A Roswell speedway has postponed races previously scheduled for this weekend and is considering possible legal action after the owner of the venue was cited for operating in violation of state emergency public health orders.
Rue Stone, general manager of Alien Motor Speedway, announced Monday in a written message on the speedway’s website that the Alien Takeover, an event consisting of several races scheduled for tonight and Saturday, will not move forward as planned because of state public health orders limiting mass gatherings and restricting some businesses from opening.
“We apologize to our fans, competitors, sponsors and our fellow taxpayers but we have been left with no choice … for now,” Stone said.
In an interview with the Roswell Daily Record Tuesday, Stone said the owner of the track was served by New Mexico State Police with a $100 citation after a race attended by several hundred people was held at the speedway June 27.
A week earlier, State Police presented the speedway owner a cease and desist order after another race was held at the track June 20.
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Stone said he believes the orders infringe on the rights of himself and owners of the speedway as both citizens and business owners. He added that he has consulted with Rick Martin, a constitutional lawyer from Texas, about possible legal options.
Martin confirmed to the Roswell Daily Record Thursday he has spoken to operators of the speedway and has been involved in multiple tort claims challenging public health orders that restrict business activity in 42 states and which he alleges violate the due process rights of business owners.
The governor’s office did not respond to request for comment about potential legal action pertaining to the orders by press time Thursday, but in May, Nora Sackett, press secretary to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said the orders are supported by state law.
Whether races will resume after this weekend is something that Stone said will be announced early next week. Information about several upcoming scheduled races was still posted on the Speedway’s website as of Thursday.
The decision to move forward with the June 20 and June 27 races at the speedway was made because the venue needs the money to remain afloat financially, Stone said.
“We are wanting to keep our business alive and keep our families, racers and sponsors and everybody else happy,” he added.
He added precautions were taken to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19 at last week’s race, including making masks available, providing soap and hand sanitizer in the facility’s restrooms and seating arrangements.
Stone said that only about 350 people came to the June 27 race, allowing them to socially distance in an arena with a seating capacity of about 3,000.
Ray Wilson, of the NMSP, said officers have issued 11 citations and 180 cease and desist orders statewide since March when the first public health order was put in place.
NMSP though are not proactively searching for individuals and businesses not in compliance with the orders, but they respond to complaints from citizens about possible violations.
Wilson said businesses reported and found to not be abiding by the orders are served with a notice of first violation and a cease and desist order.
A second violation results in the owner or manager of the business being served by State Police with a citation, and is a petty misdemeanor that results in a fine of up to $100, and a possible six-month prison sentence.
For third and subsequent violations, Wilson said, the New Mexico Department of Health is notified by State Police of the business’ failure to comply and they may impose civil penalties of up to $5,000.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or firstname.lastname@example.org.