After spending the last seven years battling to revive the legendary Rockingham (NC) Speedway, the former ARCA racing champion has taken his share of lumps. Hillenburg and his partners returned NASCAR racing to The Rock in 2012, when the track hosted an event on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The Trucks raced there again in late 2013, but a NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event scheduled for November of last year was cancelled, with the sanctioning body saying that the track “failed to meet its obligations.”
Since then, there has been little in the way of good news from the Richmond County oval. Until today.
Battered, bloodied, but unbowed, Hillenburg climbed off the canvas yet again this morning, confirming that after a hearing in Richmond County (NC) Superior Court, a new plan is in place to save the track from financial receivership.
Farmers and Merchants Bank of Salisbury, NC, had asked that the track be placed into receivership as a first-step toward seizing control of the facility and putting it up for auction. However, with the assistance of a group of advisors, Hillenburg has assembled a new business plan that he hopes will put the speedway back on solid financial ground.
“We went in front of a judge recently and presented our proposal,” said Hillenburg. “We explained that we need 90 days to perform the necessary due diligence, and he issued a Bridge Order to continue the case until today. Now, he has approved our request, and the speedway will remain in our hands.”
Hillenburg declined to identify his new advisors by name, saying only, “They are not racers. They are businesspeople who know my reputation and work ethic, and see an opportunity to create new partnerships that will prove beneficial to all parties, allow Rockingham Speedway to survive and prosper as a racing facility and produce critical economic development opportunities in Richmond County,”
Hillenburg revealed that those investors stepped forward only recently, saying, “When word (of the receivership hearing) got out a week or so ago, people began offering to help.”
Hillenburg and company – doing business as Rockingham Racing Park LLC – purchased the speedway in 2007 for $4 million. Court records say they owed $4,532,796.23 to F&M Bank as of August 8, 2014. The 244-acre site on which the speedway sits is valued at approximately $2.5 million. In recent years, Rockingham has served as a test venue for NASCAR’s three national racing series, hosted Hillenburg’s Fast Track High Performance Driving School and been featured in numerous scenes in the 2006 film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Hillenburg stressed that the deal is not yet complete, saying, “Our request was for the procedings to be delayed, in order to allow us to assemble a new financial plan. We now have until Jan. 1, 2015 to finalize a workable financial plan with our new partners. Our goal is to return racing to The Rock, put the track on solid financial footing and continue to make a positive contribution to our community.”