TIMMONSVILLE, S.C. (WMBF) - Charlie Powell, the owner of Florence Motor Speedway, feels he’s being singled out after the Florence County Sheriff’s Office informed him he couldn’t have fans in the stands for Saturday’s race.
Powell said he’s been keeping up with Gov. Henry McMaster’s guidelines for reopening his track to the public following a shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He printed off the AccelerateSC guidelines for reopening motor sports venues, and was under the impression if he met those requirements he’d be able to have fans back in the stands.
“And on top of the page there, it says guidelines for reopening motor sports facilities. I said great, we’ve got something going on here,” said Powell.
Powell began taking measures to ensure he was in accordance with the guidelines and shared a Facebook post telling fans they would be able to come out and watch this weekend’s race.
The sheriff’s office found out about Powell’s intentions and hand-delivered a letter saying under the executive order racing with fans is considered non-essential and is unauthorized.
The letter went on to say the sheriff’s office takes no pleasure in reminding Powell racing with fans is prohibited.
“First instinct is I’m 83 years old and I’ve been promoting for 45 years and my first instinct was, ‘Ah Charlie, you need to fight this. You need to go against it.’ Well, I’m not going to disobey the law,” said Powell.
Powell claimed other race tracks in the area have already reopened to fans, with some having over 1,000 people in attendance. He said he reached out to other owners who said they also went by the AccelerateSC guidelines for reopening to the public.
A Facebook post by Lake View Motor Speedway shows fans in the stands watching a race last Saturday.
“The issue seems to be why key on Florence Motor Speedway here. We aren’t bothering anybody. I’m behind all of the race tracks and I’m a week behind or two behind all the other race tracks,” said Powell.
Powell said there are around a dozen race tracks in South Carolina, and they all keep in contact. He claimed none of them have received a similar notice from law enforcement telling them to keep fans out.
“To me it’s discriminating against my track big time. By singling out my race track saying you can’t run with fans when race tracks that are 10 or 20 miles from us are running,” said Powell.
WMBF News reached out to the Florence County Sheriff’s Office about the letter and they said it speaks for itself.
An email for the governor’s office stated the AccelerateSC guidelines are for businesses to begin preparing for reopening, and race tracks are supposed to be closed to the public at this time.
Powell will run a race this Saturday and will follow the order from the sheriff’s office. Fans will not be in the stands.