Pandemic brings out red flag on local speedways

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FULTON — If you’re hoping more local dirt motorsports tracks will open up during the pandemic for racing you might be out of luck. With August just around the corner the possibilities are getting slimmer and slimmer.

The Wight family, owners of both Brewerton and Fulton speedways, opened the gates of Fulton for practice of any kind of dirt racing division on Thursday, July 23. 

Drivers and teams with everything from big block modifieds and sprint cars to modlites and four-cylinders practiced their pieces at the newly resurfaced 3/8 mile high-banked clay track.

The question on everyone’s mind is will these two popular racing venues open up for any racing this season?

According to Marketing Director Cory Reed not until Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state say it’s OK to have fans in the stands.

“There’s an executive order that says you can race but no spectators. Well our philosophy is (that) this is a spectator sport and we need those spectators to make ends meet here,” said Reed.

“As much as we would love to go racing and some tracks have been marginally successful without crowds, we’re not going to.”

In fact, Utica-Rome Speedway in Vernon opened up in June for two races with no fans. However, the track is now idle and will not open up until fans are allowed to attend. The speedway also hosted two motocross events.

“The executive order said no crowds just (people) in the pits,” continued Reed. “Our philosophy right from the get go was to play this by the book as it was supposed to be played whether we liked it or hated it and we hate it but we don’t want to be looking over our shoulder every week.”

Regardless of the racing aspect there is still the public health and safety to consider. As Reed said COVID-19 “is still a real thing.”

According to Reed the executive order is supposed to be lifted on Aug. 2, but he said that “unfortunately the orders keep getting extended.”

So if the executive order is lifted and if racing can happen and if both Fulton and Brewerton are given the opportunity to open up will there be racing? And will the huge Outlaw 200 weekend happen? At this point, probably not.

“Three things have to be in place,” said John Wight, owner of Fulton and Brewerton speedways, “Fans, concessions and camping.”

The Outlaw 200, always the first weekend in October, is one of the premier dirt motor sports races on the east coast. Teams haul from all over the dirt modified rich northeast for the opportunity to cash in the $20,000 winner’s check.

In order to cover the purse for the weekend of racing all the elements have to be in place with camping being a major player. On an Outlaw weekend there is barely a place to park with all of the campers and tents completely covering the property.

Mike Fowler, long time driver of the No. 410 sportsman, offered his take and believes that the “track isn’t going to open unless we have fans in the stands and I can’t blame them (the track owners). It’s a losing proposition really and this is why we do it (race). It’s FOR THE FANS.”

Even though Fowler doesn’t think they’ll be racing this season he was quick to add, with a broad smile, “if we are allowed to race and they open the doors here I’m going to be the first car in line.”

The bottom line is everyone wants to go racing, but it’s all in the governor’s and state officials’ hands and where the pandemic will wander. Nothing should be in front of public health and safety but it would be great to see some racing on the high banks of Fulton Speedway in 2020.

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