ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — Another North Carolina race track has canceled its upcoming race after a judge ordered Ace Speedway to close.
Dixieland Speedway, in Elizabeth City, announced Thursday that it would canceled its Friday race.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Cooper has ordered all race activities, with fans in attendance, to cease. With this mandate, and after communicating with local officials, the race program scheduled for Friday has been canceled,” Dixieland Speedway said in a statement on Facebook. “We plan to share more details on the 2020 season resumption soon.”
According to Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 2 executive order, race tracks are permitted to operate with no more than 25 people in attendance in an outdoor space.
Piedmont Dragway in Julian has a Test & Tune scheduled for Friday. Piedmont Dragway has not acknowledged the order on the track’s Facebook page as of Friday afternoon.
Kevin Shipmon, of Piedmont Dragway, declined to comment about the race which is currently planned to include spectators.
Thursday evening, 311 Speedway in Pine Hall promoted a “protest” race scheduled for 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The protest race charges $20 admission with meal included and a live band scheduled for 2 p.m.
311 Speedway is taking safety precautions including skipping every other row to keep people spread out and banning groups larger than 10 people. The race track encourages anyone who attends to be tested for COVID-19.
“We ask everyone to follow the State Guidelines that are in place for Covid-19 virus,” 311 Speedway said on Facebook. “We the People have a First Amendment Right of the Constitution to Protest. Our main goal is to open our Country back up for us to have a normal life.”
First Amendment Right is your right to protest. We will not tolerate vulgar language or nudity. Anyone that doesn’t follow the Covid-19 Guidelines will not only put themselves at risk but you’ll be putting others at risk. If you have been sick with flu like symptoms we strongly suggest you to not take part. If you have a weak immune system you shouldn’t come in support eventhough we appreciate your support. Thank you and we hope you can make it out, Mike Fulp 311 Speedway.
Come support us this Saturday from 12 pm to 5 pm, Live Band playing from 2 pm to 4 pm. $20.00 Admission includes a free meal.
In Protest to open our small businesses back up. It’s time we go back to normal.
North Carolina’s health department won its case against Ace Speedway on Thursday as a judge granted a temporary restraining order forcing the race track to close.
The judge said that state leaders are likely very stressed amid the pandemic and are working through a “true public health emergency.”
“It really makes me sad how sort of contentious some of this is becoming among people in our society,” the judge said. “You know, we are all American. I keep shaking my head sometimes because we’ve got such an us versus them mentality in our nation right now that is so regrettable.”
The temporary restraining order, requested by the state, means that the race track must close until further instruction.
There will be a follow-up hearing on June 19.
After the order was issued, Ace Speedway announced on Facebook that they canceled Thursday open practice, as well as June 13 and 19 events.
“Thank you to our local officials who have stood by their beliefs,” Ace Speedway said in Facebook. “Thank you to our fans, our employees, our sponsors and our race teams who have expressed their support through the good and the bad. Continue to stick with us, this does not mean 2020 is over, just on hold.”
Attorneys representing Ace Speedway and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services both presented their cases before the judge’s decision.
Robert Turner and his son, Jason, who operate the Ace Speedway, were not present at the hearing.
NCDHHS lawyers began the hearing by listing the restrictions the state asked of Ace Speedway, which the state says were not followed when conducting races, and the potential health risks if races continue.
Turner’s lawyer presented a declaration from the race track to the judge.
He said Ace Speedway was advised by local officials on what safety measures were needed and the speedway followed those and has documentation of it.
He said the state does not have the police power to shut down the race track, just to place restrictions, and that the 25-person limit on outdoor seating makes it impossible to run a business.
The Ace Speedway lawyer says other race tracks have not faced the same restrictions, including a recent televised race in Charlotte. He claims that Gov. Cooper’s office singled out Ace Speedway because the owner spoke out against the governor.
The NCDHHS lawyer said that the Charlotte race complied with the order and worked with the state to make sure that the race could happen safely. He says those same restrictions were discussed with Ace Speedway.
Robert and Jason Turner’s lawyer said the Turners do not own Ace Speedway. They’re just a part of a company that is in charge of operating races there.
Cooper on Monday ordered ACE Speedway to close and called the venue an imminent hazard.
Cooper and Cohen said in an order issued on Monday night that the speedway could reopen for customers if it presents a plan showing it will follow state guidelines.
The plan must be approved by the NCDHHS for the speedway to reopen.
ACE Speedway had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to tell the public that races and other upcoming events would be canceled until Monday, June 22.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the speedway had not notified the public of a closure. The first acknowledgment came Thursday after the restraining order was issued.
“We haven’t been notified that they’ve been closing so that will escalate to some additional legal steps we take in court,” Cohen said in a news conference Wednesday. “And I believe there will be a hearing on that tomorrow. So we will let the lawyers take that from there.”
U.S. Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) has issued the following statement in regards to Thursday’s ruling on Ace Speedway:
“Instead of providing solutions for the million North Carolinians out of work and a hurting state economy, Governor Cooper, in targeting local Ace Speedway, has shut down yet another business reminding our state that his authoritative grip knows no bounds. Cooper’s ‘do as I say, not as I do’ hypocrisy needs to end, allowing our state’s businesses to fully reopen and get back to work.”