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  • tombergie01

Canadian Racers 'Basically Screwed Right Now'

Austin Hunter is one of several Canadian drivers who race in the U.S. Mike Spieker/Speedway Shots

Here are some prominent dirt-racing names that I hope I get to see race — soon — in 2020: Ward Imrie (2-time Wissota Mod National Champ) Mike Balcaen (former NLRA champion) Shane Edginton (Wissota Late Model national runner up in 2019) Austin Hunter (fourth in Wissota Midwest Mod national points in 2019) Dave and Matthew Smith (father-son late model team out of Edmonton) Rick Delaine (Wissota Mod champ at Greenbush in 2019) Bill Mooney (solid NLRA late model driver) Victoria Stutsky (up and coming midwest modified driver) What that group has in common is they are all racers from Canada. They also can’t come to the United States and race right now. Because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, all non-essential travel is banned between the two countries. And in this case, racing isn’t considered essential. The quote in the headline is from a Canadian driver who really wants to race, but can’t. And there are some tracks opening this weekend and a few opened last weekend.

This is even tougher since their home tracks won't open before June. Red River Co-op Speedway outside of Winnipeg has cancelled all racing in May and its first scheduled night of racing is set for June 4. ALH Speedway outside of Morden, Manitoba has also cancelled all races through May 31. So they basically have nowhere to race at home, either. Multi-time Wissota Late Model national champ Ricky Weiss is racing in the United States, bur is also considered a full-time racer now. You can travel between the two countries for work. With restrictions slowly being lifted across the world, it’s time to revisit this non-essential travel ban too. And end it. There is a significant impact economically because of this, and it goes beyond racing. There is a good amount people from Canada travel to Grand Forks and Fargo to shop, and that also means staying in hotels and eating at restaurants. The driver I spoke with said that small towns on both sides of the border, at least in this part of the world are being devastated ecumenically because of this travel ban. How does this impact local racing in the RaceChaser? In, three of the top 10 drivers in the late model standings at River Cities Speedway were from Manitoba. Four of the top 10 in modified track points at Greenbush Race Park last year were Canadian. Four of the top 10 NLRA late model points finishers last year were from Canada. It will impact car counts in Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Greenbush and perhaps I-94 Speedway. I’ve taken the Covid-19 crisis seriously the whole time, and the fact that 90,000 people have died in the United States from it is tragic. But I also know the lasting economic strain could be just as devastating in the long term: people losing businesses, homes, jobs, and these stresses can have lasting effects. Not to mention the fear that suicide rates could increase because of the economic woes. And I’m wondering — who decides what business or job is “essential” or not? A liquor store being open is essential (not knocking drinking, just wondering why). That’s another topic for another day. There will be continued cases of Covid-19 in the months ahead. It isn’t going away. Which means proper social distancing and cleaning, we can function and continue to work to stop the spread. Plus we will start to build immunity, too. We can’t stay at home till there’s a vaccine, that could be a year away. We can do this at racetracks, too. Wear masks, practice social distancing in the crowds/ticket lines and pit areas, use hand sanitizer. Truth is in the pit area most people spread out normally anyway unless it is the Wissota 100 or some huge event like that. We need to keep contacting political leaders of our states/provinces to allow racing to happen with fans. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, folks.

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