On the eve of Sweet 16 Version 3.0 at South Georgia Motorsports Park, promoter Donald “Duck” Long is feeling cautious, yet confident, despite the country remaining within the grip of a dangerous viral pandemic.
“Of course we don’t want to be the cause of someone spreading something around or anything like that. But I also agree with some of what the government is doing and I don’t want to shut down the whole world over this deal,” he says. “We have to keep going and I think we can get this done safely for everyone. But I do think we need to be a little bit careful, you know? Then we can get this deal sorted out and get back to racing like normal.”
Already postponed from its traditional Spring date by nationwide Covid-19 restrictions, this weekend may also mark the last appearance of the unique Sweet 16 event at SGMP, as Ver. 4.0 is destined for Orlando in January. The race features multiple qualifying rounds for 16-car fields in several drag radial-shod classes headlined by the 3.5-second, 220-mph Radials vs. The World group.
Also making it an oddity–and a trendsetter, even if unintentionally–only a little over 500 spectator tickets are made available for each Sweet 16 event.
“Yeah, we were ahead of the curve on that one,” Duck acknowledges. “I think there’s going to be about a thousand people total, by the time you figure officials and track workers and racers’ crews and then the spectator tickets that were sold.
“But it’s a pretty big facility and obviously over that many acres of property, it’s going to be pretty spread out. So that actually works out pretty good for social distancing; there will be lots and lots of room for people to spread out in the stands.”
With limited exceptions, personal facial masks will not be required at Sweet 16, though Long stresses he absolutely encourages their use, especially when mingling amongst others.
“I don’t even think they’re mandated in the state, but we have signs where we would like people to wear them. I mean, I know they can be uncomfortable, but also you have to think about other people. I’m going to be wearing my mask because for me it’s about protecting my parents,” he says. “It’s one of those deals where if you’re coming up on the start line we want you to wear your mask. If you need to come see us in the tower, wear your mask. Obviously, if you’re in your own pit area you can do what you want and there’s probably a 15- or 20-foot difference between everybody’s pits, so you have plenty of social distancing there. Again, we just want to be the safest we can be, that’s all.”
Each DuckX Productions event also features a breakfast/lunch VIP tent for racers and premium-ticketed fans (which includes everyone at Sweet 16). Long says the catered service remains in full force this weekend, but with additional precautions taken.
Long explains the normally enclosed tent will be larger and wide open on one end, with protective Lexan canopies custom built by his father-in-law, Steve Sapp, over all food prep areas, including steam tables and serving stations. Dining tables and seating also are arranged to maximize social distancing while eating.
“Like I said, we just want to do all we can to keep people safe; that’s what’s most important,” Long insists.
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— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) September 20, 2020