Rockingham Brings Back Memories

TOLEDO, Ohio - The ARCA RE/MAX Series is headed to Rockingham Speedway for the Carolina 500 on May 4, marking the series' first appearance to the one-mile oval since Charlie Glotzbach captured a victory there in 1973. The race also marks a return to competitive racing at the track for the first time since 2004. For many in the ARCA RE/MAX Series garage area, Rockingham instills a sense of nostalgia.

Eddie Sharp, owner of a four-car ARCA RE/MAX Series operation, made his first NASCAR Nationwide Series start as a driver at Rockingham in the 1993 Goodwrench 200.

"I remember that qualifying rained out and it was freezing cold," said Sharp. "There were icicles hanging from the rigs. It was a big deal for me and a big chance. I wasn't in a competitive car, but just the opportunity to do it was huge. There were drivers on that track that I had always admired and looked up to, for example [Dale] Earnhardt, Sr. It was more than just the chance to race at Rockingham. It put me here; where I am today. I'm still chasing the dream, just a slightly altered dream. Back then, I couldn't afford a good car to drive. Now I have 40 great cars in my shop, but I don't drive them, I own them and get to help other young, talented drivers with opportunities that I didn't have. Rockingham should have never been abandoned. It is a perfect example of the roots of who we are in stock car racing. I am proud to have raced there and I am very happy that racing is returning there."

Other drivers who competed in the 1993 NASCAR Nationwide Series Goodwrench 200 at Rockingham included race winner Mark Martin, Harry Gant, Jack Sprague, Ricky Craven, Andy Hillenburg, Ward Burton, Davey Allison, Terry Labonte, Tom Hessert and Tracy Leslie. Hessert's son, SunTrust Rookie of the Year contender Tom Hessert, III, and Leslie's son, Billie Leslie, are both entered for this year's edition of the Carolina 500.

Billie Leslie has entered the Carolina 500 in a No. 18 Titan Tire Ford.

"I went to Rockingham with my dad a couple of times just to watch," said Leslie. "I think maybe the last time I went down there with him was 1998, I was only like ten years old but I still remember it. My dad has been pretty decent there, I know he has a couple of sixth-place finishes and once he almost won a Nationwide Series race there. It is a track with a lot of history so I'm anxious to go there as a driver. The track has grooves everywhere so it's very race-able and I think tire wear will definitely be an issue this weekend. You burn off your tires in about two laps. Growing up, Rockingham and Darlington were my two favorite tracks to watch and the two tracks that I've always wanted to race at."

Tom Hessert, III has entered Rockingham in a No. 1 Maaco Auto Painting-Boudreaux's Butt Paste Ford.

"I don't think I've ever been to Rockingham," said Hessert. "I have a picture in my room of my dad standing in the pits and looking down towards turn one at Rockingham from when he raced there in 1993, and that's really my only recollection of that day; through that picture. I was only seven years old. Growing up racing, my dad was mostly a road racer so I attended those races. Even though he did a few NASCAR Nationwide Series races in the early 1990s, Stock car racing wasn't anything I was really involved with until a couple of years ago. I did participate in the ARCA Open Test at Rockingham and I thought the test went really well. We brought two cars there, with two completely different setups, and got both of them very close speed wise. I think we should be even better when we go back. We're going there and we're going to pace ourselves and really start racing hard at the end, it's a really long race."

Darrell Basham, veteran driver of the No. 34 Anti Monkey Butt Powder Chevrolet in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, has never raced at Rockingham but attended the 1973 ARCA event as a crew member.

"One thing I remember about going to Rockingham was Wendell Scott," said Basham. "I think Wendell had been hurt very badly at Talladega earlier in the year and so his two sons had his 1970 or 1971 model Torino there at Rockingham for the ARCA race. I was at Rockingham that weekend helping Bob Thomas and Wayne Trinkle, a couple of ARCA regulars back then. One was from Louisville [Kentucky] and one was from Jeffersonville [Indiana], right near where I am from. Wayne broke an axle during the race and I had to change it in the garage area. I'm excited to be able to go back to the track and race there. It's been a long, long time since we had that little deal. That's one racetrack I missed [racing at] in my lifetime. I also missed Darlington. I wish we could race there before the end of my career."

Charlie Glotzbach found victory lane in ARCA's only previous appearance to the Rock-a 300-mile race in 1973.

"I remember the race very well," said Glotzbach, who plans on attending the 2008 version of the Carolina 500. "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. But I think it's great that ARCA's going back to Rockingham. It's fast, and the track's still in good shape. The track's the right size for ARCA. It'll be a great show."

The Carolina 500 at Rockingham Speedway will air live on SPEED beginning at Noon (ET) on May 4.

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