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South Boston Speedway cancels racing opener / June 25, 2020

After setting its season opener for this Saturday night, South Boston Speedway reversed course Wednesday and announced the cancellation of the five-race program and holiday fireworks show.

The track, in a prepared statement, said the cancellation decision was prompted by “restrictions in Phase 3 of the re-opening plan for the Commonwealth of Virginia and implications to the speedway’s insurance coverage.” These roadblocks, said track officials, left South Boston Speedway “with no choice but to cancel Saturday night’s Thunder Road Harley-Davidson Presented by Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort Late Model Twin 100s racing program and post-race fireworks show.

Track officials said refunds will be provided to those fans who purchased advance tickets for the event.

“We are extremely disappointed in having to cancel the event,” said the media statement, which attributed the comment to South Boston Speedway officials.

“Unfortunately, circumstances over which we have no control make it impossible for us to proceed with the event. We very much appreciate the support we have received from competitors, fans and sponsors as we have attempted to start our 2020 season.”

Under the Commonwealth’s Phase 3 re-opening plan, the speedway would be limited to a capacity of 1,000 patrons.

“The Phase 3 guidelines still make it impossible for us to hold our exciting events for the race fans and to employ the 100 people in our county every weekend. We hope to be able to open our 2020 season soon.”

The speedway’s initial decision to go forward with the season opener, announced June 17, came prior to Gov. Ralph Northam announcing plans for Phase Three of Virginia’s emergence from the coronavirus pandemic. Under Phase Three, which begins July 1, sports venues will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity, or no more than 1,000 people.

Under Phase Two, which lasts through the weekend of the planned SBS season opener, sports venues are limited to no more than 50 people. In recognition of transmission risks with the virus, South Boston Speedway said it would require all spectators at the June 27 season opener to wear face coverings.

Dr. Scott Spillmann, director of the Southside Health District, told the Danville Register & Bee this week that health officials have been in contact with South Boston Speedway since the track announced plans for the Saturday racing program. Spillmann emphasized that individuals should continue to protect themselves against infection by wearing masks, washing hands, and observing rules for social distancing.

“During our gradual reopening process, we must keep up the vigilance that got us to this point,” Spillmann wrote in an email to the Register & Bee. “Avoiding crowds where social distancing is difficult and where others may not be adhering to the mask requirement is another recommendation to prevent infection with COVID-19.”

South Boston Speedway driver Peyton Sellers told the newspaper that while he supports measures to stem the spread of COVID-19, he wants the track to reopen, with fans in the seats — since they provide the revenue lifeblood for small track racing, which cannot rely on TV revenues like NASCAR’s biggest series.

“I think their hands have been tied to this point. The track couldn’t do anything, and they see a window right now and they’re trying to get a race in, so I’m behind them,” Sellers told the newspaper. “You see on TV every week, NASCAR is fighting the same struggles with no fans. Fortunately they have TV deals. These local short tracks don’t have TV deals. Without fans in the stands, they lose money.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s not going with the law,” Sellers said. “I don’t want to do anything to be rebellious, but on the same token, I think it’s time that life gets back to normal.”

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