Coronavirus Coverage From This Week’s Area Auto Racing News Published 3-17-2020

– Three Central Pennsylvania Dirt Tracks Among A Few Sporting Events Conducted This Past Weekend –

Coronavirus Pandemic Forces Race Cancellation Worldwide

By STEVE BARRICK An invisible virus is wreaking worldwide havoc, causing widespread illnesses, deaths, and upending lives. In response to government gathering size bans, logistical planning or personal choice, major sporting events including auto racing events in the United States were either canceled or postponed this past weekend. Three Central Pennsylvania speedways, however, were able to host events over the weekend along with a handful across the country. Lincoln, Port Royal and Williams Grove were able to host their events with gathering limitations only suggested, not mandated. A dirt Late Model race in Georgia was also held along with a 360 Sprint Car race in California where spectators were limited to 250 or less. Other major sporting events either canceled or postponed include the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, GA, The NCAA ‘March Madness’ Basketball Tournament, and the Boston Marathon. The National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League suspended their seasons until further notice. Major League Soccer suspended games for 30 days. Major League Baseball has halted Spring Training and has announced an unspecified delay in the start of the 2020 season. Broadway shows in New York, Disney World, Disneyland and Universal Studios are all closed until further notice. Casinos in Las Vegas were closed this past weekend and Atlantic City were closed at the beginning at 8:00 p.m Monday evening.

* * * * * Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic. The virus first identified in Wuhan China, the official name is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. There are still a lot of unknowns about this disease including will it slow down in the summer months? At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when the weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and investigations are ongoing.

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INDYCAR: On Friday, IndyCar announced it had canceled its St. Petersburg, FL March 15 season opener and the next three races on its 2020 schedule. Citing “regular communication with our event promoters, health officials, and the city administrations in our respective race markets” the decision was made to cancel all INDYCAR Series events through April. In addition to the St. Petersburg opener, races in Birmingham, AL, Long Beach, CA and Austin, TX canceled and will not be rescheduled. The loss of the first four races means that the INDYCAR season will open on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 9 followed on May 24 by the Indianapolis 500.

NASCAR: NASCAR postponed the race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend and Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. (See story below for an update from NASCAR at press time) In a statement, NASCAR cited a concern for public safety and for its own competitors “We believe this decision is in the best interest of the safety and well-being of our fans, competitors, officials and everyone associated with our sport. We will continue to monitor this dynamic situation as we assess future race events,” the statement read. A plan had been put together to host the Trucks and Cup in a one day show in Atlanta. The events were planned to be held without fans in attendance. Practice was to be eliminated with qualifying followed by both features in front of a limited national media members only. Trucks had begun to be unloaded from trailers and Cup teams were reportedly only miles away when the plan was scrapped and the event cancelled.

NHRA: The National Hot Rod Association postponed a significant portion of the 51st annual Gatornationals at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway due to the ongoing global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. The partial postponement was in accordance with the recommendation of the Florida governor. Some Sportsman racing was held without spectators. Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Mod, Factory Stock Showdown, Top Fuel Harley, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car will compete at a later date to be determined. On Monday they suspended all NHRA drag racing for 30 days. This suspension includes events at all NHRA-owned tracks and any NHRA-sanctioned events such as the NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series and the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. The NHRA intends at this time to resume the original schedule on April 17-19 in Houston, and continue thereafter, subject to developments in the interim. The spring Las Vegas event is postponed with new dates to be determined.

WORLD RACING GROUP: World Racing Group has announced it has postponed all of its scheduled World of Outlaw Sprint Car series events through April 9. That involved eight races, two in Texas this past weekend, two in Arizona on March 21-22, and four in California. At this point, the WoO Sprint schedule will resume on Friday, April 10 at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, CA. The next WoO Late Model series race is slated for March 27th at the Volunteer Speedway in Tenn.

FORMULA 1: Formula 1 canceled its season opening Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia in part because the McLaren Formula 1 team had declined to participate. It was subsequently reported that a Team McLaren employee had tested positive for the coronavirus. The race was canceled Thursday. Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton said he was “very, very surprised” that the teams had even travelled to Melbourne. Mercedes’s F1 team released a statement calling for the race to be cancelled, noting the “well being of our team members and of the wider F1 community” took priority. Races in China, Bahrain and Vietnam have been postponed. Formula 1 and governing body the FIA have said they now ‘expect’ the 2020 season to begin at the end of May. The outbreak of COVID-19 forced the Chinese round of the calendar to be postponed last month. The Bahrain Grand Prix, which was due to take place next weekend, and the first ever Vietnam Grand Prix, scheduled for the beginning of April, have also been postponed.

