Without any enforceable restrictions against large gatherings in place in the state because of the coronavirus pandemic, Park Jefferson International Speedway — a dirt track in North Sioux City, South Dakota — is planning to hold the Open Wheel Nationals on Saturday with ticket sales capped at 700 for a track with a seating capacity of 4,000.
While a number of sports leagues have talked about holding events without fans in order to resume competition, the Open Wheel Nationals would be an exception, despite holding ticket sales to under 20% of capacity.
Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday that fans shouldn’t attend the races.
“I’m going to strongly recommend to the people of South Dakota that they not go and that they stay home,” Noem said, according to ArgusLeader.com. “We’re asking that they be wise and smart to continue on the path and plan we’ve laid out for South Dakota for several more weeks.”
Track owner Adam Adamson, who is co-promoting the event with longtime area promoter Terry McCarl, told ArgusLeader.com that the tickets have been pre-sold, concessions will be purchased via credit cards instead of cash and that a 10-person clubhouse fans use to view the action will be closed.
While Noem has advised against large-scale gatherings in the state, she hasn’t issued a statewide stay-at-home order or any other enforceable restrictions.
“We intend to go overboard on following CDC guidelines,” Adamson told the newspaper. “We’re just a small race track in rural South Dakota trying to give some entertainment and a little bit of a break from some of this madness that’s going on right now. We think we can do so in a safe environment.”
The racing will feature 410 sprint cars and the IMCA modifieds, with both fields limited to 32 entries apiece. The 64 total teams are fewer than half the 150 teams that can be accommodated at the track, according to McCarl. The 410 sprint car winner will earn $5,000, with the IMCA modifieds winner earning $1,000.
The same approach used to limit entries was used in deciding to limit ticket sales to 700.
“The way we figured it, we could probably have a little over 900 people with six feet apart between each person, and we’re actually only selling 700 seats, not even 900. We actually went way less than that just to give people more room,” McCarl told Keloland.com.
The county in which the track is located has just seven positive tests for COVID-19, Keloland.com reports.
“There isn’t community transmission in that county, and according to the CDC, we’re still eligible to do what we want to do,” McCarl said.
In a statement to Keloland.com, the Union County Sheriff’s Department said that with no orders to close businesses and only advisories pertaining to precautions to take during the pandemic that no legal action will be taken against the track or against Huset’s Speedway, which has said it would hold a race at some point this season.