Editor’s Note: With the outbreak of COVID-19 forcing racing around the globe to a sudden stop, SPEED SPORT is reaching out to members of the racing community to find out how the outbreak is impacting them, both as racers and in their daily lives. This story is part of that ongoing series.
CONCORD, N.C. — Part-time ARCA racer Willie Mullins and his wife, Dinah, are small business owners, and they are among those most concerned about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The husband and wife duo own Bugsy’s Auto, an auto repair business based in Fredericksburg, Va., that services mostly private clients, most notably a number of trash truck companies in the area.
“Our life is filled with a large amount of uncertainty,” Willie Mullins said. “We’re going through life trying to keep things as normal as we can keep it.”
As the viral outbreak continues to strangle the international economy, it’s people like the Mullins who worry about their ability to keep their business open and continue to pay their employees as local governments order non-essential businesses to shut down to prevent the spread of the virus.
“I don’t have the funds (to pay people) if we’re not putting out work,” Dinah Mullins said. “Other than Willie and I, we have three employees. So if work isn’t being produced, I don’t physically have money in the checking account to even write the checks.”
As it stands now Bugsy’s Auto falls into the category of an essential business, which means Bugsy’s Auto can remain open while other businesses — such as gyms, hair salons or furniture stores — are closing in states across the country as local governments issues shutdown orders.
However, it doesn’t take away the stress of not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
“The biggest thing I’m worried about is what’s going to happen on the other side of this,” Willie Mullins said. “When people can’t pay their trash bills, when companies don’t pay their trash bill. Will trash slow down? Possibly a little bit. I don’t want to say we’re recession proof, but I would like to say that we are on the upside of all the down that could happen.”
Away from the Bugsy’s Auto shop, the Mullins are also heavily involved in racing as the owners of Mullins Racing. If you’ve heard Willie Mullins’ name before, it’s because he’s competed in a number of ARCA Menards Series races in recent years, including finishing eighth at Daytona Int’l Speedway in February.
Racing is a hobby rather than a business for the Mullins, so the shutdown of racing across the country hasn’t affected them as much as it has others in the industry.
However, they are both very active in supporting weekly racing at their local track, Dominion Raceway in Thornburg, Va. It’s hard for both of them not to think about how the lack of racing will affect the track, those the track employs and those who spend their weekends at the track every season.
“It’s hurting everyone, but these tracks are literally being hit the hardest,” said Dinah Mullins, who helps with photography at Dominion Raceway in order to support the track. “I mean if you are in the entertainment business, if you’re in retail, if you’re in anything where it’s a mass of people, you’ve got nothing (work) for two months. So we’re doing everything we can to try to be supportive of our local track.
“Our fan base also needs to realize this. The years of track bashing absolutely has to stop. You might not be happy with your track, but they’re still there. This might close some tracks down,” she continued. “So once that ban is lifted, I want to see every fan that has any stake in racing at all … if you have any feelings toward racing, I want to see you in the stands this summer. It is so imperative that our fan base comes out and shows how strong they are and shows how important racing is to them because this is the time to prove your love of racing.”
Willie Mullins, who recently tested his ARCA Menards Series car at Dominion Raceway prior to the racing shutdown, added that local businesses, race tracks included, need support now more than ever.
“Make sure you support your local short track,” Willie Mullins said. “If you’ve never been a fan, go be a fan and go try it once because your local short track, unfortunately, could be closing because of what happened to this economy. Go support your local race team. That’s where racing gets its start, and that’s where it needs the most support right now.
“It goes back to shop locally, too. It’s the same concept,” he continued. “You can’t get Amazon to sponsor your kid’s baseball team, but you sure can get a local business to do it. So it’s all about the community right now and trying to support that and making sure you’re doing everything that you can to help support your local businesses and your friends and what they do.”