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Fans watch the 44th Annual Hardee's Rattler 250 at the South Alabama Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

Track owner John Dykes was all smiles after the completion of the Rattler Weekend of races at the South Alabama Speedway on Sunday.

He had reason to be rejoicing.

It finally all came together after three postponements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I guess everyone knows how I feel about this coronavirus,” Dykes said. “You have your right to believe like you want to, in my opinion.

“I mean, the ones that didn’t want to participate, didn’t want to come out, they stayed home. The ones that wanted to participate should have the right to participate. That’s my opinion.”

It’s not that Dykes is a renegade. He understands the dangers involved with COVID-19 and doesn’t take it lightly.

He had a liver transplant in 2016 and takes four pills a day to keep on ticking. At age 68, Dykes has taken precautions during this trying time and respects everyone who does.

But Dykes also believes in the right of those to make their own decisions. He wanted to put on the big weekend of racing as promised for the fans of southeast Alabama, the drivers and all those interested.

For a while, it didn’t look like it would happen despite repeated efforts.

The 44th annual Rattler Weekend at the speedway located between Kinston and Opp was originally scheduled for March 20-22. It was postponed and moved to early April, then postponed again and moved to mid-April before being postponed yet again until Memorial Day weekend.

He then put precautions in place.

Dykes contracted with Ivy Creek Healthcare to provide temperature checks and be on the scene to monitor any fans, drivers or crew members who displayed any health issues during the three-day event.

There were still some nervous moments last week until Gov. Kay Ivey loosened state guidelines on Thursday afternoon, which permitted the re-opening of entertainment venues such as race tracks.

Even with the go-ahead to wave the green flag and go racing, there would be more bumps in the road, so to speak.

On Friday night, many of the local races were washed out. The headliner for the second night — the Rattler 125 — didn’t start until late Saturday night and ended well after midnight due to more rain in the area.

On Sunday, however, the main event Rattler 250, which brings in talented Super Late Model drivers from around the country, went off without a hitch.

There were blue skies, a gentle breeze and a clean race for fans to watch who came out in big numbers to put an exclamation point on the weekend of races.

“We’re thrilled,” Dykes said of the turnout. “The biggest thing is what they bring into the surrounding areas. All the hotels around here I think were filled up.”

Fans seemed to be trying to social distance, though there were plenty of groups bunched up watching the action. It was a festive, family-type atmosphere that is the trademark of grassroots racing on short tracks across the country.

Some fans wore T-shirts with the names of their favorite drivers. Boiled peanuts were plentiful and a cupful of soft serve ice cream was a popular item.

Kind of think of it as the National Peanut Festival with a race tossed in to watch. For at least a couple of hours, life seemed normal again in south Alabama.

Ty Majeski was the big winner on the track Sunday. He’ll be back in action Tuesday night in the NASCAR Truck Series at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s those types of talented drivers that make the trek to this venue each year to test their skills.

Shortly after the race, the skies opened up and the rain began. Dykes and his crew had dodged a bullet on this Sunday and can now look forward to the remainder of the race season at the track.

While the big Rattler Weekend is now in the books for another year, local races will continue at the track throughout the summer months.

“We’ll be racing again on June 13,” Dykes said with a grin.

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