Warning letter sent to NC speedway after videos show lack of social distancing

STOKES COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina health officials sent a warning letter to a speedway after social media videos appear to show a lack of social distancing during races.

The letter sent to 311 Motor Speedway in Stokes County on Friday said the raceway has held several events that violated Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan.

Under Cooper’s latest executive order, which is set to end on Aug.7, events that bring together more than 25 people at the same time in a single confined outdoor space, like a stadium or stands at a racetrack, are not allowed. Races are allowed, but speedways are required to limit spectators to no more than 25 people -- so many tracks across the state have decided to race without fans.

According to the letter, 311 Motor Speedway has “held a number of events in May, June and July of 2020 that have not been limited to 25 people or fewer and masks and social distancing were not required of those in attendance.”

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“Online videos and photos show spectators standing and seated side-by-side in 311 Motor Speedway’s stands violating the Phase 2 Order’s Mass Gathering limit. Social distancing appears not to have been practiced and most or all spectators appear to have not worn face coverings, notwithstanding that the Phase 2 Order identifies these two practices as essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19,” the letter reads.

According to officials, 311′s decision to open its doors without proper safety measures poses a threat to the entire state.

Cooper has called similar racing events “dangerous and reckless.”

The state said it is also aware of concerns about Friendship Raceway in Surry and Dixieland in Elizabeth City. The NCDHHS is reaching out to local officials to address those issues.

NCDHHS listed the following speedways saying their collaboration with them during the pandemic has gone well:

  • Southern National Speedway (hasn't raced yet)
  • Wake County Speedway (raced without fans)
  • Caraway Speedway (hasn't raced yet)
  • Hickory Motor Speedway (raced without fans)
  • Galot Motorsports Park (raced without fans)
  • Farmington Dragway (hasn't raced yet)
  • NASCAR races at Charlotte Motor Speedway (raced without fans)

In order to hold races the state says the speedway must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Restrict attendance in the grandstands to 25 spectators
  • Require face coverings for all spectators when they are within 6 feet distance from other people with the exception of family or household members
  • Control the flow of people through lobbies and other common spaces to allow for social distancing
  • Post signage reminding spectators and other attendees about social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others and requesting that people who have been symptomatic with fever and/or cough not enter
  • Conduct daily symptom screening of workers, using a standard questionnaire of symptoms before workers enter the workplace
  • Immediately isolate and remove sick workers
  • Frequently clean and disinfect any high touch surface with an EPA approved disinfectant effective against the virus that causes COVID-19

After getting the letter, the speedway posted on its Facebook saying it will continue to hold races, but has closed its grandstands to the public. Channel 9 talked to the owner, Mike Fulp, who told us people will now be able to watch the races from their cars in the parking lot.

If 311 violates the guidelines under Phase 2, which is a Class 2 misdemeanor, officials said the state will issue an order to stop operations.

The speedway has recently been at the center of controversy after Fulp advertised “Bubba Rope” for sale online following NASCAR’s announcement that a noose had been found in the Talladega Superspeedway garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the top series’ only Black driver.

The FBI later said the rope was a garage door pull rope that had been there since the fall.