All Roads Lead To A Great Place (Rockingham Speedway)By Chris Knight
Since Andy Hillenburg, ARCA RE/MAX Series champion in 1995, reopened “The Rock” last year, he has spent countless hours and tireless nights trying to bring back Rockingham Speedway, the track that the fans of North Carolina grew up with and love.
With almost two years in the books, he’s getting closer to making that dream a reality.
A lot is on tap for that wild weekend in October and even with Halloween just a few short weeks following ARCA’s season finale and USAR’s third of four championship events – the track is bound to see some spooktacular action.
As far as the storylines are considered, if you dig deep – there is more then plenty to talk about.
Each series has a championship on the line.
In the ARCA RE/MAX Series it’s been the Parker Klingerman vs. Justin Lofton show with each of the drivers swapping victory after victory during the course of the 2009 season. Other than wins by James Buescher, Patrick Sheltra, Patrick Long and Spring Rockingham winner Sean Caisse, it’s been the Eddie Sharp Racing or Cunningham Motorsports entries lighting them up before heading to victory lane.
Should that trend not continue heading into Rockingham – odds are that someone else out of the ARCA crop could pop into victory lane in the American 200. Some obvious choices include; nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel, newcomer Joey Coulter, Rockingham favorite Bryan Silas; Eddie Sharp Racing rookie Craig Goess Jr, Venturini Motorsports new pilot Steve Arpin or could Daytona Beach, Florida native Alli Owens make history and become the first woman in the history of ARCA to win an event?
How about the other championship race? In the point standings, fifth through eighth is extremely tight; a championship race in itself. Rockingham has been known time and time again to cause a ruckus when you least expect it.
With every ARCA RE/MAX Series event comes a few surprises too. Don’t be surprised to see some NASCAR Sprint Cup Series or NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers piled into the mix. Kasey Kahne’s driver, Brad Sweet is expected to drive the No. 90 Great Clips Toyota.
Long-time ARCA competitor Ken Schrader will look for redemption after running out of fuel two laps from the finish in May. Another female driver is expected to be in the lineup and it’s not Gabi DiCarlo – the entry list will grow and grow as the time nears.
The race is also a perfect venue for prospective drivers to get ahead of their game for the 2010 season.
Before the ARCA RE/MAX Series takes center stage on Sunday, October 11, the stars and cars of the USAR Pro Cup Series will take the presence of the one-mile track on Saturday, October 10 setting up what is expected to be one of their finest races of the year.
Long-time racer Clay Rogers is leading the pursuit in the USAR championship chase but Winston Salem, North Carolina resident Brandon Ward is trying to reel in the part-time ARCA RE/MAX Series driver.
Drew Herring made his ARCA debut at Rockingham in April but focused on a full season of USAR competition which has locked him third in the championship race.
Newcomer’s J.P. Morgan and Lucas Ransone are also going to try and make some noise of their own in the Aaron’s 100.
Series veterans Caleb Holman, Jeff Agnew, Matt Lofton, Bobby Gill and Billy Bigley Jr. are also expected to mix up the heat.
Rockingham could be a very busy weekend for Brett Butler. The recently married driver has had a busy 2009 season between racing a jammed packed USAR schedule, a few NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races not to mention piloting the No. 1 LoanMax Ford Fusion for Andy Belmont Racing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Rumor on the street is that the Georgia native will be pulling double-duty between USAR and ARCA.
Other drivers expected to contend at Rockingham include: Derek Kale, A.J. Frank, Michael Ritch, Benny Gordon and Kyle Fowler.
Some of the untold and unknown stories in the ARCA RE/MAX Series and USAR Pro Cup Series are so much alike. To the driving all night with no sleep and a mattress in the back of the van – how about working a full-time job then piling up with your fellow crew members and energy drinks to get that rush? This is racing – at its finest.
All the roads whether they come from North, South, West or East lead to Rockingham Speedway and I can’t imagine it getting much better than this.
Views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Catchfence
Article Tags: "The Rock", Alli Owens, Andy Belmont Racing, Andy Hillenburg, Brad Sweet, Brandon Ward, Bryan Silas, Caleb Holman, Clay Rogers, Craig Goess Jr., Cunningham Motorsports, Drew Herring, Eddie Sharp Racing, Frank Kimmel, J.P. Morgan, Jeff Agnew, Joey Coulter, Kasey Kahne, Ken Schrader, Kyle Fowler, Matt Lofton, Patrick Sheltra, Rockingham Speedway, Sean Caisse, Steve Arpin