PELETIER, NC – Drivers and fans alike are waiting anxiously for the green flag to wave on the 2020 season at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway, which remains dormant due to Governor Roy Cooper’s executive orders barring mass gatherings as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Many competitors have stayed busy during the pandemic as they anxiously prepare to go racing for the first time since November. The 2020 season was scheduled to get underway in mid-April but has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As racers wait, they have taken the time to continue to prepare for their cars so they can arrive in peak performance mode when the green light is given for Carteret County Speedway to open.
One of the local drivers taking advantage of the extended offseason is 26-year-old Tyler Horne from Maysville, North Carolina – a regular in the Late Model division who is chasing his first win since July 2017.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate to be able to keep working and keep my schedule the same for the most part,” Horne said. “I have found myself having some more downtime on the weekends with a lot of places being closed. I’ve been able to focus on doing a bunch of upgrades to the racecar.”
Horne is not alone.
Andrew Deal, 31, from Stella, North Carolina, has also taken the time to prepare. Deal is not just working on his Mini-Stock, he is also preparing a Jr. Mini Cup for his oldest daughter, McKayla, to race.
“During the crisis, we’ve been working on our Mini-Stock as well as on a Jr. Mini Stock for McKayla,” Deal remarked. “Me and Amber cannot wait to watch her practice for her first time and, hopefully, make a few laps this season. As far as getting back on track, we cannot wait. Once the racing bug bites you, it’s hard to sit at home with a car and not racing.
“We’ve made quite a few major changes to our car this offseason,” Deal continued. “I’m the underdog in our class, but I’m hoping we are able to give Chuck Ruffner, Kris Hetu and [two-time defending] track champion Stephen Sanders a run for their money this season.”
Reigning Mini Cup champion Charles Pudenz, 52, from Hubert, North Carolina, has continued to work the same job he has for 20 years as a certified auto technician at an independent garage.
“The only thing this virus has done is stopped parts from getting made for us,” Pudenz commented. “Working every day, I’m considered essential, but parts are supposed to be done this week. It is time to get those cars done and chase more checkered flags. We miss our racetrack family.”
John Sharp, 57, from Dover, North Carolina competes regularly in the Street Stock division. While he’s ready to get back on track, he has taken the coronavirus pandemic seriously due to health issues of his own.
“I’ve had health issues that concern me when this virus is thrown in the mix,” Sharp explained. “As such, I am self-quarantined. I still get out and about, wear a mask in stores. Luckily, I had already ordered the parts I needed for my car, so I’m taking this time to get her ready.”
The desire to get back to racing while taking the pandemic seriously extends past just the racers and to sanctioning bodies as well.
U.S. Legend Cars International and INEX, which has been monitoring the crisis and how it has impacted the 2020 racing season, has reduced the number of races its competitors need to run to be eligible for state and national championships.
“The safety of our competitors is our top priority, so we have monitored the COVID-19 situation very seriously,” Laila Razmyar, communications and events manager for U.S. Legend Cars International and INEX, said. “Based on that information, we have put in place the following plan for the 2020 season: For the 2020 season, we will be reducing the number of races required for the Asphalt Oval, Dirt Oval, and Bandolero East & West Championships from 20 total races to 15 total races and reducing the number of races for our Road Course Championship from 12 total races to 10.”
In addition to the reduction in races drivers are required to run, INEX has also scrapped national qualifier events to reduce travel for teams as the United States economy, and the global economy, plunges toward a severe recession.
“We will also be doing away with the national qualifier races for the 2020 season,” a press release from U.S. Legend Cars International and INEX stated. “Our national qualifier races are something put in place to encourage drivers to travel outside of their home track to compete. With the current economic state of the world, we feel that it’s in the best interest of our competitors to reduce the amount of required travel for the racing season.”
With the racing season on hold due to the pandemic, Carteret County Speedway’s staff have focused on repairs and improvements at the motorsports complex with sights set on reopening. The racers themselves, also ready to hit the track, shared some messages of hope as well.
“I am looking forward to getting back to the track and seeing everyone and the fans,” Tyler Horne remarked. “I think we’ll have a good piece this year.”
“I am praying for those who have been infected, and the families who have lost loved ones as well as the souls lost,” Sharp said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone at the track and seeing if Team Sharpie has something for the Street Stocks.”
“No matter how big the battle is, with God, you’re always the victor,” Andrew Deal commented.
In the Warner Bros. Pictures blockbuster Justice League, released in 2017, movie’s final act reminded viewers that, even when things seem darkest, even when people feel hopeless, the light returns and people should not give up hope.
“Darkness, the truest darkness, is not the absence of light,” Amy Adams’ character, Lois Lane, states in a monologue in the movie’s final chapter. “It is the conviction that the light will never return. But the light always returns, to show us things familiar. Home, family, and things entirely new or long overlooked. It shows us new possibilities and challenges us to pursue them.”
The lights will turn back on at Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway and the racing season will commence. Drivers will soon return to the track with their families and will be reunited with their racing family as they chase victories at the 4/10-mile track. Fans will soon be able to return, enjoying the sights, sounds and smell of pavement pounding stock cars as well as the taste of their favorite food and beverages from the speedway’s concessions stands.
For now, the speedway waits as the state of North Carolina takes its first steps this week toward reopening the economy and returning to normal.
For more information about Bobby Watson’s Carteret County Speedway, visit the track’s official website at www.carteretspeedway.com, “like” Carteret County Speedway on Facebook or follow @carteretcoswy on Twitter and Instagram.