I get the impression, at least, that based on some social media posts, that people don’t understand why race fans and drivers want to have a 2020 season so bad amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Let me give you one answer. This is our outlet, our hobby, our passion. For many of us our time at the track is our socializing for the week. We like to hang out, maybe have a few beers, and talk racing. Reminisce and re-tell stories. Racing matters a lot to us. It’s good for our mental health to be at the track. If you aren’t a race fan, think of your own outlet. Some like to hunt. Some like to fish (my grandpa and I went fishing 100s of times from the time I was a kid through adulthood and it is fantastic being on the water). Some like to golf. Some like to hike or camp. Some like to walk or go for a run. Some like to garden. We all have outlets that are a source of enjoyment that provide an escape, a release. For many of us, racing and being at the track is ours. It is much more than just going fast and turning left which is the perception of some. Guess what? You can do a lot of what I mentioned above — fish, golf, hike, run, garden. I’m guessing that if it were in-season you could hunt too although a large majority of those seasons are in the fall.
Plus, we get 3-4 months out of the year to enjoy our hobby. And we don't want to waste that kind of weather.
That’s why I think many of us are willing to adapt to the social distancing rules and restrictions in order to have a season. If it means sitting further apart or wearing masks for a while, I’ll live with it (some don’t agree and that is totally your right).
Fans in the grandstands pay a good amount of the bills at racetracks — driver purse, insurance, wages for the track workers, concessions, track prep costs, etc., You might be able to hold a few races and get some sponsors and rely on revenues from pit gate admission and a percentage of the pay per view to cover the costs, but long-term this isn’t an answer for a whole season. No fans and pay per view might just be the best that can be done now to hold until further restrictions are lifted. I’m hoping some restrictions are lifted to allow fans in the stands as the weeks go on. Because tracks need butts in the seats.
Bottom line, for tracks to have a legit chance to have a significant racing season in 2020, paying spectators are needed.
Golf courses, state parks, shooting ranges are allowed to be open in Minnesota. Some resorts, are too. I can’t see a good reason — with common sense social distancing practices — that a racetrack couldn’t open. There might be some changes to seating or concession/ticket practices, but most of us would be willing to live with those rules to get the season going.
If we need to pressure our politicians to ease the restrictions on racetracks — since golf courses and other recreational spots are now open, with restrictions — then so be it. Sometimes politicians listen to the loudest voices. I am planning to email Gov. Burgum, Gov. Walz and Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota this week to let them know why racing is important to me.
And part of that explanation should be why racing, our hobby and outlet, is so important to our emotional and mental well-being.