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Thursday, January 15, 2009
'The Rock' still has open testing dates


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The president of Toyota Racing Development tossed out a sweet little nugget Wednesday during a conference call about an apparent plot to monopolize Rockingham Speedway for testing.

Lee White said he heard that one Sprint Cup team made a deal to rent "The Rock" (one-mile track) and "The Little Rock" (half-mile track) for 52 or 53 days to block other teams from being able to test.

He'd heard that NASCAR got upset, saying it was "kind of flying in the face of the spirit of what they're trying to do, which is to save everybody money" by banning testing at sanctioned NASCAR tracks.

He even mentioned Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, as the person who "got pretty ticked off."

"I just thought it was a little cheeky that someone would go that far," White said.

Juicy stuff, huh?

Except for one thing: Unless Rockingham Speedway owner Andy Hillenburg or the folks at NASCAR are lying, this never happened.

"Nobody has requested that many dates all at once to mess somebody up," Hillenburg said on Thursday morning. "We've got testing going on today. We had testing going on yesterday at the little track. There are testing days available every week of the year."

Hillenburg says a couple of teams do have the number of test dates White mentioned reserved for the year. But when you consider there are 364 days in the year, then subtract time not available for race events, what you have left are about 500 test dates available between the two tracks.

"Nobody has more than 10 percent," Hillenburg said. "We've had between seven to 10 organizations in here."

Oh well. At least Hillenburg, as expected, is benefiting from NASCAR's ban. He's bringing a little life into a community that lost its Cup dates a few years ago when NASCAR decided to spread the wealth around the country.

"I feel like we're making a difference," Hillenburg said. "There are a lot of businesses we're dealing with in Richmond County. People are staying in local hotels and eating at restaurants. It's good to see."

But no, he insisted, there has been no takeover of the speedway by one team.

He should pass that along to White.

"I don't know where it all stands at this point," White said. "You would have to ask somebody else."

Thanks for the tip.