A North Carolina Superior Court judge granted a temporary restraining order Thursday that prevents Ace Speedway, which has defied state guidelines on mass gatherings, from holding any races.
The next hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on June 19.
Ace Speedway, which is located about two hours northeast of Charlotte Motor Speedway, has held races each of the past three weekends despite a state limit on mass gatherings.
North Carolina is in Phase 2 of re-opening. Gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Photos and videos have shown crowds at the track’s recent races more than allowed by the state.
Last weekend, the track placed a sign at its entrance that read: “This Event is held in PEACEFUL Protest of Injustice & Inequality Everywhere – Ace Speedway.” The track viewed its event as a protest, allowing it to have a crowd exceeding state guidelines.
On Monday, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper called the track’s action’s a “reckless decision.”
Later that day, 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.”
The track is located in Alamance County and the county’s sheriff had refused to cite the track for surpassing the state guidelines on mass gatherings.
“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.
Alamance County Superior Court judge Tom Lambeth said Thursday that the state showed there is an “imminent health hazard in our state and in our county … it’s a serious, serious matter.”
He went on to say:
“I think people are getting quarantine fatigue as I’ve seen it phrased. I think people want to get back to normal, but we’re not there yet. I think that our leaders should be applauded for trying to do what they can to do that very delicate balancing act between our economy and the public health crisis.”
Judge Lambeth then cited a recent Supreme Court decision not to intervene in challenges by churches in Southern California and the Chicago area to lift crowd restrictions for their services. Judge Lambeth read a passage from Chief Justice John Roberts.
Roberts wrote: “The precise question on when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement. Our Constitution principally entrusts the safety and health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the state to guard and protect. When those officials undertake to act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties, their latitude must be especially broad.”