The decision to lift the abatement order comes as the state, which has been one of the slowest to reopen and was called out publicly by President Donald J. Trump during Tuesday night’s debate, enters phase three of its reopening plans. Phase three in North Carolina, however, is still significantly stricter than its conservative neighbor in the south and its more liberal neighbor in the north.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Ace Speedway owner and operator Jason Turner told Short Track Scene. “We’ve worked hard to continue to maintain the property and facility to make sure it’s in race-ready shape. We know that the COVID situation has been a constantly fluid and rapidly changing situation, and we wanted to make sure that we were at the ready so we could make an announcement at a moment’s notice.”
That moment came on Wednesday when the abatement order was lifted. The track quickly made an announcement that they would return to racing on Friday, Oct. 9, and would work within North Carolina’s guidelines. The lifting of the abatement order also comes on the heels of the state filing an abatement order against Carteret County Speedway which remains in effect – although Carteret County Speedway was going to close down temporarily anyway to assess and repair the pavement after a disastrous CARS Tour race in September.
So, how can the track operate within the restrictions still in place?
“Ace Speedway has a lot of sponsorship support from the local community,” Turner explained. “COVID has definitely put a strain on what Ace has been able to generate as far as revenue. However, that hasn’t deterred a lot of our local sponsors from continuing to support us no matter what. Advertising with Ace Speedway continues to be a cost-effective solution for marketing and for anyone’s business and we intend to keep it that way.”
Turner said a pay-per-view broadcast for an upcoming race is also an option for generating revenue when he does go racing. Turner said he was working on a date to deliver on a pay-per-view broadcast at Ace Speedway, possibly through Pit Row TV.
Throughout the summer, Jason Turner became a galvanizing public figure, especially among North Carolina conservatives, for his efforts to reopen Ace Speedway. When the track was singled out by the State of North Carolina and forced to shut down at the start of the summer, Turner was seen as something of a martyr.
The saga which unfolded over the court of three Ace Speedway races made international headlines.
“It’s the proverbial 15 minutes of fame,” Turner said. “You’re nationwide one day and the next, you’re old news. I’ve really put no emphasis on anything. We didn’t do this to win a popularity contest. We did this because we want to race. We’re speaking up for what is right. We want local businesses to succeed and, if that means somebody has to speak up, so be it.”
When Ace Speedway was shut down, other tracks operated in defiance of the governor’s orders without the public backlash, and many North Carolina businesses operated as if there were no restrictions in effect. During that time, Turner has remained outspoken about the economic injustices facing North Carolina businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
For that part, Turner remains unapologetic.
“Freedom of speech is a constitutional right,” Turner stated. “That’s something that I don’t take lightly. I’m going to speak my mind 100 percent of the time regardless of consequences.”
While Turner remained outspoken, he continued to focus his business, Accelerated Graphics, while maintaining and improving the facilities at the Altamahaw, North Carolina facility and racing at Tri-County Motor Speedway. His father, Robert, who operates the track alongside Jason, was a former racer at Ace Speedway himself and worked with East Carolina Motor Speedway in Robersonville before that track shut down late last year.
When the news came down on Wednesday that Ace Speedway would be able to reopen, albeit, at reduced capacity, racers reacted with excitement.
“We’ve reached out to a lot of cars already,” Turner said. “I’ve made about 60 phone calls today. Really, it’s been great to have that level of support from the racers. These guys know that we’re one of them. We don’t just say that, that’s actually legit. When I couldn’t open my doors, I practiced what I preached. I dug out my old car and went to Tri-County to not only show that racers and owners can work together but to also show that, no matter where you are in the state, racing or attending the race is not a health hazard.
While the track was deemed as a public health hazard, no coronavirus cases were directly linked to Ace Speedway. A CARS Tour crew member had tested positive after a race at Ace Speedway, but the case was contracted at his workplace and not at the track. Additionally, no coronavirus cases have been linked to Carteret County Speedway, which was also ordered to halt operations by the state.
Medical experts expect SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to worsen during the cooler fall and winter months. As cases rise, there remains uncertainty as to whether additional shutdowns will be deemed necessary by local and state governments – especially since much of the response to a second wave will depend on the results of the Nov. 3 elections.
For his part, Turner has kept that in mind and does say public safety is a priority.
“COVID will likely always be here in some form or fashion,” Turner explained. “We’ll continue operating with proper sanitation procedures and scale up attendance as soon as possible.”
Next Friday’s return to racing at Ace Speedway will feature racing for all of the track’s regular season divisions, including Late Model Stock Cars, Modifieds, and Limited Late Models. The track’s overall capacity limit and guidelines have not been announced yet. Turner says he has submitted a plan to the state for approval.