Throughout the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the three main motorsports organizations in the Peace refused to cancel the 2020 season, and were determined to do everything they could to have races this summer.
The results have varied — Taylor Speedway has held two race weekends without fans now, while the Peace Motocross Association cancelled its season on June 9. The Northern Lights Raceway is holding its first race this weekend, July 4 and 5.
“The racing has been going pretty good, minus the rain last Saturday (June 27)," said Taylor Speedway President Kelly Hildebrand. :The people are staying away, which is good for what’s going on, but not too good for us, and we’re happy to be holding races again."
One of the biggest challenges to hold a race is keeping the number of people at a track below 50. The speedway managed this by splitting up its four classes so that only two run each weekend. As well, no fans are allowed on the premises and each driver is allowed just two people in the pits.
The Babcock Memorial Challenge, named after track designer Doug Babcock, was held over two weekends as a result of this. It’s not normal, but winners are still crowned and awards are still won. It works for now, so much so that the speedway is going with the same format for its next race — this time on consecutive weekends, July 10 and 11 and July 17 and 18.
The Peace Motocross Association on the other hand often has 150 to 200 drivers compete at any given race. Trying to come up with a plan where there was only one class was on hand at a time and with less than 50 people at a track ultimately proved impossible.
Further complicating efforts was the fact the PMA operates in both Alberta and B.C., and the restrictions and mass gathering limits are different in the two provinces. Organizers did all they could to work with the B.C. government to come up with a solution, getting lost down multiple email rabbit holes and discussions over grey areas in the process, but to no avail.
Ironically, motocross organizations in Ontario and Quebec, the two provinces with the most cases of COVID-19, are re-opening, and another league in Alberta will be holding a four-race series starting in July.
Though the PMA wasn’t able to come back, every option was explored, something all three organizations have in common.
“We’re used to overcoming curveballs. This one is totally different than most, but come race day, whether it’s the weather or whatever happens, we have to roll with it and try and find solutions,” said PMA President Jason Berlinger.
“That’s the mentality of our core group of people. It’s just an obstacle, we don’t put our hands up and complain. No matter the sport or association, that skill of problem solving is a common trait of executive members.
Similarly, the Northern Lights Raceway never stopped trying to come up with a solution.
After deciding what was needed to race, everyone involved with the track started crossing items off the list. Whether it was an electrical problem, finding a new fire sponsor and fire trailer, and getting the track washed, they kept working until they found a way to make it work.
They needed a minimum 20 drivers to commit to the races on June 20 and 21 to make it worth running a race. Though they were unable to meet that number, the raceway executive didn’t give up. They will host two regular race days this weekend on Saturday and Sunday, with practices beginning at 10 a.m. Unfortunately, no fans will be allowed onsite, but the racing will continue as normal otherwise.
“It’s a lot of volunteer work and can be thankless, but when you’re out there it’s a blast,” said Northern Lights Raceway President Mike Moroun. "It’s a big family and when it all comes together it’s definitely worth it."
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.