ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Construction crews at Rockingham Speedway in Richmond County just completed a $3.5 million repaving project.

The completion of the project comes just in time for a visit from Governor Roy Cooper to announce the statewide Moonshine & Motorsports trail. Rockingham Speedway will serve as the “first stop” on the self-guided tour.

Leaders at Rockingham Speedway hope the new statewide tourist attraction will bring more visitors to the historic racetrack. After being awarded $9 million in the North Carolina state budget for infrastructure improvements, track executives say race fans and locals have been stopping by the track to get a look at renovations.

Right now, “The Rock” hasn’t looked the way it does in decades. The multi-million dollar repave has resulted in a racing surface that is as smooth as can be.

Renovations and upgrades across the 250-acre facility are far from complete. Crews are working to remove the turn two grandstands. In place of standard seating will be a sundeck. Track leaders say there will be enough room in that section for live music, refreshments and covered seating.

Fiber optic cable is being installed in the infield so the track can be equipped with high-speed internet.

SAFER Barriers were removed as part of the repaving project but will be reinstalled this week with new foam. The major project this year is lighting the entire 250-acre facility, including the track.

Track leaders admit that upgrading the racing and entertainment complex is proving to be a long and tedious process.

“After it stayed dormant for so long and so many people came through and took everything of value from it, the last two to three years has been a labor of love for everyone involved,” said Executive Vice President, Justin Jones.

Everyone working at the track, as well as the community at large, is hopeful NASCAR racing will return. The final Cup Series race was in 2004, followed by a brief visit from the truck series in 2012 and 2013.

Track executives say they have had brief conversations with leaders at NASCAR and “the ball is now in their court”.

“Everywhere I go around town it’s, ‘when is NASCAR coming back?’ The same answer I can give them is, ‘we are doing everything we can,’ because that is our number one goal,” said Jones.

In the meantime, the goal is to show NASCAR that Richmond County is ready to race. A half-mile track behind the backstretch of the speedway will soon have 5,000 permanent seats, new bathrooms and concessions.

The first official race on the short track will be October 14, featuring the SMART Modified Tour.

“It’s going to be a full-on mini-Martinsville if you will,” said Jones.

The hope is the stands will be full, sending a strong message to NASCAR and other racing series.

“If you [fans] want racing back at Rockingham, we are doing everything we can to get it there and we desperately need the support of all the fans to come out and enjoy an event,” said Jones.

Jones also says there have been early discussions about a possible CARS tour race on the half-mile track in 2024.

Fans will have a chance to see Rockingham Speedway up close with a free open house on March 4. More than 30 classic Cup Series cars will be on hand to race around the new pavement.