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NASCAR Returns To The Rock

After seven years in search of bigger and better markets, NASCAR is returning to Rockingham's racetrack affectionately known as "The Rock." Local economic development leaders say it's a restoration of profits - and pride - to the city. Rockingham lost a bit of its identity - and a big chunk of its economy - when NASCAR stopped holding races there in 2004. "There's no substitute for the crowds that NASCAR brought to Rockingham and Richmond County during the 38 years that they were having races at The Rock," says Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin. McLaurin adds the city has been busy improving hotels and roads in hopes NASCAR would return. Now it has - at least in some form. NASCAR announced yesterday it will hold one race in Rockingham next year - the Camping World Truck Series. Richmond County Manager Rick Sago says two NASCAR races a year bring about $10 million to the local economy. That's according to a study commissioned from UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton, who is frequently paid by booster groups to calculate such economic impacts. Sago says other developments have kept Richmond County hotels and restaurants busy in NASCAR's absence, but local pride was bruised. "The fans here and in the Southeast felt like they were abandoned and I feel like NASCAR's trying to come back to their roots," says Sago. NASCAR will be back at The Rock for the Camping World Truck Series next April and the locals hope there'll be more to come.