For Nelson Hoyos, the quarantine life has been anything but sitting around watching episodes of The Tiger King. H
oyos, General Manager for South Georgia Motorsports Park, has been busy getting all of those projects done at the track he’s wanted to do for a long time but a virtually non-stop schedule never afforded the opportunity.
“We’ve been just doing general maintenance and keeping the place ‘ready to open,” Hoyos said. “[track owner] Ozzy [Moya] and ourselves, we’ve been talking about what do we do to improve the facility?” Hoyos explained. “We’ve been talking about doing some grinding work and some things to make the track better than what it is. He actually pulled the trigger on that and surprised us, made a deal with the Southeast Grinders and Stephan over there and they came in on a Friday, and we started grinding the track. We ground a little over 1,400 feet on both sides.”
Hoyos believes the difference will be immediately noticeable to racers.
“The track is now super-flat, all the little miniature bumps and stuff that were on there are all taken out,” Hoyos revealed. “And we’ve put some texture now on the track that will help us in the retention of rubber. This track was always very fast. We’ve been blessed and had a lot of records from a lot of different venues here. But as performances get better and cars get faster and more horsepower, and tire technology gets better you’ve got to improve the facility. We’ve been grinding all nights, during the day it gets hot here, so obviously it makes it a little easier to work at nights.”
The process has been demanding as Hoyos confirmed the crews have been working 12-hour days, on an evening schedule.
“I have put in about almost 30 hours non-stop just watching them,” Hoyos admitted. “I’m hands-on, and at the same time, I love to learn what things are, and what are they are doing, why are they doing. So I ask a lot of questions and try to understand the technology behind what’s happening. So I can best make changes and fit our programs to what we can do to improve everything. So it’s been really interesting.”
Hoyos confirmed it’d been a while since the track was profiled; so long he admits he cannot remember the previous time.
“This is going to be a huge benefit to the surface,” Hoyos said. “Ultimately, the goal is to retain rubber during the events. That old cliche, time is money, the more time you spend on the track preparing, fixing, maintaining, the more it costs. So, if we do this, we feel will help us tremendously because now adding texture to the racing surface will hopefully retain a better rubber base on the track so that now we can make that track a lot faster and a lot more secure.”
Beyond improving the track’s reputation for quick elapsed times and top speeds, Hoyos admits he’s worked into the socially distancing demands of the new normal. It’s been a challenge for the track which has a reputation of packing crowds in for significant events.
“That’s something that we’ve got right now in the blueprints and, I’ve got a fence company coming in,” Hoyos explained. “We’re going to be doing some gates; let’s call it to prevent the migration of people in certain areas and at the same time to make the flow of traffic a little bit better.
“[wife] Marla has worked with our Insurance company and has worked with quite a few of the locals, CDC and some of the others to put together a reopening package that we’re going to be putting out to all of our customers and basically, a guideline, let’s call it a guideline of how we’re going to move forward to keep the social distancing in place, to keep the flow of traffic moving. We’re going to obviously have a driver and a minimum crew member that are going to be allowed in the staging areas.
“We’re going to use every other staging lane to keep distances between the cars. We’re going to use every other parking area to again, keep things distanced. We’re, we’re just asking for the general public to bear with us during this time and then and try to be cognizant of the potential problems or risks that are at hand that we’re trying to avoid and help people’s safety while we provide a venue that’s fun and gives our folks a great opportunity to come out and have some fun with us.”
Hoyos admits thinking outside of the box is definitely required in today’s environment.
“I definitely see it as this is going to be the new normal for us,” Hoyo admitted. “We’re going to have to be very careful with how we do things, and we will have people stationed full time in bathrooms, cleaning it daily. We will have a porta potties with, with hand sanitizers in there and hand sanitizing stations throughout the facility and be a little bit more proactive and trying to keep people safe and provide a good secure environment for them to come.”
Still, Hoyos remains concerned about managing larger crowds in the new normal.
“I’m not going to say it scares me, but I have thought about that,” Hoyos explained. “I believe that our particular venue, because of the popularity that we have here is prone to potentially have more capacity than what it should have at the moment. So we have to be very careful about that. At the front gate, we’re going to have our girls with masks and gloves, and we’re going to change the way the entry points at the front gate are and how they interact with our customers. And I think that we need control the number of folks that come through the facility. We have an enormous facility. We have 364 acres in total.”
Bottom line, Hoyos understands his team will need to manage the facility differently.
“We would need to learn how to manage the facility a little bit different than what we’ve been doing in the past,” Hoyos said. “And so I think for us it would be prudent to limit the number of folks initially; it’s a safer and better system in place to be able to again, ensure the safety of our patrons.”
“I think that the quarantine in general for the whole United States has put together a unique position that when we do open when other tracks open, I believe that they’re going to potentially get overrun because people want to get out, they want to go do things, they want to have fun again. And the risk is higher if you don’t have a system in place.
“I think that from our perspective, and I know ourselves and Orlando Speed World, we’re going to take into account very proactive management of how we handle our personnel and handle our employees and put different employees doing different things to again, ensure the safety of our customers.”
Hoyos is intent on being a good neighbor, and in turn, keeping the lines of communication with local government and health authorities. “
We have a very close relationship with Mayor Buddy Duke of Adel and the commissioners over there and the City manager and the City attorneys,” Hoyos explained. “We have a great relationship with them, and we’ve been in contact with them almost every week. Marla has been continually calling them and asking them how things are progressing? What can we do if they need any help from us? To try and be a good neighbor and at the same time understand how their policies that they’re putting in place affect us.
“Fortunately for us, Adel has been a very low-risk community and Cook County of which we’re a part of, has again been a very low-risk community. So that’s great for us in general.”
“We’ve also been in touch with the Governor Kemp’s Office to try and understand what their goals and how they’re going to move forward. And unfortunately, there are no guidelines per se for racetracks. We are considered a live performance venue that groups into ballparks and stadiums and concerts and all types of venues like that. So there is no specific guideline for racetracks. And that’s what we’re trying to help develop and coordinate so that all the racetracks can have a particular guideline on how to move forward and how to do things.”
And doing things to make his track better during the downtime is what Hoyos is all about.