USAC: USAC announced early Friday afternoon that it has postponed all of its events across all of its divisions through the end of March. The Saturday’s March 14 West Coast Sprint Car event at Hanford, California’s Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds was postponed with officials hopeful to make up the Twin 20s event at a later date this season. The Western States Midget season opener on Saturday, March 21, at Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway has been postponed as well as the Saturday, March 28 USAC CRA Sprint Car event from Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway, which has also been postponed. California governor Gavin Newsom, along with California state health officials, recommended the cancellation of gatherings of 250 or more people across the entire state. The new policy from the California Department of Public Health will be in effect at least through March. The West Coast Sprints will now begin on April 25 at Perris Auto Speedway; the USAC/ CRA series will now open its season with a rare doubleheader, starting Saturday, April 18th at Bakersfield Speedway. A 360 Sprint car event was held in Chico, Ca. with spectators limited to 250 per state regulation. If those in the pit area working on the cars and the drivers were part of that count is not known.

IMSA: The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) announced that the 68th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts scheduled for March 18-21 was postponed due to the recent United States ban on travel from Europe, which would have prevented a number of drivers, teams and key personnel from participation. The rescheduled race will now become the season-ending event of the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and will be run Nov. 11-14 at Sebring International Raceway. BAPS: BAPS Motor Speedway in Newberrytown, Pa. canceled Saturday’s (March 14) Test & Tune Session. The management team at BAPS made the decision in an effort to keep employees safe and for the well-being of race teams and the fans traveling to the speedway. The speedway said on is website that it is “monitoring the situation as it progresses and will provide updates on upcoming events.” This week’s opener on Saturday at BAPS remained on the schedule when AARN went to press.

POTOMAC: The state of Maryland’s governor issued an executive order late last week banning gatherings of 100 people or more. Potomac Speedway’s management thus canceled their season opener and two other events planned in March. “This is obviously not in our plan and not what we wanted to happen at the start of our racing season. We’re just as eager to start the season as you all are. We feel that based off of this statement by Governor Hogan that we are affected” Potomac management posted on its web-site. They are planning to now start the season on Friday April 3.

ARCA - The ARCA race planned for Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola Speedway was postponed. Five Flags admitted the decision to postpone was a difficult one. “Months of preparation by multiple parties had us optimistic that we were in for some fantastic racing. We do feel however, that the well being of our Fans, Competitors, and Employees far exceeds our need to run a race. In all facets of our operation, we always make it our mission to error on the side of safety. We have faith in local, state, and federal authorities to act in the same manner,” track management expressed. A make-up date will be announced in the near future.

USCS 360 SPRINTS: The two day USCS Shoals Shootout at North Alabama Speedway in Tuscumbia, AL was moved back a week and rescheduled for Friday and Saturday, March 20-21 because of wet grounds. It appears as if the event would have run otherwise.

CARS LATE MODELS: The CARS Late Model race which was planned for next Saturday, March 21 at the Hickory Speedway was canceled. The issuance of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order No. 117, which banned public gatherings of more than 100 people within the state was cited as the reason. Hickory Motor Speedway Management said it had no other choice than to comply with the order shutting down operations. The track tried to operate this Saturday, but state officials shut them down after qualifying had been completed.

FLAT TRACK BIKES: American Flat Track postponed its races at Daytona International Speedway for this coming weekend. The events will be rescheduled in October in conjunction with another motorcycle event planned there. Bike Week in Daytona did continue despite an appeal for those in the area to go home.

US FAT BIKE OPEN: The sixth annual US Open Fat Bike Beach Championship, the largest race of its type in the nation, was canceled to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The race was to return to Wrightsville Beach, SC March 27-29, 2020. “This annual event is a Spring staple of our cycling community and brings visitors from all over the country,” said Shawn Spencer. “As the race director, this was a difficult decision, but we acted with an abundance of caution with the best interest of many communities in mind. Once the fog clears, we will start planning for 2021.” ATTICA: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s order prohibiting mass gatherings of 100 people or more in an effort to stop the virus, Attica Raceway Park officials will cancel the 2020 season opener scheduled for March 20. “We will keep monitoring this ever-changing situation and keep everyone informed as we move forward. As of today, the March 27 event is still on and we will stay vigilant as to what the experts and government officials are dictating,” said Rex LeJeune, Director of Operations at Attica Raceway Park. “As we said, our top priority is to make sure everyone is safe. We encourage our fans and race teams to follow the directions of the health officials,” he added.

