Car racing has resumed at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds Speedway, and this week a limited fan base will be welcomed back.
The June 5-6 races will include requirements for racers, pit crews and fans to protect against the spread of COVID-19, said race promoter Gene Felker.
“We are taking precautions and are serious about the rules,” he said.
The event may draw up to 200 people, which could violate Colorado’s safer-at-home health order, which limits gatherings to 10 people.
But Felker believes a controlled event with a limited number of fans who are separated can be held safely with strict requirements to protect against the virus. He has been struggling financially without fans in the stands.
“It’s time to open the country back up. I lease the facility, so it is my private business, and it will done the right way and the safe way,” he said. “Cortez and the county have supported me, and I want to give back with quality racing for the community and provide some jobs. It’s a great facility.”
The speedway’s 3/8-mile track and grandstands are part of the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. County commissioners said Tuesday they were not opposed to hosting a limited number of fans if precautions were in place.
“The state does not take issue with organized protests with thousands of people and no social distancing,” said Commissioner Keenan Ertel. “So why would there be an issue with some fans sitting on outdoor bleachers at the racetrack?”
At the racetrack, all fans, racers and pit crews are required to wear masks, practice social distancing and not shake hands. Hand sanitizer stations, and personal sanitizer bottles provided by the race track and Ute Mountain Casino will be handed out. Everyone’s temperature will be taken before entering the venue to make sure they do not have a fever.
Anyone who shows signs of sickness or refuses to wear a mask will be denied entry, race officials said. Children also must wear masks.
Fans will be escorted to their seats, Felker said, and be separated from others. Fans can have groups of 10 or less, and each group must be 6 feet apart from the next group or individual. Seating is first-come, first-served. Discounted tickets are $5.
Promoters said the grandstands will be limited to 150 to 200 people, about one-quarter its capacity.
“If there is any sign of an outbreak, I will shut it down,” the race organizer said.
Previous weekend races in May did not allow fans because of the safer-at-home health order. The order recently was extended to July 1 by Gov. Jared Polis.
Before entering the venue, racers and pit crews had to register with their name, phone number and address, and were required to wear masks and social distance. Each person’s temperature was taken to ensure no one had a fever. Groups limited to six or fewer people stayed 20 feet apart from one another, and extra parking was rented to help spread everyone out. Compliance has been good, officials said, and the event went smoothly.
The kickoff May 15-17 event at the Montezuma County Speedway attracted record number of racers because it was one of the first to begin races in the Western region, officials said.
An average of 178 cars raced per day, with no fans in the stands, and it was broadcast by RaceXR with more than 1,000 views per day. It was the largest weekend event in the Western region, officials said.
Felker, who took over operations at the speedway in 2019, said he has grown the weekend events to 70 to 90 cars, up from 40 to 50.
Attendance has increased, and the track and stands have been improved. A giant American flag was painted on the bleachers.
Modified, stock car, sport mod and sport compact races run throughout the weekend.
A youth sport class also has been added. Kids ages 10-14 race in four-cylinder cars. The Chevy Cavaliers have been taking the checkered flag lately.
“These kids can flat-out drive, they are the next generation of racers, and we take pride in that,” Felker said. “It is catching on too, when a kid sees a neighbor kid working on a race car, they want one too.”
For more information visit the Montezuma County Speedway Facebook page. Interested sponsors can contact officials via the Facebook messaging portal.