Thursday is a big day in Rockingham as the city welcomes the return of stock-car racing returns to the oval track just outside of town.
Transporters carrying Automobile Racing Club of America cars will parade through downtown Thursday to kick off ThunderFest, an event celebrating the inaugural Carolina 500 on Sunday at the 1-mile track.
NASCAR left what was then called North Carolina Speedway after the 2004 season, but the track was purchased last year by Andy Hillenburg and this weekend's activities mark its rebirth.
At least a dozen ARCA drivers are scheduled to sign autographs from 6 to 7 Thursday night at ThunderFest before attention turns to the track for practice on Friday beginning at 2 p.m.. Qualifying for the Carolina 500 begins at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday's race is scheduled to begin at noon.
Charlie Glotzbach won the last ARCA race at Rockingham back in 1973 and he is scheduled to be there for Sunday’s race.
"I remember the race very well," Glotzbach said. "I was driving for Hoss Ellington. I remember getting a message from John (Marcum/ARCA founder) during the race that I needed to slow down or I'd get black-flagged.
"I guess I was muddying up his show too much."
For tickets or other information about the weekend, call (910) 205-8800 or go to www.rockinghamspeedway.com.
Richmond’s a big one for Hamlin
Denny Hamlin’s hometown is Midlothian, Va., only 15 minutes from Richmond International Raceway. So it's hardly any secret why this is a big weekend for him.
"That is in the woods of my hometown right there," Hamlin said. "So, yeah, I'm going to have a lot of friends and family out there. So everyone knows that this is my Indy, I guess you could say."
Tony Stewart, Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, showed his passion to get a win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway near his hometown of Columbus, Ind., and the emotions aren't much different for Hamlin at Richmond.
Hamlin finished second to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his first Cup start at Richmond and has finished 15th, third and sixth since. He has won a pole, for the fall race in 2006, and said he thinks a Cup race win come. He'd just like to see it as soon as possible.
"I feel shorter tracks are my strong suit anyway," said Hamlin, who got a win in his home state earlier this season at Marinsville, "So Richmond, it's definitely going to be a track – hopefully, I will win that. I feel like I will win there eventually, just got to wait on the right time.
"I thought I had it in my rookie year when I was racing Dale Jr. We were right there. We had it and lost it at the end. Eventually, it's going to happen, just have to be patient and don't let it get to you, because if you let it get to you, it will definitely eat away at you."
Petty ride 'dream teams' forming
Plans are already being made for July 17, the day the 14th anniversary Kyle Petty Charity Ride across America makes an overnight stop in Charlotte. Fundraising teams in Charlotte will compete against teams from Traverse City, Mich., where this year's ride begins on July 13, in a Dream Team Challenge.
Any group that wants to raise money and awareness for the ride can register free at www.kylepettycharityride.com. Teams will get background information on the ride and Victory Junction Gang Camp and tips on setting up ways to raise money to be donated when the ride stops here.