The state of North Carolina ordered Ace Speedway to be closed immediately, citing the track as an “imminent hazard for the spread of COVID-19” after it repeatedly violated his executive order against mass gatherings.
The order was issued by the North Carolina Department of Heath and Human Services. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday that the state would take action this week if local officials did not.
Ace Speedway is located in Alamance County, about two hours northeast of Charlotte Motor Speedway. The county’s sheriff stated Monday he would not issue any citations to the track for having crowds that exceeded state guidelines on mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order from the state prohibits Ace Speedway from operating in any form. The order also states that the track shall notify the public by 5 p.m. ET Tuesday that its upcoming races – the track’s next scheduled event is June 19 – will be canceled.
The order states that track officials may propose a plan that will follow the state’s guidelines on mass gatherings. The order states that such a plan must be approved by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The state is in Phase 2 of reopening. That limits mass gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
NBC Sports reached out to a track official for comment.
Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson told WGHP he asked the governor’s office for a clarification but had not heard from the office at the time.
“It puts me in a heck of a position as a sheriff, and any sheriff in this state, to try to write a citation to enforce the governor’s order when in fact it’s a constitutional violation in my opinion and the other sheriffs in this state,” Johnson said.
The track held races the past three weekends. Photos and video have shown many more than that at recent races at Ace Speedway. Last Saturday, the track placed a sign at its entrance that read: “This Event is held in PEACEFUL Protest of Injustice & Inequality Everywhere – Ace Speedway.”
“People shouldn’t run a money-making operation that puts in danger not only their customers but anybody who would come into contact with their customers,” Gov. Cooper said Monday. “This is a reckless decision being made by the owners, pulling people together in that way that can cause the spread of the (coronavirus) virus.
“Alamance County (home of the track) is one of the counties that is having higher numbers than it should have. We look forward to taking some action on this in the coming week.
“It’s concerning that Alamance officials have not been able to stop this. We would hope that they could. But if they can’t, then the state will have to take action, which we will do this week if the local officials don’t.”
In a media release announcing the order, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services stated: “The novel coronavirus continues to threaten North Carolina, with recent data indicating an acceleration in the number of new cases, a greater percentage of positive tests and an increase in hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19. Alamance County has had an increasing trend in number of cases since the start of the pandemic with larger increases in the numbers of cases since the last week in April. The doubling time for the outbreak in Alamance reached a maximum of 19.7 days in the last week of May, and decreased to 13.6 days in early June, indicating that viral spread is becoming more rapid.”
Ace Speedway owner Robert Turner has been outspoken about having fans at his races. In a May 21 story, Turner told the Times-News in Burlington, North Carolina, that “I’m going to race and I’m going to have people in the stands.”
“And unless they can barricade the road, I’m going to do it. The racing community wants to race. They’re sick and tired of the politics. People are not scared of something that ain’t killing nobody. It may kill .03 percent, but we deal with more than that every day, and I’m not buying it no more.
“I’ve got a business to run and a job to do, and when I can’t run my business and I can’t go to my job and make a full paycheck, I’m in jail already. So getting behind bars does not scare me. I’m going to speak my piece, and we’re going to do something.”