The owner of a North Carolina short track is opening his track’s gates to fans on Saturday. But “corona-infested” media members are barred from attending unless they buy a ticket like a regular fan.
311 Speedway in Stokes County is allowing fans in defiance of an executive order by Gov. Roy Cooper barring large events with more than 25 people. That’s a limit 100 times fewer than the 2,500 capacity of the track’s grandstands, but track owner Mike Fulp is going ahead with his plans to let people watch races in-person on Saturday night.
He does not want media members covering those races, however. Fulp posted to Facebook that the “corona-infested media” was not allowed to be at the track unless they bought a ticket. Why? Because “we don’t have people here with the corona.”
When asked in a phone interview about his decision to ban journalists, Fulp said he reached that conclusion after talking to a New York Times reporter who recently returned from Europe and apparently asked Fulp about going to the track. Fulp didn’t name that reporter, but said the reporter told him he thinks he contracted COVID-19 while abroad.
“To have them come over to my facility, hell no, we can’t allow that,” Fulp said. “The reporters could be [carriers of the virus]. We don’t have people here with the corona, and we got to protect our people here.”
Fulp wrote on Facebook that reporters "can purchase a ticket, [but] if you're caught filming you will be escorted to the highway" by track personnel.
Banning media members from covering the races but allowing them to buy a ticket does not seem like an effective way to stop the spread of coronavirus if Fulp truly does believe media members are “corona-infested.”
Saturday night is also “ladies night” at the track combined with “Freedom to Assemble” night. Fulp posted Friday morning to Facebook that anyone at the track would have to sign a waiver before entering and social distance throughout their time at the track.
Per the New York Times’ coronavirus tracker, there have been 65 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Stokes County. That’s a rate of about one case for every 700 people. The county directly to the south of Stokes County is Forsyth County. Nearly 1,200 people in Forsyth — or one in every 315 people — have had confirmed cases of coronavirus and 11 have died. There are nearly 200 cases of confirmed coronavirus in Surry County, the county directly to the west of Stokes County. And the county to the east, Rockingham County, has had approximately 90 confirmed cases.
The entire state of North Carolina has had over 26,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus and it’s also important to note that Stokes County is on the Virginia state line.
Ace Speedway, another North Carolina short track, opened to fans over Memorial Day weekend. Images surfaced of fans at that track not observing CDC guidelines for social distancing or mask-wearing. Ace also held its event in defiance of Cooper’s orders after the Alamance County Sheriff said he believed the order was “unconstitutional” and said he wouldn’t enforce it.
The Stokes County Sheriff told the News & Record that he deferred to state officials regarding the order and “If we get a call, we’ll respond down there.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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