The last racing at 'The Rock' was a Truck Series event in 2012. Photo: Getty Images

‘The Rock’ to become part of entertainment complex, with eventual return to racing

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Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, “The Rock” – a.k.a. North Carolina Speedway and Rockingham Speedway – is once again coming back, albeit in a reinvented form.

In presenting his recommended long-term budget covering 2019 through 2021, North Carolina Governor Ray Cooper has proposed the state give $8 million for capital improvements for what will be known as “The Rock Speedway and Entertainment Complex.”

The money will go towards upgrading the Speedway and its grounds, as well as the adjacent Rockingham Dragway — a combined space of 550 acres and 10.5 million square feet — into what Cooper calls a “world class events venue and (to) attract additional investment and visitation to south central North Carolina.”

Among events planned for the entertainment venue are concerts, fairs, festivals and more.

According to Cooper’s budget, the state’s $8 million investment will result in needed infrastructure improvements including “wastewater and water extension, a pedestrian bridge, repaving the speedway, upgrades to speedway facilities and dragway, bathrooms, and Grandstand repairs/erosion control.”

The budget also requires that for every $3 that the state invests, there must be an additional $1 non-state match to round out the funding for the overall $11.45 million project. That non-state match will likely come from a variety of sources including Speedway owner Dan Lovenheim, who purchased the facility last year from BK Rock Holdings, Dragway owner Steve Earwood, and Richmond and Moore counties.

While Rockingham Dragway remains an active motorsports venue with a full slate of drag racing and other events throughout he year, “The Rock” last saw major on-track action in 2012 when it hosted a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event.

Shortly after acquiring the Speedway, Lovenheim told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio several months ago about racing returning to The Rock, “At this early juncture, all doors and paths are open and on the table. We are in discussions with NASCAR. We are in discussion for several events. At this point, unfortunately, I cannot be specific for what, when and how.”

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

The area is preparing for one of the biggest events it has ever hosted, the Epicenter, a three-day music festival on Mother’s Day weekend, May 10-12, at the Rockingham Festival Grounds, spread across both the dragway and speedway properties.

70 bands are expected to perform. Among headliners for the show, which is expected to draw as many as 110,000 fans and bring a $40 million infusion into the local economy for hotels, restaurants and the like, are Foo Fighters, Judas Priest, Korn, Evanescence, Tool, Bush and Rob Zombie.

Los Angeles-based production company Danny Wimmer Presents (DWP) recently signed a 10-year contract to bring the annual music festival to the Speedway and Dragway grounds.

Richmond County economic development officer Martie Butler told ThePilot.com, “So many people recognize ‘The Rock.’ It is a very iconic fixture, but a lot of companies have left our region. We look at this as a phoenix approach. Here we have this massive NASCAR fixture and it is a reinvention of this great icon.”

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Penalty report from Bristol Motor Speedway

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NASCAR has issued three fines to Cup Series crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts following Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, Alan Gustafson, crew chief on Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 Chevrolet and Michael Bugarewicz, crew chief on Clint Bowyer‘s No. 14 Ford, have each been fined $10,000 for having one unsecured lug nut.

Those fines are in addition to the points penalties against Tyler Reddick‘s Xfinity Series team (10 driver and owner points) for failing pre-qualifying inspection four times.

NASCAR also indefinitely suspended Bayley Currey for violating its substance abuse policy.

Michael McDowell to honor Jimmy Means with Darlington scheme

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Front Row Motorsports is changing things up on its No. 34 Ford for the Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway next week (6 p.m. Sept 1 on NBCSN).

After three years of using the same retro Love’s Travel Stops paint scheme, the team will show up in Darlington next weekend with Dockside Logistics as Michael McDowell‘s primary sponsor. With that sponsor comes a tribute to long-time NASCAR owner and former driver Jimmy Means.

McDowell’s car will be made to look like the No. 52 Alka-Seltzer Pontiac Means owned and drove part-time from 1989-91 in the Cup Series.

One of Means’ cars, which was driven by Mike Wallace, is located in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car graveyard.

More: Retro Rundown of Southern 500 paint schemes

Front Row Motorsports was originally known as Means-Jenkins Motorsports, based on a partnership between Means and current FRM team owner Bob Jenkins. Their relationship began with Jenkins sponsoring Means at Bristol with his local Taco Bell franchise, which led Jenkins to a partial ownership of Means’ race team. The team was active for one year before Jenkins separated and founded Front Row Motorsports.

“Throwback weekend at Darlington is one of my favorites of the whole year,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s fun to recreate some of the most well-known paint schemes throughout the history of our sport. Our owner, Bob Jenkins, has always admired Jimmy Means, and the Alka-Seltzer car is definitely a favorite of his. I’m really excited that we can honor their friendship with our No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford.”

Corey LaJoie to carry ‘Scooby Doo’ paint scheme at Martinsville

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Rut-roh.

Popular cartoon character Scooby Doo will be featured as the theme on Corey LaJoie’s No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Mustang for the First Data 500 on Oct. 27 at Martinsville Speedway.

Long-time team sponsor Keen Parts/CorvetteParts.net will transform the team’s usual paint scheme to what it’s calling “the Mystery Machine” for the Martinsville race, which will be four days before Halloween.

“Scooby Doo was my favorite cartoon growing up, so when Tom and TJ (team co-sponsors Tom and TJ Keen) asked what I wanted to do for Martinsville, there was no doubt that I wanted to be driving the Mystery Machine,” LaJoie said in a media release. “They always have really cool themes behind their Halloween-weekend schemes and I’m excited to be part of this one and thankful for all that they do for our team.”

For last year’s fall race at Martinsville the team and sponsor combined for a purple and black Peanuts scheme that featured Snoopy and quickly became a much-talked about fan favorite.

“We are super excited to present this paint scheme to Corey to run at Martinsville,” said lTJ Keen. “This cartoon was his favorite as a kid and I bet it still is today. We cannot thank the team enough for letting us do these schemes and we hope you fans will enjoy it.”

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Richard Childress resigns from National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors

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On Monday, Richard Childress submitted his resignation letter as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Rifle Association and a handful of the organization’s committees, NBC Sports has confirmed.

The resignation came two days after the owner of Richard Childress Racing helped give the command to start engines  for the Cup Series night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which was co-sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and the NRA.

“At this time, it is necessary for me to fully focus on my businesses,” Childress said in his letter. “I owe that to my employees, our partners, my family, and myself. Since proudly agreeing to serve on the NRA Board, I have supported the organization and its important mission to preserve and protect our Constitutional rights. But when, as now, I am no longer able to be fully engaged in any commitment I have made, it becomes time for me to step down. I have reached that point in my ability to continue to serve the NRA. As such, I must resign.”

According to the Washington Post, Childress is the sixth member of the Board of Directors to resign since May. The Board of Directors totals more than 70 members.

Childress was elected as the NRA’s second vice president in 2015 and had also served as the first vice president until he stepped down in April of this year.

Childress will retain his NRA membership moving forward.