FLORENCE, S.C. — Florence Motor Speedway owner Charlie Powell is planning for Saturday’s race to have open grandstands for fans.
Whether that actually happens remains to be seen, however, he said.
FMS had its season-opening race on May 16, albeit with the grandstands were closed to spectators. That decision actually came very late in the race week after a discussion with local law enforcement, Powell said.
Even so, the night’s events went off without a hitch, he added.
“We ended up have a very good race,” Powell said. “We had the biggest driver infield crowd that we’ve had in a number of years. I think people were excited to be there.”
He’s hoping that excitement will continue this weekend in an expanded capacity, but that might require more restrictions to be lifted by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, or at least some type of clarification from his office.
Last week, McMaster lifted restrictions on state attractions beginning last Friday and on youth and adult sports leagues so they could begin practicing this Saturday. The list of attractions includes zoos, aquariums, miniature golf, amusement parks and Go-Kart tracks, but it doesn’t specify anything about racing tracks.
Darlington Raceway reopened this past week for a pair of NASCAR Cup Series races and one Xfinity race, but all three were held without fans in attendance. Dillon Motor Speedway was also scheduled to hold a race this past weekend, but it noted that no fans would be allowed in the grandstands there either.
“Hopefully the governor is going to release more things,” Powell said. “One thing I don’t understand … we seem to be about the only business that can’t do anything. I went to the restaurant the other night and sat down and ate, and they had the social distancing in place, but we did, too. I spent hours marking off the grandstands where people would be. I had the pit area and the infield where people would be separated. ...
“There’s got to be a lot less exposure in a 40-acre racetrack like that where everyone is separated by multiple feet.”
Powell said he feels as if his sport and business are being treated unfairly, but regardless, he will comply with state law even if that means no fans in attendance for a while.
“I don’t want to disobey the law,” Powell said. “Some people look at racing as really not a business, but it’s a legitimate entertainment venue. ... It’s about giving people a choice. I’m not forcing anybody to do anything.”
The FMS owner went on to say that it probably will be the end of the week before he knows if fans will be allowed back.