As many sporting events, including short track races, are being postponed or canceled in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, those with future events are considering their options moving forward.
One such venue is MIllbridge Speedway, which hosts karting events throughout the year. It is those events that provide a livelihood for the Burnett family.
Ashly Burnett, who co-owns and promotes the facility alongside her husband Jeremy, joined Speed51’s “The Bullring” Friday night to discuss the challenges and tough decisions ahead.
“Obviously, our number one concern is safety,” Burnett said. “What’s holding us together right now is that it’s not mandated in North Carolina, it’s a recommendation [to limit large gatherings].”
With that said, no racing at the track means no business for the Burnett family, who have dedicated their livelihoods to the success of Millbridge Speedway.
“We want to make sure everyone is safe, but we have to keep going to stay afloat. A lot of people do it as a second job. Jeremy and I are both full-time at Millbridge. We have to look at how it will impact our family as well as everyone else who works with us, too.”
Currently, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has advised against gatherings of more than 100 people in the state. While it is not a mandate at this time, it is something the Burnetts are taking under strong consideration as they weigh their options for future events.
“I’m seeing a lot of negative things on social media right now, ‘Why would they cancel?’ Well, we might have to cancel. People aren’t seeing our side of the story. If the governor says 100 people, and we let 150 people in, and within that 50 people one person gets sick, that comes back on us and could close us down forever.”
For Millbridge, health and safety takes on extra meaning because of the racers who compete there. Many of the competitors at Millbridge are Box Stock and Beginner Box Stock racers under the age of 14.
“Not only do we have to look out for your safety, but we have to look out for our business as well, and safety, too. We have a lot of kids and a lot of families as well. It affects everyone.”
The Burnetts have also discussed the possibility of altering schedules by splitting up divisions and having more nights of racing, in order to meet the government recommendations without postponing events.
“Jeremy and I had talked about that, when we first saw the news, Illinois had done a mandate of 250. We sat down and talked about that being fine because we could do the kids on Tuesday and the Opens and Intermediates or Micros on Wednesday.”
Ultimately, both the Burnetts and Millbridge racers want to race, but they are also staying in touch with the news in order to determine the best course of action.
“Right now, we want to race. They want to get to the track and race. We’re going to have to take it day by day, along with the rest of the world. We’re constantly watching the news and our phones. It’ll come down to the Tuesday before, we’ll see what we can do safely.”
If Outlaw Kart racing does take place at Millbridge, they hope their partnership with Speed51 will offer fans who may not be able to attend an avenue to still watch the races.
“It would kill me to have to cut off a grandmother at the gate and say you can’t watch your grandchild race,” said Burnett. “Putting something together where people could stay at home, or watch from home if they’re not feeling well, would be great.”
The DNQ Karting Series is scheduled to compete next week at Millbridge, while the next Outlaw Kart event at the track is scheduled for Wednesday, March 25.
Fans can listen to the full interview with Burnett on “The Bullring” by clicking here.
Stay tuned to Speed51 for continued updates on racing events during the coronavirus pandemic.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo