Chris Graythen | Getty Images
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

NASCAR Safety and Operations Summit highlights 2020, looks ahead to 2021

The 2021 NASCAR Safety and Operations Summit powered by Verizon was held virtually, on BlueJeans by Verizon, as the NASCAR departments (medical, track services, security, operations and track operations) responsible for putting on a safe and orderly show at NASCAR tracks across the country, Mexico and Canada looked back on 2020 and prepared for the upcoming season.

This group faced unprecedented challenges during the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic but was largely responsible for a safe return to racing while NASCAR worked closely with federal, state and local officials to ensure that guidelines were followed.

This year’s summit featured keynote speaker Joseph McCormack from the BRIEF Lab based in Southern Pines, North Carolina, and talks from NASCAR leaders, including NASCAR President Steve Phelps, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell and Vice President of Racing Operations John Bobo.

Vickie Lonker, Vice President of Public Sector Solutions from Verizon, the sponsor for this year’s summit, welcomed the group and thanked the first responders for their work during a particularly challenging season.

John Patalak, NASCAR senior director­­ of safety and engineering, gave a review in safety protocols, and then each department head provided important updates to all attendees.

The awards presentation capped the summit by highlighting some of the standout performances from the 2020 season. Here’s the full list of awards:

Teamwork Award: The medical liaison team recognized Daytona International Speedway for its work with Ryan Newman at the Daytona 500.

Award of Excellence: The medical liaison team recognized Darlington Raceway for a seamless return to racing after the pause for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Award of Excellence: The medical liaison team recognized Texas Motor Speedway for its safe hosting of a rain-delayed weekend event that stretched to Wednesday of the next week.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Jerry Petty. His unwavering commitment to the sport leaves a lasting legacy within the medical community and drivers alike.

Teamwork Award: The track services team recognized Darlington Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway for helping NASCAR have a safe return to racing.

Mission Award: The track services team recognized Daytona International Speedway for its actions during the 2020 Daytona 500 and Speedweeks.

Outstanding Service Award: The NASCAR security team recognized Michael Allen Lentz, who was one of the original NASCAR security team members and retired at the end of 2020.

The Commitment to Public Health Award went to AMR, a dedicated partner of NASCAR since 2017 with its primary focus being the safety and wellbeing of the drivers, crews and other competitors on the track.

The Commitment to Safe Work Environment Award went to Clean Harbor, which ensured every square inch of space and every piece of equipment was sanitized, cleaned and spotless before and after each race.

Congratulations to all of this year’s award winners.