ROCKINGHAM TO HOST TWO I.H.R.A. SNAP-ON TOOLS NATIONAL EVENTS ROCKINGHAM, NC - SUMMIT FastNews - Rockingham Dragway president Steve Earwood and International Hot Rod Association president Bill Bader announced Tuesday an agreement...
ROCKINGHAM TO HOST TWO I.H.R.A. SNAP-ON TOOLS NATIONAL EVENTS
ROCKINGHAM, NC - SUMMIT FastNews - Rockingham Dragway president Steve Earwood and International Hot Rod Association president Bill Bader announced Tuesday an agreement whereby the North Carolina track next year will host two events in the IHRA Snap-on Tools Drag Racing Series along with one of IHRA's WCS points meets.
The first of the IHRA national events will be contested April 9-11, 1999, on a date that in the past was occupied by the NHRA Winston Invitational, while the second will be contested on a fall date yet to be determined.
To make way for the new events -- and for the track's return to its IHRA roots, Earwood confirmed that, after a successful 10-year run, his track no longer will play host to the Winston Invitational. The NHRA All-Star event reportedly will be reincarnated next July at Bristol, TN, Dragway using a format more like that incorporated for The Winston, its equivalent on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.
"It was a great 10 years," Earwood said of his association with the Invitational and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., "but nothing lasts forever. As soon as we had closure on the Invitational, we began working with Bill Bader to create the new feature events. Under Bill's leadership, we feel like the IHRA Series has tremendous growth potential.
"It features Top Fuel dragsters, 200 mile-an-hour Pro Stock cars, Pro Modifieds, Pro Alcohol Funny Cars, Top Fuel Harley-Davidson motorcycles and a variety of sportsman cars. It's an exciting mix I think our fans will really enjoy."
Negotiations for a sponsor for the spring race are near completion, Earwood said, and several companies also have expressed interest in the fall event.
"We hope to be able to announce a sponsor for the spring race within the month and for the fall race shortly thereafter," Earwood.
"It's wonderful to be able to welcome Rockingham Dragway back to IHRA," Bader said. "We're excited about the contributions Rockingham can make to the continued growth of the organization and we look forward to a long working relationship with Steve and his staff."
Rockingham Dragway was built in 1961 by the late L.G. DeWitt and Bill Land and, after briefly hosting national events produced by the now defunct American Hot Rod Association, it became one of the IHRA's flagship tracks, hosting two events a year from 1972 through 1988. In 1989, when the track came under NHRA sanction, it for the first time hosted the Winston Invitational.
Since he bought the track in 1992, Earwood has added new permanent restroom facilities, a new ticket building, a new primary concessions building, a spectator crossover bridge, additional paved pits, expanded sportsman pits, new Musco lighting, new CompuLink scoring and timing systems and several new permanent grandstands -- all were added the last seven years.
The latest improvement was the construction of a concrete guardwall from the starting line to beyond the finish line on both sides of the track. In addition, in 1996 Earwood had the quarter mile racecourse re-surfaced the first time in the track's almost 40-year history, bringing it up to 1990s performance standards.
"The Winston Invitational was a major revenue source for the track, but it certainly wasn't the only one," Earwood said. "While we wish our friends at R.J. Reynolds the very best, we're looking forward to the exciting challenges that lie ahead."
Rockingham Dragway will operate as an NHRA-sanctioned track through the end of the 1997 season, hosting, among other events, the NHRA Sears Craftsman ET Bracket Finals, Oct. 23-25.
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