Heat cancels Friday racing

Frank Connelly, of Oneida, Curtis Berleue, of Corning, and Pete Richards, of Vernon, work on a car during the Pabst Shootout on July 1 at Can-Am Speedway. Lauren Miller/Watertown Daily Times

Race tracks in the local area have been sent to the pits for this weekend.

No area tracks will hold racing this weekend. Can-Am Speedway in LaFargeville called off its Friday night card due to excessive heat. Temperatures are slated to be in the 90s with the heat index making the temperatures feel like they’re in the triple digits.

“It’s supposed to be calling for 96 degrees and the heat index on Friday is going to be over 100,” Can-Am owner Tyler Bartlett said. “Add a three-layer suit and that you’re driving in a car that’s 150 degrees like an oven.”

Bartlett added that he had to pace himself after he felt really warm during the Pabst Shootout on July 1. Calling off events due to excessive heat is not unheard of as Mohawk International Raceway in Hogansburg scrapped a Friday night slate for the same reason just under a year ago. Brewerton and Fulton Speedway also postponed shows that weekend due to the warm temperatures.

“It’s not just the drivers (that feel the heat),” Bartlett said. “It’s the crew and the concession workers and we got to think about their safety.”

Can-Am had been the only area track to host races as they have conducted spectator-less events since June 6, which were on pay-per-view via the Dirt Track Digest web site. The track invited fans to the Pabst Shootout, despite warnings from the county, requiring masks and social distancing. An executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sidelined every other track in the area and none have held events due to COVID-19 restrictions.

An update this weekend to that order bars spectators from attending racing events until Aug. 2, which is an extension from the original date of July 21.

Bartlett received a warning letter from the state this week about operating with fans. He attended the Jefferson County Board of Legislators meeting on Tuesday.

“We went to the Board of Legislators meeting, stated our case and got out all of our information,” Bartlett said. “Who knows, with the way things are going, we could have spectators the next time around.”

Can-Am’s next scheduled race is July 17. Can-Am’s Facebook page said that go-kart racing is still scheduled for this Saturday.

This week’s delay holds off the debut of the limited sportsman division at the track. Can-Am announced the addition of the class to allow those new to sportsman racing to get some more experience in the open-wheel cars.

“It gives new people that want to take up racing a chance to try it out,” Bartlett said.

Other tracks like Evans Mills Raceway Park, Adirondack International Speedway, Oswego Speedway and Mohawk have yet to host an event this season. Oswego announced on Tuesday that all races would be put off until next month.

Evans Mills has held practice sessions on Saturdays for those willing to get in a few laps. Track owner Peggy Gill said those events have gotten good reception despite the limited numbers of practice slots.

“We’ve had a few repeat customers and they’d been very respectful of the rules,” Gill said. “We’ve gotten to see some faces we haven’t seen in a while.”

Gill understands the fans’ frustrations about not being able to get to watch events, but she thinks of some of her more senior fans.

“We have a lot of older fans who may be at risk and we want to look out for them,” Gill said.

Adirondack said it will host a demolition derby at a yet-to-be-determined date. New general manager Todd Thomas is still waiting to run his first event since taking over in May.

Mohawk said its next scheduled event is Sept. 14 when the SuperDIRTcar Series big-block modifieds, DIRTcar Sportsman and Stars Mod Lite Nationals will head to the track. Most of the speedway’s races are made up of Canadian drivers and the border won’t be open until at least July 21 with a possible extension.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Reporter/Agate Person

A lifelong resident of Northern New York. Dan graduated from Lyme Central School and attended SUNY Oswego. He's worked in all forms of media, including radio and print. Dan covers hockey, wrestling, track and field, tennis, volleyball and golf.

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