An Old School Day of Racing at The Rock
Leaving home around 6:30am last Friday brought back a lot of memories about trips to Rockingham. Rainy days, cold days, cool days were the normal weather for Rockingham trips, but this trip down to Richmond County looked to be a hot one. My brother Britt and I have travelled a couple of different routes over the years to get down there, but with the completion of Interstate-485 around Charlotte, the jump over to Highway 74 was fairly quick.
As we drove into the city limits of Monroe, a familiar green and yellow sign was standing on the left side of the road. It was a sign for Quincy’s Family Steakhouse and the parking lot was quite full. Britt and I had breakfast there while planning supper on the way home.
In the hallway, at the restroom doors, was a unique picture; it featured a couple of old cars, a pickup truck, some mason jars filled with a clear liquid, four gentlemen loading the cars including the likeness of Junior Johnson. The Quincy’s Steakhouse is old school but the thought of Junior making another ‘shine run is even more old school.
After driving through the city of Rockingham, the racetrack awaited, complete with the ‘Rock’ out front with the names of race winners dating back to 1965 when Curtis Turner captured the first checkered flag.
After driving through the tunnel, we could see cars from the USAR and UARA series making laps, including the #59 of Coleman Presley. This car had an old school look. The paint scheme was the same as the one his father Robert raced in the Busch Series.
Coleman Pressley finished 5th in his UARA #59 painted like his Father, Robert Pressley car from his Nationwide Series days. PHOTO CREDIT ROCKINGHAM SPEEDWAY
The Sunoco National Series cars were uncovered shortly after the drivers meeting for that series and these cars were a site for sore eyes. The tarps were pulled off and the cars that were found underneath were real two door coupes. Pony cars that were made to stretch their legs on speedways across the country. It has been a while since a real two door car has raced with the influx of the four door sedans. Ford dropped the Thunderbird for the Taurus in 1998. Pontiac pulled out of racing a few years before shutting down. Chevrolet held on to the Monte Carlo for a while before bringing the Impala to the track. Dodge has used the Intrepid and Charger models while Toyota has raced the Camry.
The Nationwide Series version of the ‘COT’ set to take the green flag at Daytona this July, will have Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger skinned cars, but the Chevy and Toyota teams will continue with the Impala and Camry respectively.
The cars used by the Sunoco National Series are very recognizable. For diehard fans of each manufacturer, you need to be making plans now to attend the next Sunoco National Series event here in the Carolinas. That race will be a 300-lap event held at another old school track: North Wilkesboro in late October.
Brent Downey and the #25 Downey Racing Ford Mustang. Brent Finished 3rd. Bll Logan Photo
Brian Blum's #31 Coulter Motorsports Chevy Camaro Bill Logan Photo
As for the race at Rockingham, Chase Elliott, in a Mustang, followed the tire tracks his father Bill laid on the track en-route to his final Sprint Cup Series win in 2003. Bryan Ortiz, who finished second, said he studied film of old races to get an idea of where to place his Camaro on track. Kyle Petty and Harry Gant would have been proud as Ortiz ran low in turns one and two the high line in three and four.
Bryan "Catfish" Ortiz #40 passes Brent Downey #25 on the high side in turn 2 at the Rock. Bill Logan Photo
Race fans, you owe it to yourself to catch this series in action. The complete schedule can be found at http://www.sunoconationaltour.com/ as well as pictures of the cars. Over the years, whether in drag racing, road racing, or at the local short tracks, the battles of Mustang vs Camaro have fueled fan interest as competitive desire, these cars being used in the Sunoco National Series have the right fuel for both horsepower and fan interest.
Dale interviewing the Winner of the North Carolina 100, driver of the Aaron's #9 Ford Mustang, Chase Elliott. Phote by Bill Logan
Winning Car owner and proud Father Bill Elliott with son Chase in Victory Lane. Bill Logan Phote