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Rockingham loses NASCAR Truck Series race

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013

Rockingham Speedway, which began hosting NASCAR races again two years ago after an eight-year absence, will not host a Truck Series race in 2014, speedway owner Andy Hillenburg confirmed.

The one-mile track located about 90 miles southeast of Charlotte remains open for track rentals but won’t be hosting any NASCAR events in 2014.

“We’ve got a number of issues that have to be resolved before we can host races again,” Hillenburg told the Observer on Thursday. “These issues have been mounting over the last two to three years.

“I’m not giving up on this. My plan is to keep doing it. I want it and NASCAR wants it and I’m determined to have it continue.”

NASCAR is expected to release its 2014 Truck schedule as early as Friday – the last of its three national series scheduled to be released.

NASCAR spokesman David Higdon would not speak specifically about Rockingham’s date but said the schedule would be released soon.

“We are still finalizing a few last pieces,” he said.

Rockingham already lost one NASCAR event this season.

In September, NASCAR officials canceled a K&N Pro Series East race at the track. In a statement announcing the decision, NASCAR said the track failed to meet its financial obligations.

A permanent loss of the NASCAR event could have serious consequences for the surrounding community.

When plans for the inaugural Truck race were first unveiled in 2011, city and county officials said the race would bring $4.2million into the local economy.

The first race in 2012, won by Kasey Kahne, was considered a success with a near-capacity crowd on hand. Attendance was down at this year’s race, won by Kyle Larson, but the venue was still considered to have a home on the series schedule.

From 1965 through 2004 Rockingham Speedway hosted races in NASCAR’s premier Cup series.

Hillenburg bought the track in 2007 from Speedway Motorsports Inc., which bought the facility from the International Speedway Corp. in 2004. SMI moved the Cup race from Rockingham to Texas as part of a settlement in an SMI shareholder lawsuit, leaving the track void of NASCAR events.

“This has been six years of my life and I want to see it succeed,” Hillenburg said.

NASCAR mandates concussion testing

Beginning in 2014, NASCAR will mandate preseason neurocognitive baseline testing as part of its comprehensive concussion prevention and management program for all of its national series drivers.

At the start of this season, NASCAR recommended drivers who did not already have a baseline test secure one.

Baseline testing will be performed through the use of an ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test, which is a widely used neurocognitive assessment tool.

The result of neurocognitive testing is one factor out of many that doctors use to diagnose and treat concussions. This particular test evaluates an athlete’s verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time. By performing this test prior to the start of a season of competition, doctors are given a snapshot of an athlete’s brain function while in a healthy state.

“NASCAR made this decision because we think it is important to drivers’ health for doctors to have the best information and tools available in evaluating injuries,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s vice president of racing operations.

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