additional investment and visitation to south-central North Carolina.”

The total cost of the Rockingham improvement project is valued at $11.45 million, according to the Governor’s office. To complete the funding, Cooper’s budget requires a $1 non-state match for every $3 of state money.

Originally known as North Carolina Speedway, the 1.017-mile Rockingham oval was a staple on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule for decades, hosting 78 Cup Series events from 1965 through 2004.

Matt Kenseth (17) and Bobby Labonte battle at Rockingham Speedway in 2004. (NASCAR photo)

Seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty is the all-time wins leader at Rockingham with 11 victories, while Matt Kenseth won the last Cup Series event held there in 2004 in a photo finish over Kasey Kahne.

In a notable sign of the times, no driver currently active in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series holds a victory in NASCAR’s top level at the historic track.

Attempts to return motorsports action to Rockingham were made several times in the last decade, with ARCA Racing Series, CARS Pro Cup Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series events all held at the track, but none of those ventures lasted more than four years.

Kyle Larson won the last Truck Series event held at Rockingham in 2013.

While it’s unclear at this point how or when racing may return to Rockingham, track owner Dan Lovenheim has opened discussions about the possibility and wants motorsports to return to the venue.

“At this early juncture, all doors and paths are open and are on the table,” Lovenheim told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio shortly after purchasing the track. “We are in discussions with NASCAR. We are in discussion for several events. At this point, unfortunately, I cannot be specific for what, when or how.

“I can say that racing will be an integral part of the Rock Entertainment Complex’s future.”

The Rock Entertainment Complex is currently preparing to host Epicenter, a three-day music festival on Mother’s Day weekend, May 10-12. It’s the first year of a 10-year deal for the area to host the annual event.

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