Rockingham Speedway’s planned revival did not get the start anyone was hoping for.
After two tire tests in December produced unsatisfactory results, the CARS Tour was forced to postpone their season-opening race at the track until a better compound could be developed.
The series will be at Rockingham on Wednesday morning five months after the first test with a tire that owner Jack McNelly hopes will be suitable for racing conditions.
“We needed to come up with a tire that would withstand the pressure that was given to it and last longer than half the race,” McNelly said. “I do not want to get into a situation where it would take more than two sets of tires to run a race. The tire has to last at least 35-40 laps.”
Prior to the December tests, only a handful of laps had been turned at Rockingham since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series participated in the facility’s last major event on April 14, 2013.
The track was subjected to the elements over the next seven years with very little maintenance, resulting in the surface becoming even more worn and abrasive.
Combined with changes to tire compounds over that timeframe, McNelly knew that issues would be a possibility ahead of the first tire test but was optimistic that there would not be anything severe enough to warrant a postponement of March’s race.
Hoosier brought three different compounds to Rockingham for the tests but all three showed significant wear after just a few laps.
The second test saw the CARS Tour experiment with restrictor plates. While some progress was made with tire wear, all parties involved agreed that restrictor plates would not be a suitable option for the sake of quality racing.
With no engine restrictions in place, all attention on Wednesday will be turned towards Hoosier’s updated compound for Rockingham and how durable it is over an extended run.
“Hoosier is bought into making this thing work one way or another,” McNelly said. “I really don’t know what to expect out of this tire. It’s all in the hands of the engineers.”
Regardless of how Wednesday’s test turns out, McNelly anticipates the CARS Tour Rockingham event to be pushed back to Nov. 6 so the race does not conflict with the NASCAR Cup Series date at Martinsville Speedway.
McNelly hopes that is the last postponement for Rockingham’s revival but he intends to take every necessary precaution in putting together an event for drivers and fans that is both safe and competitive.
“We’re not going to rush into this thing,” McNelly said. “There is going to be ample opportunities for everybody to come down and test. If they feel comfortable, that’s good but if someone doesn’t feel comfortable then they have the opportunity to wait until next year.”
McNelly said that open test dates before the season finale at Rockingham will be announced later this year if he, the track and Hoosier get the conclusive results they have long been searching for on Wednesday.