COVID, Cold Forces ABC Raceway to Cancel 45th Red Clay Classic
by Nick Gima
Ashland, WI, September 30 — After an emotional and stressful meeting amongst its members on Wednesday evening, the Board of Directors of the Ashland-Bayfield County Racing Association made the difficult decision to cancel its 45th Red Clay Classic, originally scheduled for Friday and Saturday, October 2-3.
The Board’s decision was based on several factors, but two points played most significantly into the choice – a COVID-19-oriented directive issued late Wednesday afternoon by the local County health department, and a mostly unfavorable weather forecast.
The directive, which went into effect Friday, October 2, at 8 am (CST), was issued by the Ashland County Health & Human Services Department as a result of the recent uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in recent days in northern Wisconsin. The directive outlined a specific set of guidelines applicable to events which involved potentially large gatherings of people, including attendance limits based on capacity, social distancing requirements, and other business-operating procedural standards.
The directive remains in effect through November 30, although County health officials retain the right to modify it as needed.
On Wednesday, weather forecasts for the weekend called for daytime temperatures only reaching the mid-40s and overnight lows dipping into the upper 20s. Although the cold temperatures were certainly a primary concern, a possibility of showers throughout the weekend also factored to the decision.
“We are very disappointed that we have had to make this decision,” Raceway Board president Eric Erickson stated immediately after Wednesday’s meeting adjourned. “Our Board and staff have put a lot of work into preparing for our ‘crown jewel’ event. We take great pride in hosting the Classic, and we look forward to this weekend every bit as much as our fans and drivers do.
“But as a business we needed to look at two things – first and foremost, our concern for the health and safety of all those who would have attended the event, and by extension the residents of our local communities. We have been taking the coronavirus threat very seriously all summer long, with every precaution possible. But the recent increases in positive cases in our area, and the resulting directive from the County, made the safety of our fans, the racers and their crews, and our track workers our number one concern.
“Secondly was the success of the event. Would the weather, or even the pandemic, cut into the possibility of another outstanding crowd at our show? We didn’t want to have to consider decisions like cutting our payouts to the drivers, for example, if our crowd size or car counts were less than favorable. We wanted to maintain the integrity of the Red Clay Classic.”
One of the Upper Midwest’s best-paying, most popular and most prestigious short-track stock car racing events, the Red Clay Classic – to have been presented by FastLane Motorsports & Custom Powdercoating of Ashland, Tim’s Automotive Machine of Bloomer, and Red’s Auto of Ironwood, MI – was expected to draw upwards of 200 WISSOTA Late Models, Modifieds, Super Stocks and Midwest Modifieds to compete for a share of a purse in excess of $100,000.
For fans who had purchased reserved seats and camping sites for this year’s Classic, the Raceway will honor those reservations for the 46th Red Clay Classic, tentatively slated for October 1-2, 2021. Fans and racers from Canada who were not be able to attend this year’s Classic but had purchased their reserved seats, camping sites and pit spots for this year’s show during 2019 will have their reservations honored for next year. For clarification on this, please call (715) 682-2672 Monday through Friday (evenings only) or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Announcements regarding the annual awards banquet celebrating the 2020 stock car racing season at the ABC Raceway will be forthcoming. Additional information is available on the track’s website, www.abcraceway.com.
It is with very deep regret that the Board of Directors has made the decision to cancel the 45th Annual Red Clay Classic this weekend. In light of the recently released Ashland County directive regarding the pandemic, already saturated pits, parking and camping grounds and the unfavorable weather forecast, we feel it is the best interests of all to cancel at this time. We appreciate your support and understanding with regards to this difficult decision.