ANDERSON, Ind. – As we all know, racing at every level is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When it will resume is anyone’s guess.
There hasn’t been a pavement sprint car race contested anywhere in the United States since the Dave Steele World Non-Wing Sprint Car Championship 125 at Florida’s Showtime Speedway on Feb. 20, won by Kody Swanson.
With each passing day it is becoming increasingly apparent that there may not be any spectator sports, including short track racing, in 2020. April is already lost, as is most of May, and some tracks are now beginning to postpone early June events.
As the days grow longer, it is painful to realize that if racing can happen, the season will become very short at best.
Things really took a turn when Anderson (Ind.) Speedway officials had no choice but to postpone the Little 500 until Sept. 5 this week. At this point, it’s only a matter of time before many series and tracks throw in the towel and call it a wrap on 2020.
But there might be a way to salvage what’s left of the season. It may not be what anyone wants, but it might be the only way. It would involve running a select few events with no fans in the stands.
It would mean fans being forced to watch the live event from the comforts of home through a pay-per-view event. Sure, we all want nothing more to be able to see the sights and smells of in-person action, buts it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
We each need to come to this realization. Times are different right now.
Meridian (Idaho) Speedway promoter Adam Nelson was the first promoter to take the bull by the horns. He announced that on May 16, he will hold a racing event that will feature the Speed Tour Regional Sprint Car Series.
There will be two feature events on the day for the winged asphalt 360 series. The first event will pay $1,000 to win, while the finale of the day will pay $3,500 to win.
This racing program will only be available as a pay-per-view, with no fans in attendance. Only a limited number of crew members, track officials, and production staff will attend.
Showtime Speedway promoter Robert Yoho had tentatively announced a similar event for his track, one week earlier on May 9, for the Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series.
Since the announcement, the race has fallen into jeopardy of not happening due to the restrictions of local officials.
Could there be other promoters with similar ideas? A quick phone call to Must See Racing President Jim Hanks revealed that he too could announce another such event in the near future.
“The emotional investment and intensity of all racing participants, stakeholders and fans is much more than an entertainment choice – it defines who they are and is a part of their DNA,” explained Hanks. “The circumstances and challenges surrounding COVID-19 have dramatically affected and changed all of our lives. Concerning racing, the current conditions can no longer be a “stop sign,” but an opportunity “guideline” on how to safely move forward.
“Integrating our event broadcast experience and ever-changing technology with our track and marketing partners makes a no-fans option not only viable, but an opportunity to deliver the record setting Must See Racing entertainment in a new and different format,” concluded Hanks.
It seems as though Must See Racing will be another to take the bold leap of attempting to hold races with no fans. It certainly isn’t what we want, but at the same time it’s refreshing to know racing is going to return sooner than later, albeit under unusual circumstances.
A promoter willing to dive into uncharted waters is going to have to be savvy and think outside the box if he is to be successful. Attracting sponsors and convincing fans to invest in the purchase of a pay-per-view now becomes the immediate way to survive. This will separate the boys from the men regarding race promoting.
Only the strong will survive, and I, for one, welcome this temporary solution. At the end of the day, I want to go racing, even if it means I can’t leave the couch just yet.