In October, NASA Southeast took to the iconic Rockingham Speedway. The track is desperately in need of new pavement, which makes for a surface that is rough and gritty. At just 1.6 miles with high banked turns and a flat infield, it provides a challenging track that is also fast and fun. In qualifying, Eric Gerchak nabbed the pole with a blistering time of 1:08.755.
Race one started with Gerchak and Keith Williamson leading the Miatas down the front straight and toward NASCAR Turn 1. As they raced into Turn 4, Williamson had the better inside line and took over the lead. Several cars checked up as they entered Turn 8, where Yan Dia was hit from behind and sent off track. Jeremy Barnes was now challenging Williamson for the lead as they were approaching Turn 3. Williamson lost control upon entry and spun backward to the outside corner and off the track. Gerchak maneuvered around him in the grass to avoid a collision, but lost several positions in doing so. Barnes was able to drive to the inside and take over the lead. Gerchak wasn’t about to give up, working all the way back to P2 by the end of the race. Barnes maintained the lead, winning by 4.6 seconds and setting a new track record of 1:09.188 in the race. After Barnes and Gerchak, the top five included Capers Zentmeyer in P3, Don Elvington in P4, and Jason Ball in P5.
Race two started with Barnes on pole and Gerchak to his outside. Everyone made it through Turn 3 as the group funneled down from the high banks and into the infield. On lap two, Barnes got loose exiting Turn 3, sliding off the track. Although he recovered quickly, Gerchak pounced into the lead. A little further back, Elvington and Dia were battling for fourth place. After a couple laps, Dia got a good run out of Turn 9 and passed Elvington coming out of NASCAR Turn 2. Barnes continued to pressure Gerchak for the next dozen laps and eventually got past Gerchak, taking back first place. The finishing order was Barnes in P1, Gerchak in P2, Zentmeyer in P3, Williamson in P4, and Dia in P5.
In race three, Barnes and Gerchak again led the field when they took the green flag. As they approached Turn 3, Elvington locked up the brakes, making way for Dia and John Palazzolo to push through. On lap five, Zentmeyer and Williamson also locked brakes into Turn 3, allowing Dia to move up into P3. In the front, Barnes and Gerchak pressed each other hard lap after lap, each one taking shots at the lead. These two gave the crowd quite a show!
On lap 18, Zentmeyer got to the inside of Dia in Turn 4, taking over third place. At the same time, Barnes and Gerchak touched between Turns 6 and 7, sending them both into the Armco barrier. Both drivers were OK, but their race was over. This incident put Zentmeyer in the lead, which he maintained until the end. The finishing results were Zentmeyer in P1, Dia in P2, Williamson in P3, Matt Goodrich in P4, and David Ardoin in P5. Goodrich earned the hard charger award, picking up seven positions after starting in P11.
According to officials, this was the last race at Rockingham on the old pavement. We can’t wait until next year to see just how a repave will affect the racing.