Stafford Speedway Gets Green Flag For Private Testing; Optimistic For Racing Later This Year

SK Modifieds in action last year at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

Management at Stafford Motor Speedway is looking forward to the day when they can open the gates once again and let fans stream through to watch live racing action at the historic half-mile oval. 

Most years the speedway would have already had about month of weekly racing action in at this point, but state restrictions on crowd gatherings due to the COVID-19 global pandemic have put a hold on racing action at the facility. 

Though for the time being those running the track will accept the screaming sounds of high horsepower motors returning to the property once again to help keep optimism alive for the return of competitive events. 

The allowance of private testing sessions at Stafford Speedway was included in Connecticut governor Ned Lamont’s most recent reopening directives. 

In his efforts to get business back on track, Stafford Speedway chief operating officer Paul Arute said he’s been in regular conversations for the last month with state representative Kurt Vail, state senator Dan Champagne and Tommy Hyde of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.  

“We’ve gotten good support from our town and the state,” Arute said. “It’s definitely tough to be told you’re not allowed to open, but we’re encouraged that the our state senator and state representative are readily available and trying to assist us the best that they can.” 

Stafford has put in place strict guidelines for the private testing sessions, which will allow only five people to be present with each team. The guidelines will include all those entering into the track have their temperature taken. Those in attendance will also be mandated to wear face masks.

The track is requesting that those in high risk categories not attend the practice sessions. The full restrictions, along with information about booking testing time, are posted on the Stafford Speedway web site

Lamont has offered little public information on the possibility of large crowd gathering events at any point in the state this summer. Arute remains optimistic though, and looks at the allowance to open for testing as the first step in the right direction. 

“It’s definitely encouraging and we think we’ll be getting back on track at some point this summer,” Arute said. 

It’s unclear if there are any plans for private testing at Thompson Speedway. Thompson Speedway officials were not immediately available for comment Thursday. 


  1. A big step in the right direction!!!!

  2. Private test session, 5 people per team, but no mention of how many teams will be allowed.
    It’s a start, and gives competitors a chance to shake down and tune their cars. There is still hope.

  3. knuckles mahoney says

    Test session with no guarantee there will be racing this year. Sounds like a big waste of money, and using up your equipment for nothing.

  4. Didn’t the website state a 6 team max??

  5. As much as I love Auto Racing… especially at Stafford…I’m “forcing myself” to be patient….People have (and still are) dying from this brutal virus…Sure it’s a step in the right direction….but we must realize it is a “small step”….Auto Racing, like Baseball or any other sporting event that attracks people, isn’t going anywhere! Let’s no rush…No it’s not easy “waiting”…but in the long run it’ll be the safest…. smartest….and responsible thing to do…..

  6. Stay tuned. Nascar has a 10:30 call tomorrow with the WMT teams.

  7. Rick L, 5 crew members and the driver. 6 people total.

  8. Rob, no it’s actually five people total with driver. And I think Rick was referring to the total teams participating in each session.

  9. Please don’t get too excited about this, there’s nothing to get excited over.

    Here’s info on the phases and gates:

  10. Well its good for Stafford. They can have a little bit of money coming in. Perhaps this goes well and there can be some racing at some point. Did Stafford give any indication if they were allowed to race without fans they would?

    Just me If you can let us know what is covered on that call with Nascar and their modified teams.

  11. CSG,
    No indications that Stafford has interest in running without fans.

  12. People, I admire your optimism. Give you people an inch and you are reaching for light-years.

    The COVID-19 case rates, infection rates, death rates, etc. will determine what crowd sizes will be allowed in the future.

  13. How can Stafford race with no fans? Where will the money come from to pay the purse? No racing no fans, no fans no racing, don’t care how you slice it.

  14. That’s quite the liability release they have on the web site. Completely reasonable but a dose of the new reality for sure. Geezers and other high riskers advised to take a pass. There’s greater risk picking up grass seed at Home Depot. It’s gonna lift the spirits of a lot of people and though small it is economic activity.

  15. Shaun thanks for the information on Stafford. If they are adamant on running with fans in attendance it may be awhile. CT was one of the last states to partially reopen. Most states have a gated process to open their economy in 3 or 4 phases. Large recreational crowds is usually in the 3rd or 4th phase of reopening with a few weeks of improving data to get through each phase. When MA announced their opening strategy the earliest Seekonk could open was 9 to 12 weeks depending on what they were classified as entertainment large venue or just entertainment. The reopening plan includes several vague guidelines about crowd gatherings like to be determined based on trends. If they are classified as large venue entertainment they would be phase 4 which I don’t think they can open until a vaccine is found which most people speculate is about a year away. If Seekonk is classifed as large venue entertainment this is adhered to you can forget about racing this season and parts of next season is in jeopardy. Now they do seem to make a certain distinction between outdoor and indoor when it comes to opening up things. I hear they may allow certain outdoor performances earlier maybe as early as phase 2, So clear as mud.

    Earl Several tracks are doing events with a Pay Per View model with no fans in the stands. The Lucas Oil Dirt Late models just ran 3 nights in GA without fan s in the stands and those races paid 7k to win. The racing was offered free to watch on facebook and for a fee on Woo has racing for the late models and sprint cars this weekend with video through dirtvision offered at 40 dollars for a month of access. I was hoping Stafford might consider trying this model to reopen.

