WISSOTA cancels national points in 2020
There will be no national champions crowned in the world of WISSOTA auto racing in 2020.
The sanctioning body for dirt-track racing in seven northern Midwest states and three Canadian provinces announced Tuesday it has canceled the awarding of national points this season due to COVID-19-related restrictions.
Bemidji Speedway races WISSOTA-sanctioned races in several classes weekly.
WISSOTA Executive Director Carson Gramm explained the extended border closure between the U.S. and Canada, as well as individual state and provincial pandemic guidelines, has placed too many drivers at a competitive disadvantage to determine true champions.
Headquartered in Saint Augusta, Minn., WISSOTA racing divisions include late models, modifieds, super stocks, street stocks, mod fours, pure stocks and hornets. WISSOTA states that nearly 3,000 competitors raced at its tracks in 2019.
"The main topics that were taken into consideration in this was (No. 1) the great unknown that is present, being the coronavirus pandemic still for the state of Minnesota as well as the state of Montana," Gramm said. "Then we look at Canada and they are still struggling to get opened up for our race tracks and drivers up there, as well as the U.S. and Canadian border still being closed through the end of July from what we are being told by officials."
Gramm said a number of drivers are currently unable to reach tracks at which they would regularly compete -- if those tracks are even operating.
Coronavirus protections and protocols differ regionally. In Minnesota, for example, outdoor entertainment venues are currently being restricted to no greater than 25% capacity per area, and can also not exceed 250 occupants per area, according to information provided by the state online at staysafe.mn.gov.
"Tracks can open and race in Minnesota right now, but restrictions are such that it's not very feasible," Gramm said. "There are some ways that race tracks are working with those restrictions and working with their local officials and making it work. Other race tracks are not necessarily in a position to do so."
Bemidji Speedway has been holding practices this month, but has yet to start the racing season. Another practice session is set for Sunday, June 28.
North Dakota is currently allowing large outdoor gatherings if approved by community leaders and local health authorities. WISSOTA tracks in Jamestown, Grand Forks, Lisbon, Wishek, Mandan, Dickinson and Devils Lake have all opened.
"It's great to see those guys racing," Gramm said. "But as far as the grand scheme of things, it's still certainly not enough tracks opened up at this point in time for us to be able to go racing (for national points)."
Compounding the issue, WISSOTA's racing season is comparatively short. Most of the country was shut down when the 2020 WISSOTA season would have normally got underway.
WISSOTA sanctions approximately 50 tracks in the Dakotas, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Manitoba, Ontario and Alberta.
"When there's snow on the ground we cannot race, whereas other sanctioning bodies have drivers all around the country that are racing and gaining points already in January," Gramm said. "Our guys do not have the ability to gain points before April 1."
WISSOTA state points, however, will still be accumulated to determine state champions. WISSOTA was founded in 1981 and has crowned national champions since 1985.
"Those were the decisions that we had to make this year,” Gramm said. “And, it's certainly not a fun decision to make.”