EDITORIAL: After Monday statement, it's time for Gov. Wolf to unleash Pennsylvania Posse
- Gov. Tom Wolf has made conflicting statements about auto racing in the state.
- Wolf said NASCAR racing, without fans, would be permitted in yellow counties.
- Wolf previously would not permit dirt-track racing in yellow counties.
A little clarity is all we'd like.
That's not too much to ask.
Unfortunately, Gov. Tom Wolf is offering answers that are as clear as mud.
Here's the question: Are auto racing programs — without fans and abiding by all health safety guidelines — permitted in areas of the state that have advanced to the yellow phase of the state's COVID-19 mitigation plan?
Seems like a straight-forward query.
Wolf's responses, however, have been nothing but confusing.
Earlier this month, it appeared that Wolf's answer was an unqualified "no."
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Selinsgrove Speedway located in Snyder County, about 70 miles north of York, announced plans to hold a sprint-car racing program for the Pennsylvania Posse on its dirt track on Saturday, May 9. That was one day after Snyder County moved into the yellow phase.
Speedway officials vowed to follow state safety guidelines for the no-fan show and said they obtained all the proper local and state clearances, only to be informed just days before the event that the state approval had been rescinded.
Selinsgrove tried to race again the following Saturday, May 16, only to again be denied state approval. Track officials, with some justification, criticized the state for its "heavy-handed approach."
Wolf, however, seemed to completely change course on Monday, May 18, when asked about the possibility of holding NASCAR races at Pocono Raceway in Monroe County on June 27 and June 28.
"If Monroe County (which is currently in the red phase) goes to yellow before that race happens and NASCAR, in fact, has the competition without spectators in the stands and they follow other guidelines to keep the competitors safe, yeah," Wolf said.
That immediately begs the question: Why can Pocono hold a NASCAR race without fans under yellow conditions, while Selinsgrove can't?
There does not seem to be a justifiable answer to that question.
Money issue: Some, however, will likely point to one big reason for Wolf's differing responses — money.
NASCAR, of course, is a high-profile national series that boasts a television contract worth millions of dollars.
Selinsgrove, meanwhile, is a regional dirt track without any national TV deal.
We'd hate to think that is the reason for Pocono getting the apparent green light to race, while Selinsgrove remains shuttered. Until contrary evidence emerges, however, most folks will justifiably believe that money is at the heart of the issue.
Given Wolf's statement on Monday, he only has two possible options:
1. He should give all Pennsylvania dirt tracks the permission to immediately open, without fans, once their home counties reach the yellow phase, provided they agree to abide by all health safety restrictions. That would include other tracks on the central Pennsylvania racing circuit such as BAPS (in York County), Lincoln (in Adams County) and Williams Grove (in Cumberland County). Those tracks are located in counties that will move to yellow on Friday, May 22.
2. Or, he should rescind his Monday statement saying that NASCAR can hold its June programs, without fans, at Pocono Raceway if Monroe County reaches the yellow phase.
Allowing Pocono to race under yellow, while denying that same opportunity to the state's dirt tracks, is not right or fair.
Unleash the Posse: NASCAR, meanwhile, returned to racing action in Darlington, South Carolina, on Sunday. That event appears to have gone off without a hitch, indicating that auto racing can safely resume, without fans, provided all proper safety precautions are taken.
Given the apparent success of the Darlington program, the first option outlined above would seem to be the more reasonable course of action for Wolf.
The rabid race fans in central Pennsylvania have been demanding some dirt-track action for weeks now. They've bluntly let the governor know their strong feelings in various manners, but especially on social media.
After Wolf's statement on Monday, we now agree with those fans' demands.
It's time for the governor to unleash the Pennsylvania Posse.