RODDA: Marysville & Dixon Make History

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Ron Rodda

LINCOLN, Calif. – The leadership of California is finally showing some sense by allowing seven counties to reopen their businesses to some degree.

While protective procedures are wisely required, the fact that some counties that have had zero virus cases yet have been shut down for two months is ludicrous.

It is very clear that state and local officials have, in most cases, little knowledge of short-track racing.  This results in decisions that make absolutely no sense. A few tracks have been allowed to hold practice sessions, and two tracks raced last Saturday, but restrictions that remain in place display a complete lack of logic.

Dixon (Calif.) Speedway had 82 race cars and, by agreement between promoter Jeremy Prince and county officials, each car was allowed four people in the pit area. That is a maximum of 328 people, not counting any officials that could be on the property, but no spectators were allowed. Their stands could have held a group of people with distancing equal to or greater than the pit area.

Marysville estimated 300 in their pit area with the teams, just as in Dixon, spread apart as required. But Marysville could not use their grandstands where several hundred people could have sat and easily maintained the state guidelines on distancing.

Lumping all sporting events together as to potential crowds is faulty thinking. Short-track racing certainly isn’t like the NFL, MLB, etc. Short track’s percentage of seats occupied on an average race night is not very high.  Merced Speedway can hold 5,000 reportedly, so having 1,000 in the stands would allow plenty of spacing.

Bottom line, people could be safer sitting in short-track grandstands than shopping in a Walmart.

The closest Walmart to our home is a large store and it is apparently the square footage of a store that determines the allowed number of shoppers. An employee is at the single open entrance to count. I asked how many people are allowed and was told this store is 1,114.  That has been verified in subsequent visits to that location.

It has been made particularly difficult in California on race tracks that are on fairgrounds property, which is the majority of tracks. Petaluma Speedway promoter Rick Faeth mentioned last Saturday that Sonoma-Marin fairgrounds officials have told him the state mandated no mass gatherings before Labor Day. Do the math on fairgrounds tracks potential of racing this year.

What comprises a mass gathering? Back in March Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., race when the crowd limit was 250, then the limit became 50, and then 10, where it is still is now. Does that mean in March 250 was safe but 251 would not be? A more logical way to limit crowd size at a race track is to allow a percent of capacity.

Many counties north of Sacramento have relatively few recorded cases of the virus, many with six or less in the entire county. Yet they faced the same restrictions as Los Angeles County, which has the most, by far, cases per thousand residents in the state.

After two months, things are beginning to change in favor of the counties that have significantly better scores. While Los Angeles County is now facing the stay at home rule until the end of July, other counties will be opening restaurants and other businesses.

But shor-ttrack racing continues to be hampered by uninformed decision makers.

Recently three counties, on their own, did some reopening of things as they had relatively few cases considering their population. Yuba County, which happens to have Marysville Raceway within its borders, was one of them. Just like March when promoter Dennis Gage was the first track in the state to race with the 250 fan limit in Chico, last Saturday he, along with Prince at Dixon Speedway, were the first promoters in state history to race with no fans allowed. Of course both tracks are on private property or there would have been no way they could have raced.

Gage had been allowing some limited practice sessions at Marysville Raceway, but his thinking changed one day when he crossed the Highway 70 bridge driving into Marysville.  That bridge offers an excellent view of a motocross track.

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