New president says High Rock raceway on fast track to completion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
SPENCER ó Richard F. Combs said that for anyone who has doubted that High Rock Raceway will come to fruition, he’s got a little advice:
Lay those concerns to rest.
“We’re there,” Combs said Tuesday night. “The financing is in place. From here on, things are going to happen in a hurry.”
Combs, 60, of Atlanta, was named Tuesday as president and chief operating officer of the proposed Spencer raceway. He’ll also invest a significant amount of money, he said, into the track that’s to be built between U.S. 29 and Interstate 85 near the banks of the Yadkin River.
Combs has an impressive resume. He’s a director of First Charter Bank, which is headquartered in Charlotte, and in 1978 he founded Pureflow Ultraviolet Inc., an industrial ultraviolet technology application company.
Combs sold the company in 2001 to a Canadian-based subsidiary of Danaher Corp. He’s obtained national and professional racing licenses and qualified three times for the Sports Car Club of America’s national championships.
He was also a charter member and regular participant in the Shelby CanAm Pro Racing Series, an event founded by racing legend Carroll Shelby.
“Rich brings so much racing experience that I don’t have,” said Dave Risdon, the racetrack’s CEO and the driving force behind plans for its creation. “We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome him to High Rock and have him become a key member of our team.”
The coupling almost didn’t happen.
Combs said that two years ago, he was in the process of planning a racetrack outside Atlanta that’s similar to the one planned for Spencer. The track was to be called “Brookland’s Circuit,” based on the design of a British track by a similar name.
Combs said the track was to be built along Interstate 20 west of Atlanta and said funding was in place.
But Combs said much of that money was to come from European investors and at the last minute he pulled the plug on the project.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable with some of the funding sources,” he said. “Being in the banking business, I know that it’s very important to not just secure funding, but to know where that money is coming from.”
Combs said he shelved plans for his own track, then visited another Atlanta raceway one day. While there, he picked up a flyer advertising High Rock Raceway.
The track is to be a nifty 2.15-mile road course, complete with 10 sharp curves, a similar number of dramatic elevation changes and a 2,400-foot straightaway.
Combs said he was convinced of the track’s success and immediately invested in one of the track-side condominiums that are planned for the raceway.
He said that while visiting High Rock a few weeks ago, he and Risdon started talking. The two hit it off, Combs said.
“Dave and I are on the same page,” he said. “We see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.”
Combs said High Rock will succeed largely because of its location ó a 45-minute drive from either the Charlotte or Greensboro airports.
“You need a major airport within an hour’s drive for one of these courses to be a success,” Combs said. “The drivers who compete in these events fly in, spend a weekend or a day, then fly out. High Rock fits that criteria perfectly.”
He noted that the track’s location in the heart of NASCAR country will also serve it well, though the drivers who compete on road courses are often vastly different from NASCAR’s finest.
“There’s a tremendous market for this kind of racing,” Combs said. “Lots of people across the Southeast want something like this so bad.”
He and Risdon say the track will cost about $30 million, money that they both insist is in place. Combs said major grading for the track will take place by June and asphalt will be poured in July or August.
He said it’s best to let asphalt cure for several months, so it may be next spring before High Rock hosts its first races.
The adjoining condos, which will provide an overview of the entire track, should also be ready by then, Combs said. He said he’ll be moving to Rowan County to be a full-time part of the venture.
Combs said Spencer and the rest of Rowan County will benefit from the economic boost the track provides.
“It’s going to be a boom to the economy,” Combs said. “It’s going to generate a lot of tax revenue. There’s going to be a lot of people, a lot of money.”
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or