Path Valley Speedway promoters, drivers cope with COVID-19 fallout
Every spring and summer has been more of the same for Steve Wilbur since 1998.
Once the weather got warm enough, one thing was clear: it was dirt track season. It was time to oil up the engine, and head to Path Valley Speedway, and compete for titles in various dirt track racing divisions.
But due to the COVID-19 crisis, like many industries, racers like Steve Wilbur are left sitting idly, waiting for word that they can get back in their cars but worrying it might not come for a while.
"It's bumming everyone out because we're not racing, and everyone has different opinions on if we should be or if we shouldn't be," said Wilbur, who runs Path Valley's Wingless Super Sportsman. "We're in the dark right now. And I understand it. But it's hard to cope with, that's for sure."
It's been hard to cope with financially for Path Valley as well. After spending $30,000 in the last year to upgrade the facilities, losing a big chunk of revenue isn't the easiest pill to swallow.
The track was only able to hold some practice races and has missed out on at least five and counting public events thus far.
It's a waiting game right now, says track promoter Zach Crouse.
"The first few practice sessions went well, so that got us a little bit of money in our pocket," Crouse said. "But as far as any revenue coming in, it's pretty much shot because of this virus. I'd say we probably put $30,000 into the track, maybe close to it over the winter. So you put all the money into it, and you're basically a sitting duck right now."
Some drivers like 2019 Path Valley Late Model champion Randy Burkholder have just tried to stay busy tinkering with their cars.
Burkholder also runs a parts company, RBR Racing Supplies, so he has still been able to operate that to an extent, helping provide for drivers who want to be ready to go when the sport returns.
Still, the cancelled races have been frustrating for him as well.
"I spent thousands of dollars on the race car this winter," Burkholder said. "And it's sitting here collecting dust."
Burkholder has raced cars every spring and summer since he was eight, so it's been an adjustment for him to the new normal.
"I'm getting a lot more housework done than before," Burkholder said. "But it's a lot different trying to get used to all this stuff. I just hope everybody keeps listening to this."
In terms of Path Valley surviving financially, fundraising and asking for donations have been discussed.
But Crouse says the best chance the track has to push forward from this is the ability to get going and get racing again. And while he's hoping for June, he has no strong inclinations of when it will be or how it will happen.
"Possibly, they may say, you know, we only want 200 people gathering at this point in time for this many weeks," Crouse said. "I don't know that they're just going to open the floodgate and say, okay, you can have 6,000 people in the grandstands or whatever. I don't know how they're gonna do it."
People like Crouse, who is still at work as a veterinarian during the week, and Todd Ward still work at the track, keeping it well-maintained while honoring social distancing policies.
"Just the camaraderie, being around people you haven't seen all season [is going to be the best part]," Wilbur said. "The offseason seems like an eternity for us every year, and it getting extended because of this, it's been driving me crazy. But we'll just keep focused, hope everyone stays safe, and hopefully we'll get open before much longer."