The Estevan Motor Speedway (EMS) has announced the cancellation of its next two race programs, but they’re still hoping to have something for drivers this month.
The EMS’s board voted on May 12 to call off their programs slated for May 22 and 29, bringing the total number of cancelled race programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic to four. They earlier cancelled a season-opening double-header slated for the first weekend in May.
But the track is going to hold a closed, limited practice session May 23 for racers.
“We’re going to have it closed off in sessions,” said board president Byron Fichter.
There will be 10 cars and one pit crew per car at the speedway’s grounds at one time. The 10 cars will be split into two sections of five in the pits, with social distancing measures taken into consideration when determining where the cars will be located.
Five cars will be allowed to drive onto the track at once.
Each driver will be allowed to have one pitman.
“With the practice sessions, it’s going to be structured in a way for us to make a few dollars,” said Fichter.
There will be sessions from 2-4 p.m., 5-7 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. The hour between the practices will give them a chance to have vehicles and their crews leave, prepare the track, and for the next set of drivers to move in.
It will also allow them to have a soft trial for when they are able to start racing, and they get to ensure their equipment is working.
“There’s lots of frost in the ground,” said Fichter. “The ground shifts and moves. All of our electrical stuff’s inside. The test and tune is the perfect opportunity to get the scoring and timing up to speed, and get the prep work of the track done.”
The track’s board has been working with the Government of Saskatchewan about having a better outline of what the speedway can do in June. Their next scheduled program is scheduled for June 13, which is to be the Tougher than Dirt tour stop.
The EMS has also looked at the possibility of races without fans in the stands, similar to what a track in South Dakota did last month. Racing fans would pay to watch the race via pay per view.
It’s another topic the track has discussed with the provincial government.
Fichter noted that tracks in North Dakota have been granted 20 per cent access of their grandstands. So if the track could normally seat 1,000 people, they would now be able to admit 200.
“If they say we can’t have any grandstand (spectators), we are working on a theoretical pay per view event. Again, we can’t do that unless we know we can make some money, or at least break even.”
Financial issues are a concern for the speedway. The track relies heavily on sponsorship, and that’s going to be tough this year due to financial challenges facing people in the community. Cancelling events is tough on them, since much of their revenues come from ticket sales and admission fees.
“We can’t take sponsorship money from people when we aren’t racing, because we aren’t able to promote those sponsors.”
A decision hasn’t been made on the Dakota Classic Modified Tour double-header, scheduled for July 11 and 12. It had been billed as the biggest event in the speedway’s history.
Fichter said there would be a lot of factors on whether the tour stops would proceed.