Promoter Brett Deyo said Tuesday that plans are to resume racing at Fonda Speedway with a modified schedule in August following a two-week break, though neither Deyo nor Montgomery County officials envision a likely scenario in which fans are able to attend races at the “Track of Champions” for the remainder of the 2020 season.
After waiting until mid-June to finally kick off the 2020 racing season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events were held at Fonda for a month, but after last week’s “One Wild Wednesday” card highlighted by the 15th annual Hondo Classic, Deyo opted for a brief pause on racing events as he formulated a new plan following updated guidance from the state that expressly forbids spectators at racing events.
The track was dark this past Saturday and will be this weekend as well, but Deyo said tentative plans are to return to racing Aug. 1. That will be followed by a midweek event on Aug. 5, then the track’s championship night Aug. 15 — with a rain date of Aug. 29.
“I don’t want to shut these guys off and their race teams, because everyone has sponsors and cars,” Deyo said, “but I’m just trying to minimize our risk and pick select dates to give them a chance to keep racing somewhat. . . . I’m trying to be selective about what I do, make it so that the guys can still race, but I’m not going to run myself out of business, either.”
While Fonda Speedway’s events are available to stream on pay per view through Dirt Track Digest, Deyo said that running events without fans would likely see him lose $3,000 to $4,000 per event.
Montgomery County’s other stock car track, Glen Ridge Motorsports Park in Fultonville, did hold its scheduled racing card Sunday night, but announced Monday via the track’s website and Facebook page that while racing will continue, spectators will not be permitted at the track for the foreseeable future.
During Montgomery County’s weekly Facebook Live coronavirus briefing Monday, County Executive Matthew Ossenfort addressed the immediate future of fans attending races.
“Based on the governor’s guidance, it certainly is not going to be allowed,” Ossenfort said. “We’re taking this day-by-day, week-by-week at this time.”
“There can be racing, and there can be pay per view, but you can’t have anyone sit in the grandstands — and that includes people that enter through the pits,” Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffery Smith added later in the briefing.
Throughout the first month of racing at Fonda, Deyo said he worked with county officials to provide creative solutions in an attempt to allow some spectators at the track.
The speedway used an outdoor dining option to accommodate some fans for one race in June, and also coordinated with the county to set up the infield as a drive-in area.
“We did everything we could,” Deyo said. “Fortunately for us, Montgomery County was pretty approachable and they worked with us. . . . I had a representative from the county come in and actually measure [the drive-in area] for me, so that they were comfortable with what we were doing. We had 130 vehicles as what we felt we could do safely in the infield of the track and spread people out.”
During Fonda’s Independence Day weekend events, the track opened its grandstand. Deyo said that move came about through interpretation of a June ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York ruled that said the state was violating First Amendment rights by limiting religious gatherings.
Deyo said the state had yet to make a statement that the decision applied exclusively to religious gatherings. Once that updated guidance came down from the state barring all spectators, the grandstand was closed again and Deyo opted for a brief hiatus.
“Every time that all of us in our industry came up with something creative, the state found a way to combat it — which is kind of what you would expect,” he said. “Lately, it’s been very strict from the state level. They’ve been going out to different racetracks and you’ve seen stories of tracks losing their liquor licenses.
Though racing will resume without spectators, Deyo added that he and four other speedway promoters have a pending lawsuit against the state in the same court that issued the June ruling on religious gatherings, seeking a temporary injunction that would again allow fans to attend races.
“That was just something we had to try,” Deyo said. “In our business, instead of sitting around and doing nothing, it was worth a shot.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.