Open For Business: No Masking The Excitement At Stafford Speedway For Saturday Test Session



Track announcer Ben Dodge checks the temperature of SK Modified division rookie Bryan Narducci at the front gate Saturday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – After a two month delay due to COVID-19 global pandemic shutdowns, the business of door to door racing will return to Stafford Speedway when the track hosts its first event of the season next Friday. 

Saturday, after an over extended offseason, the track’s competitors got the chance to get down to preparing for that season opener at an open practice session. 

“It’s awesome to be back at the track,” SK Light Modified division driver Noah Korner said. I never thought I’d be so excited to be standing out in the sun in 95 degree heat. It’s going to be a good time. The car is fast.” 

The rhetoric from state officials through most of April and May made it seem like the return of racing with spectators at short tracks in Connecticut might be near impossible in 2020. Then in early June the landscape change dramatically. Stafford Speedway got its final approval from the state to return to action on Wednesday. 

“I didn’t think we were going to be racing the way everyone was talking and our fearless leader governor was talking about everything this summer,” SK Light Modified veteran Joey Ferrigno said. “But it’s definitely a pleasant surprise getting the OK to come here. Always held out hope. Then you saw other states were opening up and nothing was happening here. It gives you hope when you see other tracks opening up, then we finally got the OK. The car has been ready. I’m sitting there staring at every day. … I’m a racer, I’m here to race.” 

The track will open June 26 with a 25 percent capacity for it’s 10,000 grandstand seats. The track launched online ticket sales earlier this week and announced Saturday morning that the grandstand admissions are sold out. The track will also be selling a limited amount of paddock admissions. 

It was a much different environment at Stafford Motor Speedway that racers returned to Saturday from their last time in competition at the track last September. 

Stafford Speedway welcomed in just over 100 race teams Saturday under strict guidelines for the open practice. 

Every person walking into the facility had their temperature checked at the main gate. All individuals were required to wear masks while outside of their pitting area or trailer. No groups of six or more people were allowed to congregate in the pit area. Signs around the property encourage all those in attendance to adhere to the guidelines. Throughout the morning the guidelines were continually repeated over the paddock public address system. 

Through the morning it appeared that most individuals were adhering to the directives about the masks. 

“I find it harder to identify people with their masks on,” said Tom Fearn, the track’s all-time winningest Late Model driver. “I guess three months ago when you walked into the bank with a mask on they’d have you in handcuffs, now everybody is going in with masks on. If we’ve got to do it to race we will do it. Maybe it’s a little inconvenience, but there’s other things in life that are worse inconveniences. It’s no big deal.”

Said Ferrigno: “It is what it is. If those are the rules we’ve got to play by to be able to come race, it is what it is. You hear so many contradicting things about the masks. I don’t know. I’m not scientist or doctor. It is what it is.” 

Stafford Speedway was originally scheduled to open the season with the NAPA Spring Sizzler weekend April 25-26. Thus far the track has lost its opening weekend and eight Friday night events due to the shutdown. 

“You sit on your butt on Friday’s and you realize, what are you doing?” Korner said. “You’ve got nothing to do. And all you can think is ‘I should be at the track right now, racing, having fun, seeing my friends, having a good time.’” 

The season was originally scheduled to end at Stafford with the running of the NAPA Fall Final weekend Sept. 26-27. But Stafford Speedway chief operating officer Paul Arute said the track will likely extend the season into late October. 

“If we had raced like three or four races and then had a big layoff that would have been devastating,” Fearn said. “This just extended our offseason a little bit. It’s not a big deal. I think we’ll still get 16-18 races in possibly. If we get that, that’s not a bad season. It’s enough for most racers.” 

The masked Dan Anderson of Hoosier Tire East works at Stafford Speedway Saturday (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

Comments

  1. Did I read this right…..already sold 2500 tickets. So much for thinking about season ticket holders who have paid for the whole year. What a way to treat them. Wonder how they feel about such a kick in the face by management. Lets hear from them????

  2. JO
    The season ticket holders got guaranteed tickets then whatever was left on top of that was sold. Season ticket holders were the first priority.

  3. Stuart Fearn says

    Ya the season tix are already included in the 2500 so they clearly they are first priority. STAFFORD should get a huge pat on the back. First track to open and doing it right. Do you know they had an employee disinfecting the handrail around the entire pits all day ? Everyone had a mask and was responsible. Very organized first class safe operation.
    These reasons are why the opening night is already sold out! Integrity, safety, hard work, perseverance from the Arute’s and all the crew at SMS.
    Thank you for a great place to race. Fans please come out and watch great racing all year

  4. Shawn Thanks for answering…..I will be there then.

  5. I’m just glad Ferrigno isn’t the actual mayor of East Hartford. No Joey there may have been a lot of contradictory things said about masks months ago but not now. Universal mask usage is arguably the single biggest reason that the infections are down to a point where you can race. People in The Mayors town of East Hartford were dying at the rate of a few a day a couple months ago and shot up to 87 but recently the death toll has virtually ground to a halt. “It is what it is” is not it at all. It is people being disciplined and doing the right thing including wearing a mask.
    To get masks to work in a crowd you need 60 to 70% of the people to wear them. Stafford’s opening night will be epic in terms of car counts and enthusiasm. So many unknowns with so many teams moving up lead by Narducci and Hodgdon in the SK’s. Stafford is doing everything they can to make it safe as well as put on a great show but in the end it will be up to the fans to do exactly the opposite of what the fans did at Ace and Mahoning.

