Ace Speedway has been hosting events in defiance of the state Governor; A judge has since ordered the track to close
On June 6, 2020, Ace Speedway hosted the CARS Tour.
Ahead of the event, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called the event “reckless” as the short track packed the grandstands in addition to the pit area. The Governors office sent a notice forcing the track to close, the day of the event.
“That is a dangerous situation that ought to concern all the local officials and all the citizens surrounding that venue,” Cooper said during a press briefing in late May after a previous race at Ace Speedway. “It is a completely reckless way to operate.”
Currently, North Carolina is in phase 2 of a reopening plan. It limits indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25.
The Governor encouraged local Alamance County officials to put a stop to the event with a letter sent to police on June 5. Terry Johnson, the local sheriff essentially stated that he couldn’t do anything.
As fans walked into the track, a sign welcomed race fans to their “peaceful protest”. Fans played their roll in the protest, even bringing signs in support of the track.
Then, they sat in grandstands, shoulder to shoulder, by the thousands, to watch some super late model racing. They saw a thrilling show too as events of the race also grabbed attention.
CARS Tour crew member tests positive for COVID-19
The event on June 6 was hosted by Ace Speedway as the track hired the CARS Tour to put on the show. Typically, the CARS Tour rents out race tracks and takes care of everything from officiating, to promotion.
In this case, it was the reverse. The series didn’t want the responsibility of hosting an event with fans. Thus, the event was put on by the track itself as they hired the CARS Tour. Any action from state officials is now directed at the track owner, instead of the CARS Tour.
On Saturday, the CARS Tour entered an event at Hickory Motor Speedway. For that event, the series rented the track and hosted the race without fans in attendance.
Regarding the previous event at Ace Speedway, the inevitable has happened…
Series director Jack McNelly informed drivers and crews ahead of the Hickory event that someone had tested positive for COVID-19 following the race at Ace Speedway. The news was initially reported by Short Track Scene.
Series officials did not clarify who the person was. He did make it clear that the crew member was in the pit area of the Altamahaw, North Carolina race track the previous weekend.
Andrew Kasper, the lawyer for the State office noted that crew members and drivers are exceptionally susceptible to virus transmission. Those people are forced to yell while in close proximity to other crew members or drivers, just to communicate within teams, over the roar of loud racing engines.
Ace Speedway in court
Three weekends in a row, Ace Speedway has hosted events with fans in attendance. And there’s been no limits, masks or social distancing guidelines in place.
All the while, the state has been requesting and attempting to shut the track down. This has gone on, for weeks now.
The track received National attention and National support as they hosted multiple events in defiance of the Governor.
A group called ‘Reopen NC’ hosted an event in the county. They collected donations on behalf of Robert Turner, the track owner.
“We come together to say, ‘No, we will not continue to comply’,” said Ashley Smith who is the co-founder of Reopen NC to WFMY. “‘We will not obey these executive orders that are unconstitutional’. They lack the concurrence of the council of state. We’re here to say, as North Carolinians, ‘We’re done’,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, Alamance County, the location of the track is question, has seen a spike in cases of the virus. The area now has 778 confirmed cases as of Sunday night. That’s up from 494 on June 8.
North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen has recently made additional testing stations available in Alamance County as a result.
After the most recent event on June 6, the NC Governor promised to take action against the track. True to his word, The Governor forced closure on the track. Again, the speedway refused to accept the order.
As a result, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services filed a temporary restraining order against the track. They then met the lawyer of speedway owner Robert Turner in court soon after for an emergency hearing.
Judge Tom Lamberth orders temporary closure of Ace Speedway
Judge Tom Lamberth has ordered the temporary closure of the track following a near 3-hour hearing on Thursday.
“I’ve had time to review all the materials. As we discussed, this is just the very beginning of this case,” the Judge stated.
“We are in incredibly unusual times. I think our government, federally and locally has had enormous challenges in trying to deal with something that we’ve never dealt with.”
“A global pandemic of this nature has never happened, at least in 100 years. It is stressing our whole society, that’s just to reality of it.”
“I would imagine that Governor Cooper and other state leaders are probably very stressed, every day. And trying to make that delicate balance between a true public health emergency and the economics of trying to have an open society with people trying to earn a living and support their families.”
“It really makes me sad how contentious some of this stuff has become among people in our society. We are all Americans and I keep shaking my head sometimes that we got such an Us versus Them mentality in our nation right now.”
“But, it is clearly — In doctor Cohen’s verified complaint and all the documents make it very clear that there is an imminent health hazard in our state and in our county.”
Ace Speedway had plans to host an event on June 13th and June 19th. Both of those events have since been canceled as the track is now following the orders presented from the court ruling.
Soon after the ruling, another North Carolina race track, Dixieland Speedway also canceled their events.