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.

Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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