  16. Thanks for clarifying that Shawn. Keep up the great work you do.

  17. csg – You need to remember that WoO run in probably 45 of our 50 states, Asphalt mods in maybe 10. SK mods in even fewer. Audience potential is very different.

  18. Rich. I agree the market is bigger for dirt racing than asphalt racing and its even smaller for asphalt modifieds. If local race tracks dont go to an online model I am afraid there wont be any racing this year. If racing doesnt happen this year how many racers decide not to come back. It’s a moot point right now as they cant hold a full practice at this point. Looking at some of the reopening plans large gathering entertainment isnt happening until a vaccine/treatment is available probably a year away. Just hoping for some local racing at some point this summer. I will take it online if it’s the only thing available. Right now I would probably pay 20 dollars to see a modified parked in a garage.

  19. Like someone mentioned yesterday. These towns want their property taxes. Tracks can make a little bread on practice while waiting for phase whatever.

    Stafford seems like they have a good relationship with local and state government. I’m sure they know what they are doing.

  20. If as RaceDayCT was being created someone in the comments section said ya know what, I predict the World Series races from New Smyrna will be shown on your computer live some day.. And they’ll do it for free. Or a few years after that someone said ya know what, I bet someday NASCAR will have a service to show their races on the computer and they’ll include every NWMT race. And it will be cheaper then a ticket to one race. And maybe they’ll have a way to snap it up to your TV. Betcha in each case if a person had said either of those things they’d get mocked into a cringing mass of flesh. Show races for free. See all the races for one cheap price. What are you NUTS!
    Comments sections are not forward looking. They’re snap shots of opinions in time based on what is known currently and racing history.
    Right now there is absolutely no basis for predicting that a track like Stafford will need to monetize race streaming to survive like CSG said. I happen to agree with him.
    Shawn says that Stafford has given no indication that a fanless race that is streamed is an option and I’m betting you can take that one to the bank. However until a vaccine is available I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe streaming could not play some kind of increased roll in events that are eventually run in the Northeast. Most importantly to make up for the anemic crowds that will attend the races. The point of that spear being that people in high risk groups including we geezers may actually be discouraged from attending if the Stafford release of liability notice is any indicator of what is to come when fans are allowed in the bleachers..
    As Yogi Berra once said “the future ain’t what it used to be”

  21. Dirt vs asphalt. That’s not even a debate any longer. Dirt won if you’re talking about the balance of interest nationally and total revenue each generates. .God I’m sick of hearing that the payoffs are bigger for shorter and more exciting races, the engines are more powerful, the crowds are bigger, the food is better and the ticket price cheaper. Yes all true. That doesn’t mean regional interests aren’t important nor that meeting demand in those regions can’t be a money maker.
    In the not too distant future Stafford is going to have to make a decision on resurfacing their track. Given the trends in asphalt short track racing I can’t believe it’s going to be simply a matter of finding the best financing to get er done. Is the idea of a conversion to dirt so ridiculous? Or condo’s for that matter.

  22. dan butler says

    I’m no expert so correct me if I’m wrong, running any races without fans would do nothing for Stafford because of the fact that all these tracks have to pay astronomical insurance to host any races during a season… they wont make hardly enough money to even come close to covering the insurance?

  23. sour grapes of hope and reality says

    Seekonk and Stafford are large perhaps they limit crowd capacity ?? allowing for a safe distance between fans… .buy online til tickets are sold out??? you still wear a mask would need attendants at bathrooms or additional porta potties???
    vending ?? six feet as a courtesy???
    I don’t see Seekonk having that issue ..Stafford with a regular Friday night could probably pass..
    everyone cryin` Waterford will have NO fans ..what’s the worry there ??
    as long as you not packed in like sardines..
    PS everyone entering gets temperature taken prior to entry
    you have a fever you don’t get in !!
    another option allow racing a pay per view for fans they can watch from home for a fee ???? if they don’t wish to attend in person …. facilities will need to be modified going forward for safety no matter what happens with COVID .. shields up at vending.. additional bathroom facilities and limit crowd capacity based on seating /distance requirements.. that’s racing going forward I guess..

  24. Myrtle Beach is running the WMT next Saturday. One day show, no live pit stops (unless someone has a flat) and a total of 8 people, includes, diver, spotter, etc..More to come

  25. Apples and oranges csg, no comparison between the WOO and Friday night racing at Stafford.

  26. The towns want their residential property taxes as well and they really don’t care if you are working or unemployed. Right now most people can’t afford to pay attention never mind spectating at the local track or purchasing PPV. Given the choice of paying my bills and feeding my family or purchasing PPV to watch racing I will make the responsible choice every time.

  27. Plugs 2020 says

    Bethel motor speedway opening June 20 with fans.

  28. If racing does start this year at Stafford with no fans it will not be the same. But if so what will the pits be like and how many people will each car have including the spotter. My place of work has a limit on how many people can be in each bath room how can that work at a speedway. Also at the food lines the sign in window. Pitstops.posts race inspection. etc ???????

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