By Bill Spinks
The Texas Motorplex in Ellis County will soon come alive for the 2020 AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, and the organizing committee for the event may soon be able to obtain assistance from a number of state programs set up to help fund these large events.
The Ellis County Commissioners’ Court this week voted to endorse a trust fund application on behalf of the committee for the event, which is scheduled to take place Oct. 14-18.
The application is for the Event Trust Fund (EFT), Major Events Reimbursement Program (MERP), or Motor Sports Racing Trust Fund (MSRTF) programs.
Andy Carter, Texas Motorplex manager and the director of the 1320 Sports Local Organizing Committee, said his committee has been participating in the trust fund for several years and the city of Ennis had been handling it in the past. Carter said because the responsibility has become a strain on Ennis and the races impact the county as a whole, he was approaching the county for the endorsement.
Carter said his committee will put up the matching funds, and no county funds would be used. Carter said he is asking for about $300,000 in state funds and his committee would put up the application fee, which is about $37,000.
County Judge Todd Little said studies have shown that the FallNationals mean an economic impact of about $4.5 million to Ellis County, and the state provides funds for tourism and economic development.
"It’s a national event," Little said. "There were three or four other locations considered for this, and they chose Texas. They’re asking us to be the sponsoring agency this year. We’ll sign the letter or affidavit that goes to the governor."
Little added that legal staff has assured him that the county would incur no liability for signing on to the endorsement.
The FallNationals in October is a "playoff" event for the NHRA, Carter said, which helps the event become eligible for tourism funds. The funds have been used in the past for major events such as Super Bowls in Houston and Arlington, and IndyCar races at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
The FallNationals will feature five days of racing action with the top pro classes — Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle — racing Saturday and Sunday.
Wednesday and Thursday will feature a National Open for sportsman competitors from across the country. Friday will be highlighted by the "Friday Night Live" featuring jet cars, nostalgia Funny Cars and a wide assortment of NHRA classes along with continued sportsman qualifying. Additionally, this will be the final event of the season for Top Fuel Harleys, so the champion will be crowned in front of the Texas Motorplex crowd.
In the case of a further worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carter said the Motorplex has a number of plans filed with the governor’s office. Those protocols have been in place since racing was allowed to resume in May.
"This is a fluid, ever-changing situation," Carter said. "We’re up for anything from needing to have more folks on site taking temperatures, to just canceling the event."