NC health department battles Ace Speedway operators in court hearing after race track defies closure order

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will face Ace Speedway in court after the race track owners defied Gov. Roy Cooper’s closure order, according to NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.

The court hearing is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Alamance County Commissioners’ Meeting Room. Officials say the courtroom capacity is not high enough to accommodate necessary social distancing measures.

Robert Turner and his son, who operate the Ace Speedway, were not present at the hearing.

NCDHHS lawyers began listing the restrictions the state asked of Ace Speedway that they say were not followed when conducting races and the potential health risks if races continue.

Turner’s lawyer presented a declaration from the Speedway 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 has not notified the public of a closure.

“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.”

The next race is scheduled for Friday, June 19, according to ACE Speedway’s website.

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