Over the past few decades the NASCAR world has seen its fair share of good racing facilities close down due to lack of funding and lack of interest. Many of these tracks, such as Nazareth and North Wilkesboro, were unique and offered great racing. Memphis, Mansfield and Lucas Oil Raceway, three other tracks that have closed within the last couple of years, have seen some incredible old-style short track racing since they started hosting races. Lately, the news has not been that great and the continual track closing has been something that NASCAR fans are getting used to. In the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series, almost all of their stand-alone tracks (tracks that are not run on the Sprint Cup schedule) have been taken off their schedules. The only stand-alone tracks that remain are the two road course races in the Nationwide Series of Montreal and Road America (even though Montreal is in serious question), and Iowa Speedway. This year, we have already learned that both Lucas Oil Raceway and Nashville Super Speedway are no longer on the schedule.
With the two lower series slowly losing their identities and basically running all the races that the Cup Series runs, I have had trouble trying to see a bright light in all of this mess. With many good short tracks losing all of their funding, it’s difficult to imagine NASCAR’s two lower series coming out of this clean. A month ago I was sure that any news relating to the addition or removal of tracks from the schedule would be bad news. This weekend, however, my mindset changed slightly. It was announced that the legendary “Rock” would be back on the Truck Schedule.
Rockingham Speedway, simply known as “The Rock”, has been very close to many fans’ hearts, most of which were broken when it was taken off the schedule after 2004. In 2007, after an auction was held, Andy Hillenburg (former driver and car owner) bought the speedway for $4.4 million. Since then, he’s been working endlessly to try and get this track back on the NASCAR schedule. In 2008, the ARCA racing series raced there, which marked the first race under new ownership. Up until this season, ARCA has raced at this track every year.
About a month ago it was announced that the speedway was undergoing some renovations, mainly the installation of safer barriers, in preparation for potentially being placed on the NASCAR schedule. Officially this past week, Hillenburg’s dream that he shared with many fans around the nation came true. The Rock is back on the schedule.
There are a couple other positive things that are slowly taking shape. Rick Crawford stated a couple months ago that he is interested in having his track, Mobile International Speedway, make an appearance on the Camping World Truck Series circuit. Although this may not happen in 2012, it is excellent that something like this is even in the works. Another positive story is that Gateway has a new owner and is opening once again, starting with the NHRA next year.
Although there are a few positive things coming out of the NASCAR track closing mess, the problems are far from over. Recently, I was notified that Darlington is no longer on the truck schedule. Although it is a track that is on the Sprint Cup Schedule, Darlington is a timeless, unique track that should be run at least once, maybe even twice, in every series. With tracks like Lucas Oil and Nashville leaving large holes in each schedule, and possibly with one of the best races of the year in Montreal being in serious question, the problems are far from over. There is a lot of healing that is still left to be done and the re-opening of The Rock is only the beginning of that process. I have hope for the future, but things need to keep happening in order to continue to improve the situation of these circuits.