North Carolina orders short track to close after it held races with fans in defiance of executive order

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s health department have ordered the immediate closure of Ace Speedway after the track held multiple event weekends with fans despite Cooper’s order prohibiting mass gatherings in the state.

The track has openly flouted Cooper’s executive order designed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. It got some assistance with that defiance by Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson who had said he wouldn’t enforce the executive order at the track because he believed it was unconstitutional.

“I assure you that I respect the Office of the Governor of North Carolina but I have serious reservations on the legality of his order,” Johnson said in a Monday night statement via the Raleigh News & Observer.

Racetracks are not generally exempt from the North Carolina order that now prohibits crowds of more than 25 in the same spot, though NASCAR held multiple races in Charlotte in May.

Governor: ‘Reckless decision’ to open

Ace has held three Saturday night events with fans over the past three weekends. It claimed that its June 6 event was held as a “peaceful protest” in an attempt to legitimize its decision to flout the executive order. Despite labeling itself as a protest, Ace still charged admission on Saturday night.

“People shouldn’t run a money-making operation that puts in danger not only their customers but people who come in contact with their customers,” Cooper said in his Monday news conference. “This is a reckless decision being made by the owners, pulling people together in that way that can cause spread of the virus.”

The track has been classified as an “imminent hazard” and the state says it must close until June 22. Alamance County has more than 500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. North Carolina said Ace can reopen if it meets a set of criteria going forward.

The grandstands were full at Ace on May 23. The attendance at the track — with few people wearing masks — and across other short tracks in the U.S. caught the eye of defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who said he supported people heading to their local short tracks but wished that masks would be mandatory for those going to races.

Ace is not the only short track in North Carolina that has held races in defiance of Cooper’s law. 311 Speedway in Stokes County said it would be holding races on May 30 but wouldn’t be allowing members of the “corona-infested media” to attend the race unless they bought a ticket.

NASCAR has held two races in Charlotte since resuming its season on May 17. The races at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24 and 27 were both held without fans. There will be 1,000 first responders and military members socially distanced throughout the grandstands at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday for the Cup Series race.

Ace Speedway has held races over the last three Saturday nights with fans in attendance. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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