Judge to rule on Rockingham Speedway ownership next week

A Richmond County Superior Court judge will hear a motion next week which, if granted, will allow The Finley Group – a managing agent for Farmers and Merchants Bank – to take “immediate and exclusive custody” of Rockingham Speedway.

The Salisbury-based bank is also seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the track’s current co-owners, Andy Hillenburg and Bill Silas, from accessing the property on US 1 in Richmond County. The bank claims Rockingham Racing Park, LLC., owned by Hillenburg and Silas, owes more than $4.5 million as of Aug. 8.

The motion is set to be heard Sept. 25 at 2 p.m.

Hillenburg and Silas purchased the then-dormant track for $4  million in 2007 from Speedway Motorsports, Inc. The track served as a testing site for several NASCAR teams and hosted several lower-level series until 2012 when NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series debuted there. The track hosted another truck race in 2013 before being dropped off the series schedule.

Keselowski on Stewart: Earlier this week an Ontario County (N.Y) district attorney announced he would let a grand jury decide whether Tony Stewart should be charged with a crime after Stewart’s sprint car struck and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr.

That decision didn’t sit well with fellow Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski.

“The only concern I have is that it sounds like there’s a second tape (of the accident) that they haven’t released and I don’t understand why,” Keselowski said Friday. “Beyond that, it kind of feels a little bit like a cop-out that they send it to the grand jury, but I think everybody is wishing Tony the best and supporting him.”

He’ll answer to whatever you call him: Sprint Cup driver Aric Almirola never gets offended by the constant mispronunciations of his name. It started happening when he was in kindergarten, so he expects it now.

For the record, it’s “Al-muh-ro-luh,” but some of the things he’s been called make him chuckle: Everything from “Amarillo” (a city in Texas) to “Armadillo” (a mammal).

Rare engine failure: A broken exhaust valve caused Almirola to finish 41st last week at Chicagoland Speedway. That means he’ll need to be quite aggressive in New Hampshire and Dover to avoid elimination in the first round of the Chase.

Engine-builder Doug Yates apologized for the bad part. Almirola was forgiving, noting this was the first time in his three years with Richard Petty Motorsports that he failed to finish a race because of engine trouble.

Still, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

“Of all weekends for it to happen the first race of the Chase,” Almirola said. “Why could it have not happened at Atlanta or Richmond or whatever else?”

Taste of Nationwide Series: Denny Hamlin was asked about his interest in driving regularly on what is now called the Nationwide Series. Hamlin replied he wouldn’t want to do more than a handful of those races, so as not to distract from his Sprint Cup focus.

Staff writer Jim Utter contributed.