DeGRAFF — Retail stores, restaurants, barber shops and hair salons are among the businesses reopening as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health continue easing restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shadybowl Speedway owner Rick Young is waiting for the green flag to reopen, too. Young said he has contacted the health department to discuss auto racing’s place in Responsible Restart Ohio.
“We have no idea. They haven’t given us any kind of dates or anything,” Young said. “We’re the same as everyone else watching TV.”
DeWine has said professional sports like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association might resume in Ohio this summer, but likely with no spectators in the early stage. The same start-up scenario is likely to happen with harness and thoroughbred racing.
Brushcreek Motorsports Complex in Peebles, located about 70 miles east of Cincinnati, hosted its season opener on May 9. No spectators were allowed. Among other social distancing rules: one driver and three crew members were permitted with each race car, trailers were pitted at least six feet apart and face masks and social distancing in the pits were mandatory. BMC is scheduled to race again Saturday with the same restrictions.
Young, who said he won’t race without fans, submitted a plan to the health department detailing “a percentage of our total capacity and how we would keep social distancing.”
He’s still waiting on an answer.
“It could be a month or two. It could be weeks. Who knows?” Young said. “I don’t even want to try and guess. I wish they’d give us something a little more reliable to go on.
“I don’t think the people in Columbus quite understand what we’re talking about when we talk to them. Most of them are probably golfers and that’s why that’s essential. As far as (test and tune sessions), we try to tell them we want to test and I don’t think they really get it.”
Young said Shadybowl, which has a total capacity of 4,000, averaged about 1,000 spectators last season. The plan submitted to the health department asked for about 20 percent of the total capacity.
“If we have to do a percentage we’ll do that. If we can do it without restrictions we’ll do that,” Young said. “If they announce on a Tuesday, we’ll be racing on Saturday. If they announce on Friday, we’ll be racing on Saturday. We’re ready to go. … We have (social distancing) plans for the pits. It’s just waiting.”
Shadybowl was scheduled to open April 4. That race was officially canceled because of lack of entries. Three test-and-tune sessions and five races have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Two more races are scheduled for May.
As for other tracks in the vicinity, Eldora Speedway has postponed seven races (including Little E’s go-kart track) through the end of May. Limaland Motorsports Park has postponed three events as of May 15 (with two remaining in May) and has posted no indications of opening this month.
If a worst-case scenario happens and race tracks are shut down for the season Young said Shadybowl would survive and return for 2021.
“If we don’t open this year we’ll be ready for next year,” Young said.
“I think this was going to be one of our best years ever. We picked up big-time last year with car counts and probably about 20 new teams coming. It’s really frustrating this happened this year. We’re the only (asphalt) track around in this area. I think it was our time to be really great. We’re trying to ride out the storm. … There’s not a whole lot we can do.”