ALGER — The grandstands will be empty and the drivers will be practicing rather than racing, but Skagit Speedway will see its first action of the season Saturday on its clay banked oval.
The track will hold a participant-only practice beginning at 1 p.m.
Skagit Speedway owner Steve Beitler said he's been working with officials from both Skagit County and the Governor's Office to comply with guidance for motorsports. The track will strictly enforce social-distancing regulations, he said.
"The biggest thing is they can only be in groups with a maximum of five, and groups have to be 6 feet away. ... We'll be enforcing that heavily," Beitler said.
The wearing of masks and eye protection won't be mandatory but will be strongly encouraged, he said. More guidelines can be found on the speedway's website or Facebook page. The grandstands will be closed to fans, but Beitler said it's exciting to have cars back on the track for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
"There's a lot of excitement about it," he said. "Teams have been ready to go for a while."
The track is exploring potential options to broadcast future races, and Beitler said he hopes the state enters a phase that allows fans to return to the stands as soon as possible. He said he's looking at potential alternative dates for the track's three-day signature event, the Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup, which was originally scheduled for June but will likely need to be held later in the year.
Russell Ronan, a first-year driver, said he can't wait to get out on the track. Encouraged to take up the sport by speedway stalwarts Barry Martinez and Kelsey Carpenter, he's been waiting months for the green flag.
"I'm ecstatic, my whole team is ecstatic. We bought the car in January and have been waiting ever since," he said. "I'm looking forward to learning the car, getting to know the other drivers and having a good competitive relationship with them."