• Quote: ‘Speedway enthusiasts set to drive five and a half hours from Iowa thwarted – an area with more cases and deaths of coronavirus – to South Dakota’.

By Andrew Atkinson Chief Sports Editor Leader Exclusive

After discussions with the South Dakota Department of Health, state officials and county commissioners, Front Row Challenge Motorsports and Park Jefferson Speedway decided to run the April 25 Open Wheel Nationals event – without spectators.

In a U-Turn, a spokesperson said: “Governor Noem and her team have been doing a great job leading our state and have asked the citizens to be smart and innovative in how they operate.

“While we felt we were innovative in how we were addressing fan safety by abiding by the CDC guidelines, we also know the importance of working with our officials guidance on fan attendance.

“We truly appreciate the outpouring of support from all of the fans and sanctioning bodies for our event. “We hope to be able to offer you the chance to come to Park Jefferson Speedway for an event in the very near future.”

Spectators who bought tickets will receive a refund.

Prior to the dramatic U-Turn Park Jefferson Speedway owner Adam Adamson had reportedly said: “We intend to go overboard on following CDC guidelines.

“We’re just a small race track in rural South Dakota – trying to give some entertainment – and a little bit of a break from some of this madness (coronavirus pandemic) that’s going on right now.

“We think we can do so – in a safe environment.”

The state had yet to issue a “stay at home:stay safe” rules for residents of South Dakota – despite the Covid-19 pandemic – prior to the U-Turn.

The Park Jefferson Speedway, a venue with a capacity of 4,000, reportedly had sold all 700 tickets allocated for a race on April 25.

Speedway tracks in Jefferson, had deemed safety with a notice ‘all attendees will be required to wear face coverings’.

South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, had faced criticism in the wake of refusing to issue a stay at home notice – only to what has been dubbed as ‘roll out an executive order telling residents to practice social distancing’.

Noem was asked about the racing events at a press conference and said she did not agree with the decision to stage them.

Both meetings are perfectly legal – while there is no stay-at-home order – it was said.

“I can encourage people not to go. I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to attend,” Noem said.

“I still recommend that we follow the plans that I have laid out for South Dakota – where we don’t gather in sizes of over 10 – and that folks continue to social distance if they’re not feeling well to stay home and to wash their hands.”

There have been 1,755 confirmed cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in South Dakota – and eight deaths.

South Dakota ranks 46th in population out of the US’s 50 states.

Enthusiasts of Speedway said they had intended to drive five and a half hours from Iowa – an area which has had far more cases and deaths than South Dakota – to attend the event.

South Dakota’s economy relies on tourism and agriculture, which have both been hit hard by the pandemic.

Noem, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, had said she does not want to ‘sacrifice’ individual liberties – by putting the state under lockdown.