LIME ROCK: Connecticut Governor Lamont’s Executive Order of Thursday March 12, which impacts gatherings of more than 250 people, will potentially impact some Lime Rock Park March and April. Lime Rock issued this statement:  “We are diligently working to clarify some aspects of the Order and will provide updated information regarding any affected events as soon as possible. “Currently, we intend to continue to host our 2020 season major spectator events as scheduled. As we move closer to the month of May, we expect to have updated information on the situation and will be continually sharing advisories on the website” Lime Rock further stated that day to day routine activities at Lime Rock would not be adversely affected.

CARAWAY: The Late Model Stock Car races planned to open the 2020 season at the asphalt 1/2 mile in North Carolina on March 15 were cancelled. *  *


IMS MUSEUM: Racing-related indoor events were also canceled or postponed by the coronavirus outbreak. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum management is monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving strategies.

ACCORD BANQUET:  Accord Speedway canceled its 2019 Awards Banquet that was to have been held Sunday, March 15 in Kingston, NY.

OCFS BANQUET & CAR SHOW: Orange County Fair Speedway’s annual Car Show and Awards Banquet in Middletown, N.Y., set for Saturday and Sunday, March 21-22 has been canceled as well. Like the Accord function, the speedway and the banquet hall are located in an area where several cases have been in the region around New York City.

GSVSCC: The 29th Garden State Vintage Stock Car Banquet originally scheduled for Sunday, March 22, 2020 has been postponed due to overriding health concerns. The new date for the affair will be Sunday, October 25, the same location at Branches Catering in West Long Branch, NJ.

MOTORSPORTS HOF: The Motorsports Hall of Fame America (MSHFA) Executive Committee voted unanimously to postpone its 32nd Annual Induction Celebration, scheduled for this Monday and Tuesday in Daytona Beach, due to the growing concern over the novel coronavirus outbreak. The induction celebration will be rescheduled in the future after the concern and contagious nature of coronavirus subsides.

SPEED SPORT SHOWCASE: The Speed Sport Showcase, which was to have been held for the first time in a new venue over March 21-22 at Wyoming Valley in Wilkes-Barre, PA has been canceled.

RACE SHOPS: Most all of the race team shops in and around the Charlotte, NC area have been closed to visitors.

KEYSTONE TRUCK & TRACTOR PULL: The 2020 Keystone Truck and Tractor Pull, a multi-day event at the Harrisburg Farm, Show Arena, was canceled. As ordered by Governor Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced the cancelation of the event at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. The event was shut down in progress. The arena pledged to refund ticket fees. Governor Tom Wolf ordered enhanced restrictions for two more counties over the weekend in response to the coronavirus. He added Bucks and Chester counties to the list of counties where he is ordering and recommending the closure of more community centers. Montgomery County, which leads the state for coronavirus cases, was the first county to be put on under enhanced restrictions. Wolf added Delaware County on Friday, but did not add Adams, Juniata and Cumberland over the weekend where Lincoln, Port Royal and Williams Grove are located allowing them to host their events.

NEW JERSEY MOTORSPORTS PARK: Statewide restrictions announcement on Monday by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy produced one speedway within the state to shut down hours later. The New Jersey Motorsports Park announced Monday afternoon that they would be closing to the public as part of Governor Murphy’s executive order. In this order the Governor is closing racetracks as well as other public venues at 8 pm that night until further notice. As part of Murphy’s announcement “racetracks” were included in the closure along with casinos, theaters and gyms. Murphy also announced closure of all non-essential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses. He also banned gatherings of 50 plus. All bars and restaurants were closed for eat-in services effective Monday. Establishments may open for takeout and delivery services only, until further notice. These restrictions exist during daytime hours. It was not clarified if the Governor was speaking of horse “racetracks” such as the Meadowlands or Freehold, or auto racing tracks such as NJMP, Bridgeport, New Egypt or Wall Stadium. Those facilities, however, could be instead included under recreational and entertainment businesses which were also asked to closed. NJMP closed its entire facility and will affect all daily track rentals and events, all Tempest Karting operations and events, Finish Line Pub operations and events, and all catering activities and events. The decision to reschedule major events will be made at a future time and will be in accordance with any recommendations from the CDC and State of New Jersey Office of Emergency Management.

SCHAEFFER SPRING NATIONALS: Events scheduled this weekend at two Georgia tracks, Boyd’s Speedway Friday and Senoia Raceway on Saturday are being “closely monitored”. As of Monday. both races are still planned to go off on schedule. However, this is subject to change depending on recommendations from state and local government.

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