Sunbury's Smith set for NASCAR debut

Mark Smith, front, races a sprint car at the Selinsgrove Speedway in 2019.

Selinsgrove Speedway will not host any races in the foreseeable future.

However, track officials are hopeful that racing will take place at the Snyder County dirt track this season.

“The impression we’ve been left on is that we can race when we reach the green phase — it seems the goalposts are always moving — but we have no firm understanding of what racing in the green phase means,” said Shawn Brouse, Selinsgrove Speedway’s public relations manager. “Do they say we have to limit people? Do they say go ahead with no people like we originally planned?”

After initially planning a non-spectator pay-per-view race for last Saturday, which was then postponed to this Saturday, the race was officially canceled on Tuesday.

State Rep. David Rowe, who was working with Speedway officials, received a call from Governor Tom Wolf’s office Tuesday that effectively ended the hopes of racing in the near future. Snyder County remains in the yellow phase of Wolf’s three-phase approach to re-opening the state.

“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,” co-promoter Mike Heffner said. “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.”

If the number of coronavirus cases continue to decline in the Valley, the green phase should mean a green flag at Selinsgrove Speedway.

“We fully envision we will be racing at Selinsgrove Speedway this year, providing the parameters in the yellow phase are met and we go to green,” Brouse said. “We’re definitely optimistic. We’re making plans for a revamped schedule for the last half of the season.

“Selinsgrove has an opportunity to run races that were not originally scheduled because we’re not going to get a full season. We’re going to revamp to where it makes the most sense.”

According to Rowe and Speedway officials, the Speedway got written permission from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) on May 4 to hold the race, before Speedway officials were contacted by the DCED about calling off the race two days later.

Track officials said State Reps. Rowe and Barb Gleim worked with track officials late last week to save the event.

“They were told in the phone call that the DCED changed the guidelines, but when I called the governor’s office (last) Thursday, I was told no guidelines had been changed,” Rowe said last week. “I’m not really sure where the miscommunication comes in.”

Late in the day last Friday, according to published reports, the governor’s office released a statement that stated race tracks in Pennsylvania are considered entertainment, and they won’t be allowed to open while the counties are in the red or yellow phase of reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” Heffner said.

“One thing I want to make clear is there is no question the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed to have this event,” Brouse said. “We had approval from the Department of Community and Economic Development. We had what we needed and the rug was pulled out from under us.

“Local officials, including the state police, were very supportive and willing to work with us. Everybody worked with us to make it happen. Then this about-face was done last week contrary to everything we were told. It’s definitely disappointing.”

The cancellation means that entrance fees and pay-per-view purchases will be refunded. There were approximately 40 entries in the race, and Brouse said pay-per-view purchases showed the race was well-supported by the fans.

“There really is a market for pay-per-view events because of the situation everyone is in,” Brouse said. “Tracks in other area of the country are doing it, and there’s no reason it can’t work here.”

The Speedway may get a chance to find out when Snyder County enters the green phase.

Managing editor William Bowman and sports reporter Todd Hummel contributed to this report.

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