Jamestown Speedway is planning to open the 2020 season on June 6 to a limited number of fans with both safety and sustainability in mind.
Already a week behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 13 dates dot the revamped schedule, which includes visits by the NOSA sprint cars (July 25) and the NLRA late models (Aug. 22). The 49th annual Stock Car Stampede is set for Sept. 25-26 and the first Don Gumke Racers’ Memorial is planned for June 13.
Jamestown Speedway owners Tim and Allison Baldwin said the track will be operating under what state and local authorities have currently deemed appropriate and will amend or suspend activities if instructed to do so by the Governor’s office or the North Dakota Department of Health.
“Our plan is to keep an eye on everything and adjust it as needed to keep everyone safe,” said Allison Baldwin. “We’ve been in touch with local county officials and the Department of Commerce at the state level. The guidelines that we have right now are subject to change if the state or the county guidelines would change.”
Baldwin said ticket sales will initially be kept to roughly 750 fans, who will then be asked to socially distance themselves in family groups throughout the speedway’s approximately 2,200-seat grandstand. Tickets are sold at the gate.
Once inside the facility, fans will have access to hand sanitizer stations, although they'll be encouraged to bring their own sanitizer. Self-serve condiments will not be available at the concessions area and waiting lines will be marked off in six-foot increments to help avoid congestion.
"The best practice we'll be recommending to fans is if you don't live together, don't sit together and space yourself six feet from the next group within the stands," Baldwin said. "We're limiting it to less than half the capacity of the stands, so there should be plenty of room for everyone to spread out."
To keep the nightly program moving, the usual intermission break before the feature events has been suspended. Restrooms will also have frequently-touched areas cleaned throughout the night.
Those attending the races will be encouraged, but not required, to wear a face mask. The speedway also encourages those who are either sick, feeling sick, have compromised health or have knowingly been exposed to COVID-19 to stay home.
“A lot of things that we’re putting into place are already in place,” Baldwin explained. “There are no self-serve condiments at restaurants anymore and people are asked to stand six feet apart when they’re waiting to check out at a store, so I think people are going to be used to most of what we’re implementing.”
Participating drivers will also be seeing a handful of coronavirus-related changes. An instructional handout will replace the weekly pre-race drivers' meeting, and social media/text-messaging will be utilized as needed for communication.
Payouts could also be affected. Baldwin said an average race night includes approximately $18,000 in expenses, with the largest single item being driver payout.
She said the track, which has an annual economic impact locally of over $1.5 million, will likely be reaching out to drivers to ascertain feedback pertaining to options that will work for both the drivers and the track.
"We know how important racing is to our racers, fans and the community in general, so we are doing everything we can to keep it going this summer," Baldwin said. "We are very aware of needing to do so in a socially responsible way for our community and balance that with being financially responsible on the business side of things."
Baldwin said the track just recently began contacting sponsors for the 2020 season.
"The virus really started (locally) about mid-March and paused all sponsor activities. Just this week we started calling businesses and seeing where they are," Baldwin said. "So far we've had a very good response. I think people know that we have a pretty big economic impact on the community and want to see us continue and see some events going on this summer."
Jamestown Speedway recently completely seven, three-hour practice sessions for 35 area drivers. A formal test and tune is planned for this Saturday (May 23) from noon to 4 p.m.
Devils Lake Speedway hosted its season-opening event last weekend. Dacotah Speedway in Mandan and Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen, South Dakota, are both planning June 5 openers.
“Each track in each community is going to have their own barriers to work through,” Baldwin said. “But I think we’re pretty much on par with some of the other tracks in the area that are starting at the beginning of June.”
Weekly 7 p.m. start
June 6: Season Opener
June 13: Don Gumke Racers' Memorial & Street Stock Tour
June 20: R/C Night - Kids (or adults) bring your R/C cars for some pre-race fun!
June 27: Thrills & Spills Extravaganza
July 4: Fireworks & Armed Forces Night
July 11: Dakota Classic Modified Tour
July 18: Kids Night / Summer Showcase Night
July 25: NOSA Sprints (no Mods)
Aug 8: Street Stock Tour Championship
Aug 15: Guns & Hoses & Backpacks Night
Aug 22: NLRA Late Models
Aug 29: Season Championship
Sept 25-26: 49th Annual Stock Car Stampede