Notebook: Hillenburg optimistic for Rockingham trucks sellout
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ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (NASCAR) - Rockingham Speedway president Andy Hillenburg is no weatherman, but he sounded like one Saturday afternoon while making his forecast for ticket sales for Sunday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the historic one-mile track.
"Two weeks ago, I would've told you that there was no chance we could sell out the Rockingham Speedway for NASCAR's return," said Hillenburg. "We were doing well two weeks ago; we're doing even better today. And sitting here, 24 hours before the race, I'm going to tell you we've got a 30 to 40 percent chance of possibly selling out. . . .
"I do expect a crowd of 25,000-plus; we hold 31,000. We are definitely going to rock the house whether it be 25, 26 or 31 (thousand)."
The weather forecast for the Rockingham area may go a long way toward helping Sunday's walk-up crowd. Temperatures in the low to mid-80s are expected with zero percent chance of rain.
Hillenburg has been credited with reviving the historic track in the years since he bought the facility at auction in October 2007. Now, with NASCAR back in town for the first time since 2004, Hillenburg could hardly contain his pride.
"Here, that's all everybody's talking about . . . NASCAR's return to The Rock," Hillenburg said. "If I bumped into a pin, I'd probably bust."
JEB BURTON SAVORS FAMILY CONNECTIONS
If there's an extra edge to be had at Rockingham, Jeb Burton feels his advantage may be hereditary.
His father, Ward Burton, scored the first of his five victories in NASCAR's premier series at Rockingham. He also posted his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win here on Feb. 29, 1992, when his wife, Tabitha, was in the early stages of pregnancy with Jeb. Jeff Burton, Jeb's uncle, also has one victory in each series at the mile oval.
The family pedigree isn't lost on the 19-year-old Burton. "My father's won here twice -- once in Nationwide and once in the Sprint Cup Series -- and my uncle's won here a couple of times, so it's been a good track for the Burtons."
The first appearance at Rockingham represents a major step up for Jeb Burton, who will be making just his second start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He finished 13th in his truck debut at .526-mile Martinsville Speedway, but had never been on a track as large as Rockingham until it opened for practice Friday.
Burton seems undaunted by the size of the historic layout, but instead has been buoyed by his truck debut and a measure of early season success in Late Model competition.
"It has bumped my ego up. I know I can run with these guys just like at Martinsville," Burton said. ". . . I'm blessed with the opportunity to have, I just have to make the best of my opportunities and go out there and do what I know I can do. Like right now, I know I can go fast but I'm just struggling with the handling of the vehicle."
STILL KING OF THE HILL
John King pulled off the largest surprise of Daytona Speedweeks with his suspenseful trucks win, but he's working hard to prove he's no flash in the pan.
King backed up his Daytona victory with a solid ninth-place effort at Martinsville, keeping him atop the series points two races in. Even though he's in prime position for a series championship now, King has much more modest goals this early in the season.
"I think this is my 10th race in the truck series," said King. "I came out of Late Models, which weigh a little less, so I'm still learning the equipment, the team, and these race tracks. We're just going into every race to finish the race; that's our goal."
NEWS AND NOTES
Johnny Sauter and Dakoda Armstrong topped the charts in Saturday morning practice sessions for the truck series. . . . Corey LaJoie, son of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie, won a 76-mile race for the UARA Stars Late Model Series.
Updated April 14, 2012