RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s health department has won its case against Ace Speedway as a judge granted a temporary restraining order forcing the race track to close.
The ruling came Thursday afternoon after attorneys representing Ace Speedway and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services presented their cases.
Upon returning after a recess, 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.”
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 today’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.”