The bad news may be that off-road racing’s newest facility now finds itself at the forefront of motorsport’s return to hosting live spectators and weekend camping. The good news is Minnesota’s ERX Motor Park is more than ready.
Plans are in place for ERX to hold its first race back with spectators, the upcoming ERX Off-Road Nationals scheduled for July 10-11. The two-day race weekend will also finally unveil the new Championship Off-Road (COR) series to racers and fans alike.
Located about 30 miles from downtown Minneapolis, ERX is located at the junction of the Mississippi and Elk River. What opened as a modest 13-acre snowmobile racing track in 2008 has now evolved into a 500-acre off-road playground that is one of the most well-conceived and executed premiere motorsports venue in the entire Midwest.
Co-owned by business partners Chris Carlson and Todd Plaisted, the facility has shared its extensive and comprehensive COVID-19 plan with RACER.com, covering areas as limited ticket and camping sales, separate spectator and participant procedures, modifications to seating and concession sales and much more.
All of the Midwest off-road tracks have seen the ERX plan and are looking to emulate as many of the safety procedures and protocols as possible. Given the short summer window for suitable weather in that section of America, it is imperative for teams and tracks to get their season completed by the end of September in order to survive.
The plan also offers a rare glimpse at the lengths track organizers and motorsports event promoters must now undertake in order to maintain both their business and hope for the future.
“We are charging forward and this is an exercise in faith,” said Carlson. “Every day looks better than the last, and we are in the most conservative county in Minneapolis. Right now, things are looking really, really positive. It’s time to get back to racing.”
Unlike nearby Crandon International Raceway, which hosts just two major off-road races a year at its rather remote Wisconsin Northwoods location, or even Bark River, Michigan’s single race weekend schedule, ERX can offer year-round action activities thanks to being so close to a major population center. In an average year, ERX schedules over 30 events ranging from Monster Trucks to Extreme 5K runs and their very own regional racing series.
Of course, those 2020 plans were suspended amid the onset of the ongoing pandemic. But, at least for now, it looks very promising that ERX will lead the off-road nation back into hosting a large closed-course event with spectators on the same July weekend as the IndyCar double-header at Road America. Over 200 COR Pro and Sportsman race teams are expected to enjoy ERX’s grass-filled campground for the event.
Carlson admits that the ERX plan is a solid one, but also fluid in its application as the event draws closer. “We have conducted online surveys with many of our fans, and we are trying to find that right balance of safety and the overall fan experience. Many of them are just happy we are adding additional hand sanitizers,” he said with a laugh.
ERX is also the home track of Carlson’s UTV and Pro 2 series champion son Andrew Carlson, who is returning to an unlimited Pro 4 category that looks to be resurging in the Midwest. Carlson will be engaging in a battle for the 2020 COR championship versus the perennial powerhouse duo of Johnny and CJ Greaves.
Given the leadership role that ERX has taken to bring short-course racing back to the American heartland, every fan, racer and track operational staff can rest assured Carlson and company are leaving no stone unturned as they march toward a July 10th reopening and the start of the new COR series.