Can-Am opens to fans despite state guidance

Fans return to Can-Am

LAFARGEVILLE, N.Y. (WWNY) - A north country speedway that's been running races for weeks is now inviting fans back to the track.

That, even as New York State forbids other racetracks from letting spectators in.

The Pabst Shootout at Can-Am Speedway got underway Wednesday night -- and this time they had a crowd. Other races have been pay-per-view only.

"Tonight we opened the doors to 25 to 30 percent capacity for spectators," track owner Tyler Bartlett said.

That's nearly 1,200 fans. The speedway can hold 4,000.

"It's a number that I can safely maintain," Bartlett said.

Lines mark six feet on the blacktop, plexiglass barriers are up at concessions, and half a dozen security guards are making sure people wear masks while standing.

The owners say that policy is zero tolerance. If you’re walking around without a mask on and someone tells you to put it back on and you disobey that order, you’ll be removed from the venue.

“Some are going to say we are ignorant for what we’re doing but no one has asked you to come here tonight,” Bartlett said. “People are coming here willingly and they’re following the rules.”

There for the race were four gentleman who have been friends for years. Racing brings them together and it's something they've missed.

“Feels great to be here,” Chris Coogan said. “This is where we hang out and talk and visit and see each other.”

They say they're happy with the precautions and just to be there.

"Excited to get some cars out on the track, some dirt flying, and some motors revving," another race fan said.

The owners say they are operating with spectators under an order intended to block New York from enforcing restrictions on outdoor religious gatherings.

"It's discriminatory to label it just for religious, not for all aspects," Bartlett said.

That's what Barlett's lawyers say, but Jefferson County Legislature Chair Scott Gray say's otherwise. He says the county hand-delivered a letter to the speedway, saying racing with spectators is not permitted.

Gray says he’s spoken to the New York State attorney general and the governor’s office to see what they can do.

The next race at Can-Am, with fans, is set for July 10.

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