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Central Pennsylvania track again cancels racing, rips governor's 'heavy-handed approach'

STEVE HEISER
717-505-5446/@ydsports
  • For a second straight week, Selinsgrove Speedway has canceled racing.
  • The speedway said it didn't receive state approval for the "Posse Unleashed" show.
  • Speedway officials criticized the "heavy-handed approach' by Gov. Tom Wolf.
Gov. Tom Wolf

Central Pennsylvania race fans are going to have to wait a little longer to see the Pennsylvania Posse sprint-car drivers in action — either in person or via live stream.

Selinsgrove Speedway has announced that its scheduled "Posse Unleashed" program, set for Saturday night, May 16, has been canceled.

That marks the second straight Saturday when the Snyder County speedway has canceled the "Posse Unleashed" show. Both were scheduled to be run without fans, while promising to employ proper social-distancing measures. Both programs would've been available by live stream at a cost of $24.95.

On both occasions, track officials said the program was canceled because the state would not give its approval because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The speedway issued a news release Wednesday morning stating that a late-morning call Tuesday to Pennsylvania State Representative David Rowe from the governor’s office ended any hopes of racing in the near future at Selinsgrove. Rowe represents Snyder and Union counties.

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Snyder County had been moved to the yellow phase of the state COVID-19 mitigation plan on May 8. Speedway officials believed that movement forward from the red phase opened the door for racing to return at Selinsgrove, which is located about 70 miles north of York.

In fact, in a previous news release, speedway officials said that they had received all the proper clearances to race on Saturday, May 9, only to receive a later email from the state saying it was no longer approved to race. 

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Unhappy with Gov. Wolf: In Wednesday's news release, it was clear that Selinsgrove Speedway officials were not pleased with the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf. On Monday, Wolf adopted an unusually aggressive tone in threatening to punish businesses that opened up in defiance of his orders.

“We are extremely disappointed at the heavy-handed approach and response by the governor’s office to our good business practices in an effort to race at the track,” Selinsgrove co-promoter Mike Heffner said in Wednesday's news release.

“Not only did the state lead us on a wild goose chase by approving our plans and then reversing course mid-stream which caused us significant financial loss, but then when faced with a reasonable and flexible request to see the event completed, the governor’s office simply refused to show any interest or workability in remedying the issue.

“We are very dissatisfied with not only this decision but with how the entire situation was handled. It is a glaring example of failure in leadership by the state during this trying time."

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Refunds will be given: According to the news release, the cancellation of the event means that all entry fees previously collected for the event will be fully refunded by the speedway in the coming days. Questions can be directed to promoter@selinsgrovespeedway.com. 

The "Posse Unleased" programs were slated to be live streamed via pay per view on The Cushion. All advance purchases of the live stream will be refunded by the broadcaster.

"No choice" but to cancel: “We have no choice but to honor state directives in order to protect not only Selinsgrove Speedway and its future but to also protect DH & L Fire Company, the majority stakeholder in the facility,” Selinsgrove general manager Steve Inch said in the news release.

“Both the speedway and the fire company are reliant in one way or another upon state-awarded contracts, licenses and funding in order to keep operating and to lose that support would be devastating to both places in so many ways.” 

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Possible return to racing: Selinsgrove Speedway officials said they hope to return to racing action as soon as possible, hopefully during the midseason.

The speedway is currently evaluating a plan for hosting "conservative" practice sessions during the coming weeks and will make announcements about that plan in the near future.

Central Pennsylvania's dirt tracks have not held any racing action since March. 

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The other speedways in the area, such as Williams Grove, Lincoln, BAPS, Trailway, Port Royal, Path Valley and Grandview, are located in counties still under the red phase of the COVID-19 mitigation program.

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.