Like everyone else in his business, Fonda Speedway promoter Brett Deyo isn’t certain when he’ll be able to get his 2020 season started. But, if and when he gets the green light, Deyo wants the “Track of Champions” ready to roll as soon as possible.
Fonda Speedway’s first open practice session of the season was scheduled for Saturday, but that — along with the rest of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds track’s events through April — have been canceled in accordance with the statewide “stay at home” order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
But, Deyo said in a phone interview Wednesday, some work has been done recently at the track — including conditioning work for the revamped clay surface that was laid during the offseason — so that operations can get up and running as soon as permitted.
“Our track crew did get on the speedway this week, starting the process you need to do to get the clay ready,” Deyo said. “We’ve had people cleaning up bathrooms, getting the concession stands ready. We don’t really know when that green light’s going to come on to go racing again, but we want to be 100% ready.”
Currently, the statewide “stay at home” order runs through April 30. Before the order was extended through April, the Fonda Fair Board on March 26 made the decision not to allow any activities at the track through the end of the month.
That wiped out both this week’s practice session and the opening two racing shows of the year on April 18 and 25.
With a season that’s only 20 weeks long to begin with, Deyo wants to be prepared to get as many racing days as possible once things are deemed safe.
“For us to lose any weeks is really difficult, so we want to make sure that everything on the property is ready to go,” he said. “If they say on a Wednesday that we can open [on a Saturday], we’re going to be ready to open. That’s kind of the approach that we’re taking now.”
From a logistical standpoint, Deyo said that preparations for 2020 were actually far easier than a year ago, when he and his BD Motorsports Media LLC team took over promoting at Fonda and made numerous improvements to the concession and office facilities.
It’s the $65,000 investment made into the track surface, with almost 3,500 yards of clay laid down, that has Deyo the most anxious to get the season underway.
“For a business that can only open 20 times a year already,” he said, “to lose some [of those dates] and have that major improvement hanging over our heads, we’re very anxious to get going.”
Deyo said he’s been in constant communication with the Fonda Fair Board in attempting to get things in place for the season.
Should racing get the green light, Deyo said the board has been extremely cooperative in working to find dates to make up for lost time. Among the options include weeks with races on both Saturday and Sunday — Deyo said he was considering introducing a family package for potential double-dip weekends — as well as adding additional midweek events other than the Firecracker 50, which is set for July 1.
Still, there’s a limited time to race. Fonda Speedway’s points season is scheduled to end Aug. 15 to give enough time for the Fairgrounds to be turned over for the annual Fonda Fair, and Deyo said there aren’t many options available for later in the fall.
“There are some options for us,” he said, “but we’re in kind of a tight window. Once you get past Labor Day, most of the dirt tracks in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have their big event weekend with their big show, so there isn’t really much wiggle room in the fall.”
Deyo’s hoping that, if racing can start, he’ll be able to provide affordable entertainment for families who have been hit hard by the financial strain of coronavirus-related closures who might not be travelling outside the area this spring and summer.
He’s also exploring options if restrictions are placed on crowd size, including limiting admission at the speedway to “maybe 300, 400 people” while making the races available to watch live on pay-per-view via a partnership with Dirt Track Digest.
“Whenever this breaks, people are going to take an opportunity to attend something like we offer,” Deyo said. “That might be a positive for stuff like us. I think people are getting really bored being in their houses. They’re going to want to get out when that opportunity comes.”
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