ROCKINGHAM, North Carolina: Smoke billowed from Lizzy Musi’s car as she rumbled down the track at Rockingham Dragway during a run on Thursday afternoon.
The 25-year-old drag racer from Mooresville was giving an exhibition to business leaders from four counties — Richmond, Anson, Scotland and Moore — for a regional Business After Hours event.
After the initial mingling and snacking on food catered by Fatz Café, chamber members made their way over to the family grandstands for the demonstration.
For some, it was their first time seeing a drag race.
Musi, who was the Professional Drag Racing Association Rookie of the Year in 2014, will be competing in her nitrous-boosted Dodge Dart this weekend during the Spring Nationals at The Rock sanctioned by Professional Drag Racers Association.
She was followed by 14-year-old Samuel Peterson, a junior dragster driver from Michigan.
Dragway owner Steve Earwood has been hosting chamber events at his venue since buying it in 1992 and started including driver exhibitions a few years ago.
“It’s a neat thing to do and its good to have the surrounding counties enjoy us,” he said. “And the racers enjoy showing off.”
Earwood says the dragway, now in it’s 25th year under his tenure, has 98 events scheduled for this year, plus 45 days of private testing during the week.
“We’re one of, if not the, most aggressive drag strips in the country,” he said.
Both Earwood, and Richmond County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Emily Tucker say The Rock is a major economic engine for the surrounding area.
“I don’t think people understand the impact the dragway has on the region,” Tucker said. “The drag strip, we feel, doesn’t just affect Richmond County, it affects the whole region, the whole state.”
This weekend’s event will be bringing in people from 30 states, the Middle East, Aruba and Canada.
“All these folks come in from out of town,” Earwood said. “They’ll be staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants.”
Tucker added all that activity also spills over into other counties.
She also said that the area is a temporary home to the racers for several days when they’re in town for events and will stock up on groceries in addition to going out to eat.
Rockingham has been known as a motor sports magnet for half a century, with both the speedway and the dragway.
However, Rockingham Speedway is currently vacant and has been for three years, leaving the neighbor across as the sole racing venue.
Tucker said because of the economic impact, the chamber will do “anything we can do to support the racing community.”