Veterans’ assistance group working to buy Rockingham Speedway

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A new future may be in store for “The Rock.”

A non-profit veterans’ assistance group known as Vets-Help is planning to buy the Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway, which hosted NASCAR regularly from 1965 to 2004 and again from 2012-13.

Matt Harrelson of the Richmond County (N.C.) Daily Journal reports that the track’s current owners, Andy Hillenburg and Bill Silas, have until March 15 to sell the property or face foreclosure by Farmers & Merchants Bank, which had taken Hillenburg and Silas to court over failure to pay back $4.2 million in loans.

Should Vets-Help strike a deal, the group’s executive director, Craig Northacker, has told the Journal that not only would the group maintain and operate the one-mile oval but also build a residential complex on the property for veterans and soldiers returning from war.

The complex would feature both independent and assisted living, a medical center, PTSD counseling, and an economic development center. Additionally, Vets-Help wants to host a series of disabled veterans’ races at the track.

“The track is a natural draw,” Northacker said to the Journal. “It’s a family event…Giving the families a chance to decompress together.”

A prior article in the Journal details how an online tip eventually led Northacker to Rockingham Speedway as a potential opportunity to have racing fuel Vets-Help’s mission.

“[Hillenburg and I] met and put the combination in motion that has resulted in us being on the eve of launching a singular project covering the multitude of needs for our military, veterans, families and disabled in one location with a minimum of bureaucracy to interfere with them healing and being able to reenter the world with a good attitude, the ability to get a good job, and a great support network without exploiting our injured for publicity,” Northacker said.

NASCAR last raced at Rockingham two years ago with the Camping World Truck Series, but the track’s financial struggles signaled the end of that event.

Its future has been up in the air ever since, but if this potential deal with Vets-Help goes through, “The Rock” may end up serving a very noble cause.

Lewis Hamilton comes home to Mercedes factory after fourth title

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On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.

And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.

Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.

The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.

“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.

“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.

“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”

A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.