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4-17 Southern Speedway in Punta Gorda back open after closing in March due to coronavirus pandemic

4-17 Southern Speedway

Currently, the track is allowing up to 1,000 fans to attend each event which is about 25 percent of the speedway’s total capacity

By Sean Barie

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Saturday night, race fans headed to the track at 4-17 Southern Speedway in Punta Gorda.

“This is good. I needed it,” said John Schoellner from Naples.

For the first time in months, drivers started their engines.

“It’s a little bit exciting,” said driver Rachelle Rudolph. “I’ve been waiting for three months now to race so I’ve been really anxious about it.”

Since March 14 the 4-17 Southern Speedway has been closed due to coronavirus concerns.

“The bills keep coming in day in and day out. Even though you’re not racing,” said the track’s co-owner Joe Gentry.

But Saturday night, the track hosted its second race night in as many weeks as the state begins to open back up.

“Fans, drivers, and crews have all been awesome making sure they are not in large groups,” said Gentry about his track’s social distancing measures.

Currently, the track is allowing up to 1,000 fans to attend each event which is about 25 percent of the speedway’s total capacity.

All fans must have their temperature taken before entering the gates.

“That’s fine. I don’t mind doing that. It makes me feel better,” said Schoellner.

Some of the drivers feared they might never get to this point while the pandemic continued.

“It could be stressful,” said 15-year-old driver Cody Kucker. “Am I going to be able to race? Am I going to be able to get back into the seat?”

But now, both the drivers and fans said they are trying to play it safe but also excited to have racing back in their lives.

“It’s One of those things where you just have to be careful with where you are,” said Kucker. “It feels amazing to be back here.”

The owners of 4-17 Southern Speedway also said they will continue to implement the same safety measures while the state mandates them to do so and that races will continue as scheduled.

By Sean Barie|WBBH/WZVN | Sunday, May 17th 2020, 12:45 PM EDT