  6. In the last 24hrs people on here have written that everyone was wearing a mask, nobody was wearing a mask and around 50% were wearing a mask. Were you guys all at the same track yesterday???

  7. Fast Eddie says

    A heads-up to anyone attending any New Hampshire races: After going to the drag races Friday and Saturday I went to Lee and Star. Masks are recommended by the race tracks, but I was the only one who had one on that I saw besides track workers at Lee. I wasn’t at Star very long but didn’t see any masks besides my own there either. I understand it’s a recommendation and people can choose to do what they think is best for them. I’m guessing the WMMP race crowd might be that way as well. I don’t want this to turn into a rant about New Hampshire tracks or people. I think the tracks are doing the right things from what I could tell. Fans are choosing what is best for them, I guess. I just wanted to make others aware who may be going to the WMT race at WMMP what they might expect being with other fans. Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads! My mask was on in part so I could safely go see my Dad today!

  8. “In the last 24hrs people on here have written that everyone was wearing a mask, nobody was wearing a mask and around 50% were wearing a mask. Were you guys all at the same track yesterday???”

    I think there’s a detail issue… What I saw:

    – A very high percentage with masks in areas they were asked to wear them, such as common areas and away from individual pit slots. I didn’t spend much time in the stands, so I won’t comment there.
    – Inside trailers, and in small related (by team or blood) groups away from others, relatively low.
    – Track staff, I’d say 100% when not in an isolated area well away from others.

    So, you can pick or choose what you saw. ;^)

    My overall take was good compliance to what the track and government asked, and some sense on a hot day. For example, if someone was sitting all alone or with their kid or spouse in front of or inside their own trailer, many feet from others, they were probably not wearing one, and I wouldn’t expect them to be masked.

  9. Atty. Webo says

    Fast Eddie,

    Several of my friends made the trip from MA to Star on Saturday. I respect your willingness to wear your mask during the event. My observations were that while almost noone was wearing a mask, people and groups did stick to themselves and give each other plenty of room. I had plenty of room around my group in the stands, well over 6ft. I also waited a little extra time when leaving. Not to mention the first of the event was so hot, I would probably be more likely to die from heat exhaustion then COVID. There was a brief period of time Saturday, people gathered, watched racing, and cheered on their drivers, without the masks, I was able to pretend the pandemic had messed up the world. Anyway, as long as they are restricting capacity, bring your mask if you want to, but you should have plenty of room to spread out and just for the moment enjoy life as it once was.

  10. BTW… I am 100% pro mask per professional comments and don’t see them as a political or liberty issue at all. Personally, I see plenty of evidence where they have helped control the spread here in the Northeast, and see them as a courtesy to others, no different than holding a door or helping another driver to merge on the road. I would be one of the first people complaining about non-compliance where expected.

    I was pleasantly surprised yesterday. Let’s hope the general grandstand population keeps it up next week!

  11. Nobody said everyone was wearing a mask. Fearn said everyone had a mask which is probably true since it was a requirement to get in.
    A lot of people trash NASCAR but I have to say they have been on the right track with no fans. They’re pushing the mask protocol with the teams ahead of a fan base that as we’ve seen is not the most cooperative. While baseball and basketball are hitting log sized speed bumps with infections as they try to get out of the gate NASCAR has been racing for weeks with no significant blow back.
    If the race at Stafford comes off with real participation on safety protocols it will be a feather in their cap and the fan base. Maybe a unicorn of sorts since the fans in other states that have opened don’t seem to want to be inconvenienced with additional safety measures. I wish there was some way to convince people that it’s a minor inconvenience with a huge upside but know protesting here will do no good. Flaunting protocols will make no difference until it does and then a lesson will be learned the hard way.
    No Ronnie Williams since the 50 crew was at Jennerstown with the new NWMT 50 that looked pretty racy actually until it got turned by Rameau. Could that have been karma? SK’s look lightning fast with Rocco, Moeller with his new car and Dowling in the new 22 turning consistent sub 19 second laps.
    Just making the feature next week will be a challenge in the SK’s and Sk Lights. Heck if we’re really lucky maybe there will even be great competition in the Fearn Models this year.

  12. After watching the YouTube video of Stafford practice the pitsAppear to be pretty packed with cars doesn’t look like enough area for a open show and socially distance just a question?

