WEST PORTSMOUTH — Donna Rayburn wasn’t “planning” —due to the threat of the coronavirus anyway — for Portsmouth Raceway Park’s 2020 season to be delayed.
But, when one punch doesn’t land, often times another does.
That’s because, as of Thursday thanks to Wednesday night’s ferocious thunderstorms which swept across Southeastern Ohio, PRP — located along State Route 73 in West Portsmouth — is officially under water.
In a Thursday telephone interview with Rayburn, the 15-year PRP promoter, she said — in fact — it may take an entire month for the ENTIRE dirt-track facility to be cleaned up, completely sanitized, and ready for racing with spectators on hand.
That entire facility — which often floods because of its location close to the Scioto AND Ohio rivers — includes the dirt track, grandstands, concession stand and restrooms.
The 2020 PRP opening night is still scheduled for Saturday, May 9 with the (PRP) Kickoff Classic, but Rayburn said that date may not —and likely won’t — hold.
“We were not ‘planning’ a delay (due to COVID-19). We felt the only thing we can do is wait and see what the Governor orders. But with the flooding potential at the track, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. She is the one that has always decided whether we race or not. It flooded bad last night and we’re completely under water,” she said. “As of now, after the storms last night (Wednesday, April 8), I would say we won’t be able to open up on May 9. I encourage everybody interested to follow our Facebook page and website (portsraceway.com) for updates, but May 9 is not looking good to get the track completely cleaned up to have our opening night. There are a lot of issues we need to have addressed as far as cleanup goes before then.”
The PRP has traditionally opened the second Saturday in May, with racing —with weather and track conditions permitting — almost every Saturday night through September.
Rayburn said rainfall has postponed racing nights before, and usually only means pushing back the schedule on a weekly basis —given no special events are taking place the following week.
“The specialty nights, we keep those on their original dates if at all possible,” she said.
If PRP is unable to open on May 9, then the next Saturday night (May 16) should mark its start.
That’s, of course, assuming there are no more weather-related issues —AND this year that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s “Stay-At-Home” order is lifted by then.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis in the Buckeye State, DeWine issued an original “Stay-At-Home” order effective on March 24, then extended it on April 2 to remain in effect thru Friday, May 1.
DeWine’s order is in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control’s mandate that no mass gatherings of 50 or more people take place until at least May 2.
“We are watching what the Governor decides very closely,” said Rayburn. “But we were preparing to start this year on May 9. Nobody could have foreseen the virus, but hopefully after May 1, we can get back to normal and have racing every Saturday night.”
Rayburn re-stated the importance of following Facebook and the PRP’s page for “updates on anything”, as a complete 2020 schedule of events is listed on the PRP’s website.
During the season, the track’s telephone number is available for information — and is (740) 354-FAST.
To conclude the 2020 PRP campaign, for three nights in mid-October, the 40th annual Dirt Track World Championships are set — and includes the Renegades of Dirt Modified Tour (Oct. 15 and 16), Dirt Super Late Models (Oct. 16-17), the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (Oct. 16-17) and Limited Late Models (Oct. 16-17).
Last year, the 25th and final Fred Dillow Memorial took place in mid-August, but new to the PRP will be the third annual Dean Knittel Memorial on June 20.
The first two Dean Knittel Memorials took place at Atomic Speedway near Alma in Ross County, as the All-Star Sprints event pays $15,554 to win.
Rayburn hopes that the ENTIRE 2020 racing schedule will indeed happen, but with weather ruling the roost —and now throw in the restrictions caused by COVID-19 — unfortunately nothing for the PRP is certain this year.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved