Dirt tracks reverse course, cancel their weekend racing programs

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After a controversial decision by some to race last weekend despite the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), more dirt tracks are putting events on hiatus.

In a statement on its website, Williams Grove Speedway announced it won’t hold racing Friday based on recommendations of Gov. Tom Wolf. The track in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, held its traditional opening day March 13 with the tacit support of the governor and had planned to continue this weekend.

Wolf apparently has reversed course from Monday when he said he wouldn’t make tracks in his state cancel their races.

According to multiple reports, Lancaster Motor Speedway in Lancaster Country, South Carolina (about 35 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina), also has decided to cancel its Saturday program of racing.

The track in Lancaster, South Carolina, initially canceled its March 22 program Wednesday but then decided Thursday that the races would happen.

A Facebook post from the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office read, “There have been a lot of conversations this week concerning the race tomorrow night at Lancaster Motor Speedway. After those conversations, the officials at Lancaster Motor Speedway have made the decision to cancel tomorrow night’s race out of concern for their fans and the general public.”

Here’s the statement from Williams Grove Speedway on canceling its March 20 program:

“Williams Grove Speedway will not be racing this Friday, March 20, based on the recommendations of the governor of Pennsylvania. The status of future races will be announced. Keep up to date on all speedway news and information by visiting the oval’s official website at http://www.williamsgrove.com.”

The dirt racing season has yet to open at some tracks around the country.

Eldora Speedway, perhaps the country’s most famous dirt track, tweeted a photo last week of snow blanketing its famous half-mile. The 2020 schedule on its website still shows as opening its 67th season April 18 with Dirt Late Models, Modifieds and Super Stocks.

“There will be early season events affected and postponed, but the situation changes so rapidly that it’s difficult to know how many or what dates are available for rescheduling,” Eldora Speedway general manager Roger Slack told NBCSports.com via text. “We have been following the guidance and recommendations of the State of Ohio and the federal government and urge all of our race fans and competitors to do so as well.”

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).