North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has ordered Ace Speedway in Alamance County to be closed immediately, declaring the venue an imminent hazard.
The order was issued on Monday night.
The order says Ace Speedway must notify the public by 5 p.m. on Tuesday that its schedule has been canceled until June 22. The order says Ace Speedway could reopen if it presents a plan to adhere to state guidelines and if that plan is approved by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The venue’s next event is scheduled for June 19, but no such cancellation notice has been published by Ace Speedway channels. The order allows the Governor to send in state police officers to enforce the order if track operators Robert and Jason Turner do not adhere to it.
The track first reopened from the coronavirus pandemic on May 23, but only after Alamance County sheriff Terry Johnson refused to enforce the mass gathering order under a conviction that it was unconstitutional. The track has now hosted three events and has averaged nearly 2,000 fans packed from shoulder-to-shoulder around the .400-mile track.
The track declared its CARS Tour race this past weekend as a peaceful protest against injustice and inequality everywhere.
The decision made by track operators Robert and Jason Turner was essentially a response to the nationwide protests stemming from the killing of George Floyd — a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota last month.
Protests and riots followed in the name of racial injustice and inequality, with Gov. Cooper himself marching in one of the protests in Raleigh. The right to assemble and protest is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The Turners, looking for a loophole around Cooper’s order, then declared racing events as peaceful protests.
Gov. Cooper foreshadowed the closure order during a press conference on Monday.
“People shouldn’t run a money-making operation that puts in danger, not only their customers, but anyone who would come into contact with their customers,” Cooper said. “This is a reckless decision being made by the owners, pulling people together in that way, that can cause spread of the virus. Alamance is one of the counties that is having higher numbers than it should and we’re looking forward to taking action against it in the coming week.
“It’s concerning that Alamance County officials have not been able to stop this. We had hoped that they would. If they can’t, the state will have to take action, which we will this week if the local officials do not.”
Sheriff Johnson believes the governor is unfairly singling out Ace Speedway. 311 Speedway, a dirt track in nearby Stokes County, has continued to operate without sanction. Johnson also believes race tracks should be exempt from the mass gathering orders if churches and protests are as well.
Johnson issued a statement on Monday night detailing his reasons to not enforce Cooper’s orders.
“This concerns me greatly to know that my citizens have basically been singled out for the same alleged violations that are occurring all over the State of North Carolina,” Johnson wrote. “While I am having to make a tough decision on what to do, I want to make it clear to all citizens that this is in no way politically motivated on my part. I assure you that I respect the Office of the Governor of North Carolina but I have serious reservations on the legality of his order.
“It is within the Governor’s Right to request the court to issue an injunction against Ace Speedway or any other similar event that is currently being operated in the State of North Carolina. It is also within the Governor’s authority to dispatch State Law Enforcement Agencies under his control to issue a citation to ACE Speedway or any other similar event operating in the state.
“I have always been taught during my 49 year law enforcement career that if a citation is issued, it is for a clear cut and substantial violation. My understanding of the law and the conflicting orders issued by the Governor, leads me to question my authority on writing a citation to Mr. Robert Turner, owner of ACE Speedway.”