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Racing Through COVID: The Horsepower Happenings' Perspective

(Saturday, November 21, 2020) - Racing is never a sure thing. Mother nature has a way of playing with our hearts all summer long. But mother nature tends to be somewhat predictable. Racing is also unpredictable in the way it can sometimes take away our loved ones in the blink of an eye. In 2020, one novel virus has done both in an unpredictable way. When COVID-19 came into our lives, no one really knew what it would mean for racing, or how long it would grip the industry. It became evident as the days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and now months have nearly turned to a year, that COVID-19 would be a virus we all are forced to work around.

Zach Hiser, Media Director: For me, COVID-19 interrupted an already underway 2020 race season. Thanks to an opportunity to attend Speedfest in Georgia with Champion Racing Association, I was gearing up for a fantastic season after the Lane Automotive Safety Summit in early March. As a matter of fact, we were about ready to head to Iowa for the first race of the MARS Super Late Model Tour. Then, it all came to a screeching halt.

The ensuing global pandemic allotted me the opportunity to attend races and see race tracks I may not have otherwise gone to. From the Show Me State Showdown at Lebanon I-44 Speedway, to my work with Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, to some of the great races that eventually unfolded in Michigan. Sadly, many great staples were postponed or completely cancelled on the schedule, including events at Kalamazoo Speedway, Flat Rock Speedway, Berlin Raceway and others.

I applaud the fans, drivers, and track promoters who fought to make racing available and make it a safe place to be at this summer. No matter everyone’s personal opinion on how the pandemic is being handled, the entire racing community worked together to ensure we all witnessed the maximum amount of racing allowed.

Chuck Darling, Columnist: For drivers, promoters, and race fans like myself, the pandemic of 2020 could be described as a "Debbie-downer" "pain in the backside' or "big steaming pile of pooh". While I was fortunate enough to attend a few races this season, my plans for a trip to Berlin to open the season as well as our first trip to Kinross for the Hot Shoe 100 got shot down. My heart goes out to all the track owners that didn't get an event in and we all need to give a big thank you to them and offer our support to help them bounce back stronger in 2021.

Chris Fobbe, Editor, Announcer Springport Mid-Michigan Speedway: As far back as I can remember, my family went to the racetrack in the summer. We didn’t go on vacations, we missed birthdays, weddings, family reunions, all of it. We went racing. At least once a week, if not more. We went in the rain, the sun, and even the snow. We went racing. When I was 16 I started working at Owosso Speedway, and from that point on, all I did every week was work at the track in the summers. Several of those years I was working 60+ events. This past summer I went racing five times. The last time I went to the track five or fewer times in a year I couldn’t walk yet.

Now, let me preface this next point with the fact that like many others I love racing. It is my only real hobby, I spend my free time-ingesting some kind of racing-related content at all times. It has always been my dream to be a racing announcer and I am incredibly thankful I get to do that. But besides being a racing announcer, I am a Dad to an amazing three-year-old boy. I also have an amazing girlfriend who has embraced racing and works with me at the track and in return giving up her summers to support my dream and passion.

So, what COVID taught me about racing, and admittedly I was shocked when I realized this, but there is life OUTSIDE of racing. This summer I went and did stuff on a Saturday even though it wasn’t a rainout. I didn’t spend days out of the week obsessing over weather forecasts. I flew a kite for the first time since I was a kid. I got ice cream with my family. I had water fights with my son on a Saturday afternoon. I still checked online to see how my friends who did race were doing. But I lived the life of a “normal” member of society (outside of waking up at 8 am to watch Formula One racing on a Sunday morning).

It was nice to detox a little bit, and see what life is like when you’re not tied down every single weekend of the summer. That being said, I absolutely never want to do that again. I am through and through a “racing person.” After a very successful show at the Michigan Cup, my passion for racing burns as strongly as it ever has, but it is nice to stick your head above the water for a minute.

Brian Osborne, Editor, Announcer Merritt Speedway: My 2020 race season was the closest thing to normal than anyone else's. Merritt Speedway got the green light to open back on Memorial Day weekend and we ran all the way until Labor Day weekend with no cancellations. Our sister track Tri-City Motor Speedway only lost about a month of their season. However, the whole time we were constantly taking a week-to-week approach not knowing if we would be back the following week. This made me more appreciative of every race night we were able to get in. Plus the fact that so many of the other racing facilities throughout the state of Michigan were not able to open until much later, or hardly at all. 2020 filled me with gratitude towards our management and staff at Merritt Speedway and Tri-City Motor Speedway for putting the necessary guidelines in place for us to open. But, by far, I was most impressed with the race fans who came out in support. In a time when things seemed very dire, the race fans came through, and I would say they got their money's worth, with many of our drivers putting together some of their very best performances.

Rich Frantz, Senior Editor: I think at the beginning of the season, I, along with many others, thought it would be a minor delay and that racing would be back before we knew it. As the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, it was apparent that the reality of the situation was not good. I was able to “chase racing”, but the two tracks that I spent the last 30 years of my life supporting were not part of it. The feelings I felt being able to announce two events at Toledo at the end of the season, were almost tearful to me. And now I wonder, am I prepared to face those feelings again next season. This pandemic is promising us nothing, and it seems to hold all the cards.

As we head into the off-season, everyone longs for a cure to the virus and awaits the days when life returns to normal. But, perhaps the industry will hold on to the lessons learned this summer, and come back fighting stronger than ever in 2020.



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