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. — Twenty-year-old asphalt late model racer Wyatt Alexander had hoped to enjoy his spring break before returning to the University of Maine to complete the spring semester.
Instead, Alexander will be completing his courses from his home in Ellsworth, Maine, while wondering when he’ll be able to get back on the track while the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s definitely shaken everybody’s world up,” Alexander lamented. “It’s very easy to get frustrated with, but everybody’s in the same boat or close to it. It’s at least affected everybody in some way, some bigger than others.
“For me personally, the number one thing is that as I’m on spring break right now for my university, but as of this coming week when spring break is over we’ll be all online for the rest of the semester,” Alexander said. “So that’s pretty big. That changes my day to day a lot. I’m a commuter student. I commute about an hour each way every day to the University of Maine.
“Classes online is definitely going to be a different experience.”
The only class Alexander is concerned about is his machine shop class, which he acknowledges may be difficult to complete online.
“I’m in a machine shop class right now as part of my engineering degree, so I don’t really know how I’m going to do my machining class. That’s really the only one that I think is going to have the most obstacles,” Alexander said with a light laugh. “I am fortunate that my grandfather’s a pretty experienced machinist.”
Alexander, who made headlines in late 2018 when he won Valvoline’s Fast Track to Fame competition, races asphalt super late models in the Northeast and occasionally in the Southeast. He said that so far his racing schedule hasn’t been affected yet since the season gets started later in the year in Maine.
He’s more concerned about the local economy and what the COVID-19 outbreak could do to the local tourism industry and, in turn, what impact that may have on his sponsors.
“So Ellsworth, Maine, is very dependent on the tourism income. So in the summertime you’ve got to drive through Ellsworth, Maine, to get to Bar Harbor and obviously the economy and travel greatly affects the tourism industry in Bar Harbor.
“So that’s the only thing … like the planning ahead, that we’re a little bit scary slash nervous about, how long this is going to go on and how it would affect travel,” Alexander continued. “People’s financial status when this is over will affect travel. So looking into the future, that’s the one thing that’s a little bit nerve wracking for our community and small businesses.
“I know that’s not a really direct effect of our race team, but in our life that all comes around back to our ability to race. Most of my sponsors are businesses in our community that are local and they always treat me absolutely phenomenal, but you certainly can’t expect that if they fall on tough times that they’ll have a lot of extra to spend on a race car.”
Right now, there isn’t much Alexander can do besides watch and wait. When he’s not busy with school work, Alexander says he’ll be filling his free time by helping his parents out at their business, K&B Automotive. In fact, when he spoke to SPEED SPORT on Thursday, he was hauling a few old cars to the local scrap yard.
“Now that classes are online, I can work more. I work for my parents at the repair shop,” Alexander said. “Usually that’s only for 12 to 15 hours a week max. Now I’ll probably be able to bump those hours up, especially since I don’t have to commute. I guess there’s a silver lining there as a college kid.
“Right now, I’m hauling a scrap car. I’m gonna make three or four runs today hauling scrap cars for him that we’ve got on the property of the shop before scrap metal prices absolutely tank.”
Alexander admits his family is worried about an economic downturn in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s difficult not to be worried about it he admitted.
“Obviously being a small business owner they’re a little bit nervous,” Alexander said. “We’re kind of one of those things where the CDC came out and said only crucial businesses stay open, or that’s their advisement. Being in a transportation industry or maintenance or transportation or whatever you want to classify auto repair, that’s where we’re kind of crucial. So we’re going to stay open.”
Like nearly everyone else in the country, Alexander doesn’t know what’s coming next. He just hopes things return to normal sooner rather than later.
“I just hope that for everybody’s sake, from the health aspect to the economic aspect, I hope it is over soon,” Alexander said. “I think everybody hopes that.”