WEST PORTSMOUTH — As Portsmouth Raceway Park idles accordingly to its revised schedule for two weeks, let a reminder serve that it is presently running under both the proverbial green and yellow flags for the remainder of its 2020 season.
And, as always amid the coronavirus threat, there exists the possibility —provided spectators somehow don’t follow proper protocols or if Ohio Governor Mike DeWine decides that another statewide shutdown is in order —that the red flag will in fact come out.
As PRP —on Independence Day with its opening night and most recently last Friday night for the third annual Dean Knittel Memorial — finally officially began its delayed season, the track is doing so with a revised schedule, but more importantly is working in conjunction with the Scioto County Health Department for the remainder of the year.
On Thursday evening, it was learned that “per a Scioto County court order” according to the PRP Facebook page, the track was setting a spectator limit of 2,500 for the general admission grandstands —for Friday night’s Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprints third annual Dean Knittel Memorial.
The races went off without a hitch despite some speculation as early as Wednesday they would not, and —in fact — Kyle Larson, the NASCAR Cup Series driver who is on indefinite suspension from that series, captured the Dean Knittel Memorial championship.
However, PRP personnel planned for serious social distancing requirements for Friday night as a result of Thursday’s court order, as the 2,500 spectators allowed in did not include “drivers, pit crews or those in private suites”.
Moving forward, as there is no racing at the top-notch West Portsmouth facility for this coming weekend, 15-year PRP promoter Donna Rayburn responded to a Portsmouth Daily Times question regarding racing for the remainder of the 2020 schedule.
She was essentially asked if the 2,500-spectator limit — or ANY spectator limit — would be in place for the rest of the season.
“We will be working with the Scioto County Health Department for a decision on the remainder of our season,” said Rayburn, responding via text message on Sunday. “Please watch our Facebook page and website —www.portsraceway.com — for updates.”
Fans can also call the track at (740) 354-FAST (3278).
Indeed, the PRP Facebook page and website are updated often with any and all information, including last Friday’s following post:
“Spectators will be allowed in pits. No more than 10 people with a car at one time. Remember, social distancing is the key to keeping all race tracks operating. Please help us all to keep racing and follow the rules. Masks are HIGHLY suggested!”
While weather impacting the track’s schedule is one thing, should DeWine decide to shut down dirt race tracks again is another animal altogether.
The number of coronavirus confirmed cases in the state has spiked in recent weeks, and legitimate concern exists that IF spectators do not practice simple social distancing rules, then consequences could come as a result.
The newly-created Ohio Public Health Advisory System — as part of the statewide response to the coronavirus threat — currently has Scioto County listed as a Level 2 Public Emergency, meaning there is “increased exposure and spread” of the virus and for individuals to exercise a “high degree of caution”.
There are four total levels, with presently a dozen counties at a Level 3 with three counties —Hamilton, Butler and Cuyahoga — considered “on watch” for being bumped to the highest and most severe, which is Level 4.
But back at PRP, Rayburn recommends strongly that social distancing be practiced at the facility.
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 was 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 that Saturday, track personnel made the call to call that night’s card off —as thunderstorms, even some severe, were forecasted for that evening.
The next scheduled event at PRP is set for Saturday, July 25 —with Weaver’s Gas & Oil OVSCA Sprints taking place.
Late Models will pay $2,000 to win — along with $800 for Modifieds and $400 for Sport Mods.
This past week, the track’s admission prices — for the July 25 event — were announced on its website page, as only the $30 pit pass is established for ALL age groups.
The cost is $15 for general admission for ages 13 and older, $5 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.
The PRP racing season is set to conclude on Oct. 15 thru Oct. 17 — with the 40th annual Dirt Track World Championship.
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