JENNERSTOWN, SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Jennerstown Speedway usually opens the first weekend of May. Having lost three weeks of revenue, event organizers say this isn’t the first crisis they’ve had to overcome.
The seats sit empty at the Jennerstown Speedway today but on Saturday they will be filled to half capacity as Somerset County enters the green phase.
Speedway General Manager Billy Hribar says they’ve taken a hit with the missed races.
“We’re like any other small ma and pop business you know we’re so seasonal. We only have 16 to 18 weeks to survive. It’s like any other business, it needs income to be able to operate.”
On a typical weekend, he says they’d see around 4,000-5,000 people, half of what the complex can hold.
With new guidelines, he says wearing a mask will be highly recommended but not required.
“We have such a large set of bleachers that social distancing can take place where people are six feet apart from everyone else. A lot of it is if it’s 85-95 degrees outside we don’t want to incrue additonal healh risks
Another issue they are facing is the lack of fundraising for drivers.
“They were laid off, they didn’t have any income and some of them just quit working on their cars because they didn’t think they were going to be able to race,” says Hribar.
Michael Saler was fortunate to get all of his sponsors but says others weren’t as lucky.
“Some of my competitors and my friends that I talked to they weren’t fortunate. It’s going to be a rough season for them but we’re here to help out and try to get what we can get done.”
Hribar says the COVID-19 pandemic was just another hurdle in their way.
“The speedway’s been there since the late 1920s …it’s survived World War II, it survived the Great Depression, it reopened after the housing crisis back in 2008.”
He adds that employees will get temperatures checks and that they’ve added sanitizing stations for fans.