WEST PORTSMOUTH — With fireworks and firecrackers going off, finally — hopefully — the 2020 racing season at Portsmouth Raceway Park can make good on its newest restart.
And, on what a day indeed to do it.
That’s because, following last Saturday night’s cancellation due to impending inclement weather, PRP will once again attempt to open its racing season —and do so in a big way with the Independence Day holiday.
As the calendar turns over to July, the Independence 50 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series will go on as scheduled for Saturday, July 4 — as the PRP Facebook page has spent the past few days playing the event up.
Per a PRP post: “The stars of #LucasDirt return to Portsmouth Raceway Park on July 4th for the Independence 50 presented by Able Air. See the nation’s top dirt late model drivers in a complete program — highlighted by a 50-lap, $12,000 to win main event. Modifieds $800 to win and Limited Late Models $500 to win.”
That’s right — a 50-lap feature for five figures in earnings.
For the Independence 50, Late Models will pay $12,000 to win — along with $800 for Modifieds and $500 for Limited Late Models.
But, there will be more major racing at the West Portsmouth-based track along State Route 73 less than a week later.
For the third annual Dean Knittel Memorial — rescheduled for Friday, July 10 — the Ollie’s All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprints pays $15,554 to win, with Late Models paying $3,000 to win plus a $654 bonus ($3,654 total to win).
The bonus money comes courtesy of Dean Knittel & Son Auto Repair ($554) and Mark Johnson ($100).
This past week, the track’s admission prices — for the back-to-back big-bang extravaganzas — were announced on its Facebook page, as only the $40 pit pass is established for ALL age groups.
The cost is $30 for general admission for ages 13 and older, $10 for ages seven thru 12, and children under six are admitted for free.
Gates will open at 4 p.m., followed by a driver’s meeting at 6 p.m., hot laps at 6:30 p.m. and official racing action under way at 7:30 p.m.
For this Saturday’s races, the pit gates open up at 2 p.m.
However, strict social distancing requirements must be followed, as Ohio’s dirt race tracks are one of several facilities recently declared ready to reopen —part of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s statewide response to the coronavirus threat.
The guidelines at PRP include groups of only 10 people or less, and those groups must sit six-feet away from other groups.
Spectators are asked to remain in their groups, and are encouraged — but not required — to wear masks.
Individuals must stand six-feet apart in the concession-stand line, hand sanitizer will be randomly placed throughout the facility, and race teams are encouraged to park six-feet apart and are limited to no more than 10 people at a time in their pit area.
The Independence Day slate will be PRP’s third full attempt at starting its racing season —with weather and/or DeWine’s directives denying a start since mid-May.
The original opening night was scheduled for Saturday, May 9 — but because of ferocious thunderstorms on April 8 and with DeWine’s “Stay-At-Home” order still in place, that date suddenly became jeopardized.
Since mid-May, PRP has been hosting live discussions on Facebook — which take place on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m.
In early June, PRP announced that June 27 would serve as its opening night — as all the necessary preparations had been made and details continually posted.
But near noon on Saturday, track personnel made the call to call that night’s card off —as thunderstorms, even some severe, were forecasted for that evening.
The complete racing program was to have included Late Models, Modifieds, Limited Late Models and Sport Mods —plus the Ohio Valley Roofers Legend Car Series.
There will be no racing at PRP on Saturdays of July 11 and July 18.
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