Thursday, April 14, 2016

Silas Speaks On Rockingham Speedway, What Went Wrong And What Comes Next

Rockingham Speedway’s Bill Silas broke his lengthy silence today in an exclusive interview with, clarifying his role in the operation of the North Carolina speed plant, discussing what went wrong and outlining his plans for the future.

It was announced this week that the venerable speedway will go up for public auction on Thursday, May 5 at the Richmond County (NC) Superior Court, with the track, its grounds and infrastructure being sold to the highest bidder. Silas confirmed that the sale will take place, while disputing past descriptions of him as a part-owner of Rockingham, along with former ARCA champion and NASCAR racer Andy Hillenburg.

“I have never been a partner in the speedway,” he said. “I co-signed the note for Andy to purchase the track. I saw it as something for my son Bryan to have a hand in at some point in the future, but I was never involved in the day-to-day operation of the track.

“I never thought we’d make a ton of money, but I didn’t think we’d lose a ton, either,” said Silas. “I thought we’d have it paid off in 10 years, and it would be a great opportunity for Bryan. It has always been about Bryan.”

Silas said that in his opinion, Rockingham’s financial downfall stemmed from a failure to supplement its on-track activities with other, non-racing events.

“The first race Andy booked was an ARCA show,” he recalled. “We spent $300-400,000 and never made it back. That was a tough way to start. Sponsorships didn’t come through the way we expected them to, and then we got hit with one of the biggest financial recessions in history. The timing could not have been worse.

“We tried bringing in the (NASCAR Camping World) Truck Series,” said Silas, “and it was a complete financial failure. (The monetary strain) began impacting my main business, and I started to realize that this was not working out the way we had hoped. I suggested (to Hillenburg) that he either buy me out, or that we hang a ‘For Sale’ sign out front, but he didn’t want to do that. He sincerely believed that we could make it work.”

Silas said that after some financial restructuring, he mistakenly believed that his name had been taken off the bank note.

“I trusted that my name was off the note,” he said, “but that was not the case.”

Silas stressed that he harbors no animosity or ill-will toward Hillenburg, who “put his life on the line for that race track. He never misled me. He worked his tail off, because he loves Rockingham Speedway and Richmond County. The decision was made to run a second NASCAR Truck race, and again, there was no money (made). A lot more money went out the door, with nothing coming back in.

“At a certain point, it just doesn’t make sense to keep writing checks.”

Silas said that in his opinion, Rockingham “should have gone on the auction block a long time ago.  You can’t keep throwing good money after bad. I’ve spent more than $200,000 on attorney’s fees alone since the last race there (in April of 2013). I bought the note from the bank. I have spent millions of dollars. I’m spending money right now to get the track as operational as possible for a future buyer.”

Silas said he believes Rockingham could make money, if properly run.

“It can’t be just racing,” he said. “Two or three races a year will not begin to pay the bills. The track needs other (non-racing) events to draw people in. The place is totally underutilized. When you’re paying 7.5% interest on a bank loan and your payment is $37,000 a month, $22,000 of that is interest alone. That doesn’t work unless you have cross-revenue from other events.”

Silas said he believes Rockingham “will never be just a race track, ever again. Look at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” he said. “There is something going on there just about every day. They have 2-3 major racing events each year, but they’re putting something in the bank just about every day.”

He stressed, however, that he is not the man for the job.

“I have 1,000 employees in seven states,” he said. “I can only do so many things at the same time. Running a racetrack was never part of my plan. I am stretched too thin to do it myself, and Bryan doesn’t want to tackle it, either. The best thing to do is hand it off to someone who can give it their full attention.

“Rockingham needs a businessman, not just a racer.”

Silas declined to comment on statements made by executive director Craig Northacker, who announced plans in January of 2015 to purchase the speedway as the centerpiece of a “Reintegration Center” for military veterans. He did say, however, that at various points, a number of individuals have expressed interest in buying the track.

“At least 10 people have talked about buying Rockingham,” he said. “Unfortunately, not one of them put forth a single dime. In fact, people got in trouble for using the track, after being given permission to do so by people who had no authorization. Locks were cut off gates by folks who thought they had permission to be there."

Finally, Silas said he has been disappointed with the lack of support shown by area race fans, as well as the unfair criticism he believes he has received from some members of the racing community.

“I’m not going to write checks all day, if people won’t support the race track,” he said. “The people who criticize me are not the ones draining their checking accounts (to keep Rockingham running). I’m not trying to kill the speedway, I‘m trying to save it.

“On May 5, someone is going to own this race track, debt-free,” he said. “Any previous debts have either been paid, or forgiven by the courts. There is an opportunity here for someone to make a clean start and do what it takes to make Rockingham Speedway successful again.

“All it takes is for the right person to step forward.”  


  1. I did take my son to both of the truck races, geez I love that place. On the first race weekend we also went to Charlotte for the 4 wide NHRA races. My son's first words, as 12 years old were, wow, are these places different. Rockingham could never spend Charlotte money for upkeep and upgrades. Fans years ago proved that they did not want anything to do with The Rock anymore when Nascar basically begged them to get their butts to the track and fill the stands for the Spring Cup Series and they did not show. My word, Dave damn near begged people to go to the Truck races, they did for one, but not the other. Hell, I bought my truck tickets and 10 more for the troops. Yet, now people will cry that it will become whatever it becomes, the next North Wilksboro sitting there left to rot again. As an aside...Atlanta? Take heed.

    1. Atlanta may be in a better position than Rockingham or North Wilkesboro, though Atlanta is a notoriously mediocre sports town.

  2. Billy, the only reason it was not on the auction block is that I was to be given the opportunity to buy it. We had a deal worked out last year, but the other members in the triad refused to cooperate. I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars as well trying to make it work, only to be thwarted time and again. Why are you asking me for $ 4.1 million, only to turn around and auction it? There is a lot more to the story - but Dave Moody was uninterested in what we can do for our military and veterans there. Actions speak louder than words, Billy. Why do you not want to let me do what we started - turn it into a reintegration center? You paid $ 4 million for the note when we had it down to $ 2.7 million last year before the bank intervened. Then did not sign the purchase contract. This is lousy business - I have offered to enable you to recover your losses from the track - for you to handle the massive amounts of construction we are entering in to. I have the purchase contract you recently sent me - I asked to make sure that no one else had claims, and that if Hillenburg was in bankruptcy that we had the permission of the Court appointed trustee. A couple of weeks later after no answer, without telling me, you put the track up for auction. And it appears you have been in conversation with people I was paying to get work done there without telling me. That is stealing from a non-profit. You told me recently that you had $ 400,000 in escrow from another buyer, but that you wanted the veterans to have the track. Your attorney belied that sentiment with his comment that my concerns over 10,000 veteran suicides was mere "diatribe". You reinforced that sentiment by your actions now. I have a lease there, which you acknowledged, and which I have insurance for that you are named as a loss payee on. And yet you deny me access wrongfully. The real sordid history of the track is being unraveled as we speak - it will not have a chance to get to auction.

  3. Dave - if I am incorrect in what I thought was your lack of interest in getting our military, veterans and families help, then I apologize. I have dealt with an awful lot of fraud throughout this whole process, which I have documented. I have not used public money doing this - and I learned along time ago if people are not part of the solution, then they are part of the problem. You read my note and published it, and I thank you for doing that. I would have thought you would have been interest in the substance of the story. If you are then let us discuss that - and how that can be used to help, not hinder, our mission. I am an old NCO - if you have not served you may not understand what that means. But to the people I help it means everything. Why you want to castigate me when the frauds are well-established by others is beyond me, but as you said, this is your show. So, again, if I am incorrect in my assessment of your lack of interest in helping our constituents, I apologize. But I do not see to many other folks putting their money where their mouth is to accomplish the mission - and I have experienced a lot of people stealing from me under the pretense they were helping me, when if fact there was a great deal of duplicity and malpractice. And if that is not the story, well, so be it.
    I send this to you in good faith that I am sincere in my actions. I am not a race guy, I spend too much time away from my family, and the local authorities have been useless in following up on verified fraud. That is why I am so frustrated - my people are hurting out there while those on the public payroll flies US flags, take good pictures, and kiss babies, while their indifference continues to allow the ongoing genocide of those who put their lives on the line. I wish you well.

    1. No thanks, I have learned my lesson. After being insulted twice by you -- once on your personal Facebook page the day after our interview and again today in your previous comment -- I think we've reached the end of our trail.

      I have personally done more to publicize your effort to purchase Rockingham Speedway than every other media member, combined. I have arguably garnered more attention for your cause than you have created yourself; all because of my desire to see a grand old speedway saved from the wrecking ball. If that makes me anti-military or "part of the problem," so be it. I've been called worse, by better.

      I have never "castigated" you, Mr. Northacker. That is not my job. My job is to ask the hard questions and report the answers accurately, and I have done so throughout this process. I will continue to cover this story as it progresses, understanding that in your eyes, I am the enemy.

      I leave you now to your filibusters, and to the realization that our personal bridge -- one that could have been quite helpful in publicizing both your project and your cause -- is now fully and irrevocably ablaze.

      Best --

      Dave Moody

    2. Craig, I bought 10 tickets for troops, both years the truck raced there. It was because I heard Dave Moody on his program day after day, putting the word out that if you can't make it to the track yourself, there's a couple bases nearby full of troops that would love to go.

      Out of sheer selfishness, and disdain for the troops, he constantly repeated himself. It was obvious to me how little respect he had for the men and women that serve this country, by telling millions of people tuned into his program to but a ticket for a troop, that I bought 20 just to shut him up.

      Your anger is misdirected, and your assumptions incorrect.

      Craig, appreciate what you do for the troops, and while most can't do as much for them as you, what they can and do give doesn't mean any less.

      I have never personally met Dave Moody, but have listened to his program for several years. I have never heard anything in all those years, that would make me question his respect for the people that protect us.

      And just because you kind of said "With all due respect" at the end of your diatribe, doesn't make it acceptable.

    3. Thank you, Ted. I'm glad someone remembers...

    4. Hello Everyone I live in RICHMOND county I love the Race Track I hope Ever Who Gets the Track brings Racing back to the ROCK . I have been Reading and trying to figure all this out must of all im trying to figure out Mr.Northacker you saying all this negative stuff about Mr.Silas and the Track but although i myself has seen Pictures of YOU YOURSELF wearing a shirt a ROCKINGHAM ROCK shirt with theROCKINGHAM logo on it or a ROCKINGHAM SPEEDWAY LOGO on bythe TRACK meeing Pubilic officials wanting there support for the track when you dont even own the TRACK . i seen pictures of you Practiicing a RACE CAR at the TRACK FOR YOUR on Benifits. IM really confused of what or how you use the track if you dont own it. im just saying im just trying to understand all this.

  4. I'm not sure if anybody is still monitoring this or not, but if so - is there any update on the status of this track? A search of the net turns up nothing over the past several months.