The Jacksonville Speedway is looking forward to the sounds of race car engines returning to Friday evenings in Jacksonville, but promoters say they need to pump the brakes just a bit longer before they get back in gear.
A number of race tracks in Illinois have announced a return to racing with crowds in the stands as early as this weekend.
Jacksonville Raceway Track Manager Ken Dobson says while he supports their decisions to race, the raceway will to continue working with local health officials in considering when a full slate of race cars will return to the track.
“Every community has different interests and there are race tracks that have decided this week to start putting fans in the grandstands, which technically isn’t allowed under the Governor’s order but, you know there are things going on around the state that aren’t allowed and there hasn’t been a lot of consequences.
But what we have done throughout this entire thing is stay in really close contact with our local officials, including the Morgan County Health Department, city officials, ESDA and others, and try to make sure that anything we do is acceptable to them as being a good citizen in our community.”
Dobson says he received several texts and messages over the last few days following announcements by other tracks that they were opening their gates to fans.
In a post on the Jacksonville Speedway Facebook page, Dobson says their decision making on holding off racing a little longer has nothing to do with the political climate and more “about consultations with health officials on a local level and assisting them in fulfilling their mission and obligations.”
“While we could probably get a little more aggressive in opening, if you spend time with those folks and particularly the obligations that right now are on the Health Department with regard to contact tracing and all of that, and the staff that they have, or don’t have, to do that sort of thing, we don’t want to be the source or cause of really the community running out of resources and putting additional stress on the community.
So we’ve just elected to back off a little bit and, the time will be right for us I’m sure in the coming weeks or month, but I think that we can do it in a way that is in partnership with health officials, and when they are comfortable and everyone is comfortable, if something were to happen and some people were to show up that had it, that we could handle that sort of pressure.”
Dobson says their outlook on when to race is just about being a responsible member of the community.
“When you’re asked by officials to cooperate, we’re going to cooperate, and there are plenty of opportunities for us to make what some would call race car noise in Jacksonville. We know that there are some that don’t like it, and we race our events, sort of as a privilege, we view it as a privilege and now certainly isn’t the time for the race track to be causing problems or creating problems for the community.”
He says there has been some individual cars practicing for the upcoming season, and he’s confident the return to racing isn’t far away.
“Every town has it’s peculiar things, and to a lot of people, the sound of race cars on a Friday evening in Jacksonville, is just one of the things that means that the community is open again and functioning normally.
And at the moment, we have had some very limited practices there with some huge social distancing for participant only events. But as far as fans getting back into the grandstands, you know I don’t think it’s too far down the road but it’s certainly not time yet.”
Dobson says he is working with the World of Outlaws to reschedule events postponed from earlier this season, and that they have a couple of dates written in pencil they are aiming for, but it is too early to set anything in stone just yet.
He says the speedway takes a mid-season break each year around July, and the plan is to have an exciting second half schedule that includes the bigger events, hopefully sooner than later.