ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (March 21, 2008) -- Honoring Rockingham Speedway's history has been paramount with owner Andy Hillenburg since he acquired the track last fall, and Friday he continued his philosophy with the naming of the tower, garage and ...
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (March 21, 2008) -- Honoring Rockingham Speedway's history has been paramount with owner Andy Hillenburg since he acquired the track last fall, and Friday he continued his philosophy with the naming of the tower, garage and grandstands for three men instrumental in the speedway's legacy.
The frontstretch tower housing race control, scoring, the track's suites, and press box is now the Benny Parsons Tower. Parsons, a former Ellerbe resident, earned the ARCA championship in 1968-69 and in 1973 claimed NASCAR's Cup title at the 1-mile track while driving for Richmond County businessman L.G. DeWitt, builder of the facility that opened in 1965.
Recently retired NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd will now have his name on the first- and second-turn grandstands, while the garage has been named for Papa Joe Hendrick, the father of Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick.
Parsons' family called the naming of the tower for the late driver and broadcaster "outstanding" and "quite an honor."
"I think Benny would be so proud to have the tower named after him, because this was his home track," said Terri Parsons, Benny's wife. "For us, as a family, it means a lot. For Benny, personally, I think it would be huge in his mind; he would be very humbled by it."
Son Keith Parsons added, "I can't really express how much gratitude I feel toward Andy and everybody at the race track. It's such a neat thing for Andy to remember my dad at a time like this. We're all just very, very thrilled."
Rick Hendrick said he remembered winning a pole at Rockingham during his team's first season -- 1984 -- and how special it was for everyone.
"I started going to races there back in 1975, and it's always been a great track with really good, close racing," Hendrick continued. "It's exciting that Andy (Hillenburg) is reviving it the way he is. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say that.
"Andy has been a close friend of our family for a long time, and my dad always thought so highly of him. Pop loved Andy, and he loved the old tracks -- the ones with great racing history -- so he would be truly humbled and honored by this gesture. It means so much to my family and to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports."
During Rockingham's tenure on NASCAR's Cup tour, Hendrick Motorsports totaled four victories, six poles, 25 top-five and 47-top 10 finishes. The organization acquired its first pole in October 1984 with Geoff Bodine. Its first victory came in February 1995 with Jeff Gordon, who started from the pole. Hendrick's last Rockingham victory occurred in November 1998 with Gordon.
Rudd, who made his Cup debut at Rockingham in 1975, said having the grandstands named for him was a "tremendous honor" and "something I never expected."
"I always liked that speedway because you could run on the bottom and nobody ever handled perfectly there," Rudd said. "That was the good thing about it; it made for good racing all day long.
"Andy is a great guy and he's trying to revive the speedway. If you talk to all of the competitors that raced on it, they never wanted to see it leave the schedule. That was a lot of drivers' favorite track and I put that in my category, also. To have him [Andy] named a grandstand after me, it's unbelievable."
Hillenburg's announcements came on the first day of a two-day ARCA test at Rockingham Speedway. The ARCA teams are preparing for the May 4 Carolina 500.
For more information about the Rockingham Speedway or to purchase race tickets for the upcoming Carolina 500 ARCA RE/MAX Series race, please visit www.rockinghamspeedway.com or call the track at 910-205-8800.