Rockingham Speedway (NC) was once a staple on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. Fans came from all over to attend races there. Those who didn't make the trip got to view the track on their televisions.
But since NASCAR removed the high-banked mile track from its schedule after the 2004 season many people wondered what the future would bring for the track located in the central North Carolina sandhills.
The short answer might be Late Models. After hosting both the ARCA RE/MAX Series and USAR Pro Cup Series in 2008, Late Models are quickly becoming the hot topic when associated with “The Rock”. Just weeks are the UARA-Stars tour announced they would run “The Rock” in 2009 another Late Model series has also stepped up to the plate.
The ASA Late Model Series became the first straight-railed touring series to test at Rockingham on December 19th. There were two goals on hand one to continue the advancement of the LS3 Chevy Engine and to prepare for a potential race date in 2009.
'It's great to be here at Rockingham,” said ASA Late Model Series owner Ron Varney. “With the history that this pace has it's really nice to be making more history by putting Late Models on the track for the first time.”
Varney oversaw a test that included two cars. One was driven by ASA Challenge competitor Bob Varney. The other car was driven by former ASA National champion Butch Miller. Both drivers took laps on the lightning fast mile long track. After a few tune up laps a tire test was run to see how much the car would fall off after a 30 lap run.
“'I am very pleased with the run,” said Bob Varney. “During the entire 30-lap run I didn't have to fight the car or chase the car around the banking at all. We only dropped seven or eight tenths of a second after 30 laps, so I am really encouraged about the race we might have here.”
A mock qualifying run resulted in a lap of 24.72 seconds. That translates to just over 148 MPH. Speeds were higher towards the end of the session. The most important thing for the drivers was to feel comfortable on the track.
“The test went really well, we are very happy with the results of both cars,” added Ron Varney. “We didn't run the speeds that we had anticipated. That's not a bad thing at all. We want the drivers to be relaxed with the track first and foremost.”
Butch Miller who is a short track legend said it was good to be home at Rockingham. He always enjoyed running “The Rock”.
“This is one of my favorite race tracks,” said Miller. “I never won here. In fact, I never really ran good here, but I was always having a better time then anyone out there. We have done really well with ASA and we need to take the next step and run tracks like this one.”
Bob Varney was testing with the new LS3 Chevy Engine, while Butch Miller was running a 604 Chevy crate engine. Varney has been doing a lot of the testing as the ASA Late Model series is looking to use the new engine as a major way to cut costs. One goal would be for teams to run the same motor for up to two years with out having to rebuild or refresh the motor.
“This is the first time we have run the motor with a restrictor plate,” said Bob Varney. “We wanted to get this test done so we can get the info out. I have had no issues with the motor. This motor is going to be great because you will not be able to get in and tamper with the motor. You couldn't do that with the old motor, but the series did allow a rebuild. This will change all of that.”
The ASA Late Model series is no stranger to the bigger tracks. They already run on tracks like Bristol Motor Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile, Gateway Int'l Speedway and another new addition for next season will be the Nashville Super Speedway. If all goes well Rockingham will make its appearance in 2009.