Efforts underway to stave off foreclosure of Rockingham Speedway

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For the last several years, Andy Hillenburg and Bill Silas have put everything they had to resurrect and return Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway back to success.

For a while, things looked promising, including NASCAR bringing the Camping World Truck Series there in 2012 and 2013.

But financial difficulties – with more than $4.7 million in arrears – have left the track on the verge of foreclosure.

According to the Richmond County (NC) Daily Journal, attempts are underway to allow Hillenburg and Silas more time to avoid foreclosure.

Superior Court Judge David Lee has issued a temporary restraining order to give the track’s two co-owners additional time to reach agreement on a potential modification of terms with Farmers and Merchants Bank of Salisbury, N.C.

Bank attorneys claim Hillenburg and Silas took out a $550,000 line of credit on a $4.2 million loan in 2008. According to the Daily Journal report, the co-owners now owe $567,909 in principal and interest on the line of credit, as well as $3,964,886 they still owe on the initial loan.

In addition, the pair reportedly owes approximately $200,000 in Richmond County property taxes from 2011, 2012 and 2013, according to court filings.

“I get the sense that this is all going in the right direction, in a positive direction,” Lee said during a hearing Thursday. “I’m certainly going to have the court try to work with you.”

Lee added further, “If you’re asking me that you’re trying to resolve something … take as much time as you need.”

According to the Daily Journal,

“Court filings show that lawyers for the speedway’s owners had been in discussions with the bank’s attorneys to sell the 1.017-mile track at a private auction under a forbearance agreement that would halt F&M’s seizure of the speedway property.

“F&M Bank attorney David M. Schilli requested the order on behalf of the plaintiffs and said the restraining order could be extended “for a very brief period of time so that we can go back and draw up another order that will be tendered to the court with all the parties’ consent.”

The track is currently being operated by The Finley Group, a bank affiliate that Lee appointed on Sept. 8 as managing agent of the speedway and adjacent property.

Hillenburg and Silas are reportedly attempting to sell the speedway and surrounding property at auction, rather than face foreclosure.

“From what we are hearing, various auctioneers have indicated that they would not be surprised by a bid in excess of $5 million for the raceway,” Silas attorney Allen Armour wrote in an Aug. 12 email to the Daily Journal. “Accordingly, the Silas members feel that it is in the best interest of all parties to start the auction listing process as soon as possible.”

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.