  13. Scott A. McWhirt says

    If anyone has purchased tickets and has a change of plans I’d be happy to buy them. I was waiting to order tickets till Saturday as my son had to ask for work off Friday. Went on to order and sold out. Please let me know. Thanks, Scott
    [email protected]

  14. It looks like the Virus is about to reak havoc on the Southern and Western States, it will affect what CT does as far as opening up 100%, might have to quarantine out of State or Region visitors for 14 days here soon. So its going to be up to the Track to be strict about masks and distancing, 1 mistep could shut it down for the Season. I was there on Saturday, some had masks on and some did not, cars were packed together not spaced out, I don’t understand why in your pit stall you can remove masks, crews were on top of each other with no masks on side by side, should be 100% masks all the time and call it a day.

  15. Video stream for Fridays race a done deal according to Stafford’s Facebook page. Details available at any time.

  16. Anarchy 2020 says

    They should hire dafella to roam around the stands and pits. Give him a big stick and let him whack anyone not wearing a mask.

  17. Is Stafford Speedway still planning on running the 80s I have modified open shower on July 10

  18. Brian,
    My understanding is they do plan on doing the scheduled Open 80 show on July 10.

  19. New York, Connecticut and New Jersey just announced 14 day quarantine required for anyone traveling in from states with high COVID-19 infection rates.

    “We have to make sure a virus doesn’t come in on a plane, again.” – @NYGovCuomo announcing along with @GovMurphy and @GovNedLamont.

  20. Who knows if the crowd will cooperative but it’s clear Stafford could not do more outreach to prepare the fans in attendance. Nice video on Facebook describing what to expect in terms of guidelines and encouraging fans to do the right thing.
    More good news for Ct. Infections down 53% over the last seven days for a per day average of 79. Death seven day average down 41% to 7 a day. Tests continue at a robust rate and only a 1.3% positive rate. If you’re pushing that crap about protests increasing the infection rate you might want to consider changing your tactics.
    Fingers crossed the fans are on board with what’s being asked.
    You are a minx Stafford throwing those hints out on the video and playing coy.

  21. Dareal. I had questioned how that would work when I heard NY NJ and CT would require a 14 day quarantine. Does that mean only CT residents would be able to attend races. That doesn’t bode well for teams from MA that regularly run Stafford. Rest assured the article I read said based on their criteria the residents from states like NC, SC, TX, FL would be affected. There were no New England states in the list currently.

    Whats up with the PPV? I would think if you were going to do a PPV you would want to announce it early and often. Good luck to all those in attendance Friday.

  22. CT has a very useful COVID-19 information site:
    https://portal.ct.gov/coronavirus

    Using the center blue”Travel Advisory” box gets us here:
    https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/Covid-19-Knowledge-Base/Travel-In-or-Out-of-CT

    Here’s how I found the site, no need to take other’s word for things when you can go straight to source:
    https://lmgtfy.com/?q=connecticut+covid-19+quarantine

    Bookmark the first link, information changes often.

  23. csg, I’m not sure on the details of how managing visitors will work, but the details are becoming available, been on the news lately. It does look like it could impact tracks if teams are from states with higher infection/case rates than CT. The good news is that CT and NY are a gateway to the rest of New England, and New England has been in decent shape lately so this action by NJ/NY/CT could also act to protect New England.

    NJ, NY and CT went through hell, and are doing very well recovering. It would be beyond tragic if a relapse occurred. We have to get rid of this pandemic first and foremost.

  24. csg, details of the NJ/NY/CT visitor quarantine requirements are out, it applies to people from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

    So it looks like teams can move freely between MA and CT.

  25. WeldingWonders says

    “Well, I hate to say it again, but I WAS RIGHT!!!!! I’M RIGHT AGAIN!!!!!”

    STARRING THE CLIFF CLAVEN OF RACEDAYCT DAREALGOODFELLA

    EPISODE 25: GEOGRAPHY MATTERS AS DO MASS AND RHODY.

    ” The good news is that CT and NY are a gateway to the rest of New England”
    NEW YORK IS NOT A PART OF NEW ENGLAND.

    “New England has been in decent shape lately so this action by NJ/NY/CT could also act to protect New England.”
    RHODE ISLAND AND MASSACHUSETTS?

    “NJ, NY and CT went through hell, and are doing very well recovering”
    RHODE ISLAND AND MASSAUCHUSETTS?

  26. Fair enough Barry but don’t stop there. The Connecticut data means more when taken in context with surrounding states and those now helping the country set new records of infections.

    https://covid19-projections.com/
    Includes a C19 Pro Score that helps put each state in perspective.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/coronavirus-us-cases-deaths/

    https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america

    https://covid-19.tacc.utexas.edu/projections/

  27. Facebook:
    “Stafford Motor Speedway Hoping to have some info on that (PPV) today! We are working on it!”

  28. Stafford requires a COVID-19 waiver.

  29. OK then it’s almost time for the reveal. StaffordTV at 7 tonight. The plot thickens.

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