VERNON, N.Y. - It was an event fitting of its name.
The Utica-Rome Speedway became the first track to host an official DIRTcar race in New York State since the coronavirus pandemic began with the Conquer Corona 30, Wednesday.
No fans were present at the races and everyone on the premises was required to wear a mask, and adhere to social distancing guidelines as much as possible, due to New York State mandate and CDC guidelines.
Drivers competed in two different divisions, the Broedel Fuel Group DIRTcar Sportsman division and the Ted's Body Shop DIRTcar Pro Stock division. Each division had a 30-lap feature race with the winner of both earning $1,000 purses.
Both divisions compete in the Hoosier Tire Weekly Racing Series.
There was also a 20-lap B-Main race in the Sportsman division for those not qualifying for the feature. The payout for the winner there was $200.
Luke Horning won the feature race in the Pro-Stock division, Kevin Root took the checkered flag in the Sportsman division and Alan Fink placed first in the B-Main race.
Prior to the main events, there were four qualifying heats in the Sportsman division, and two in the Pro Stock. There was also two consolation heats and a rookie heat to determine the final qualifying racers for the feature race.
"We're really excited to be the first track in New York to do this," said Bill Shea, owner of the Utica-Rome Speedway, along with his wife Kim. "I'm happy about it, all our crew that works here is pretty happy about it and the drivers are happy about it."
Shea said that along with wearing masks and limiting attendance, the track also implemented structured parking for teams in the pit area, separating car haulers by 10-feet to ensure social distancing. Only four crew members plus the driver were allowed in the pit area.
Utica-Rome Speedway worked closely with the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo in order to obtain permission to hold the event. Not having fans in attendance made for an unusual setting, but it didn't take away from the excitement of having cars on the track.
"We're happy to have racing back, said Shea. "We'd really like to have the fans here [eventually] because there's a lot of folks that we see all the time and they become part of the racing family. Hopefully in a few weeks we can do that."
The next event at Utica-Rome Speedway is still to be determined.