NASCAR Cup Series
By Staff Report
12 Minute Read
Restrictions on fans’ access to NASCAR races are beginning to lift. The gradual reopening has progressed as vaccination numbers continue to rise and local and state officials alter their COVID-19 regulations in accordance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
Several tracks that had hosted races with limited numbers of fans in attendance have announced full grandstand access will be allowed for future events. NASCAR also expanded the footprint for garage access to selected guests during the May 7-9 race weekend at Darlington Raceway, and the protocols for face coverings were eased in outdoor settings the next weekend at Dover International Speedway.
On June 1, NASCAR officials announced that garage operations would largely return to pre-COVID norms and that several protocols would be discontinued, beginning with the NASCAR All-Star Race weekend June 12-13. And six NASCAR tracks announced June 2 that grandstands would fully reopen for their races later in the season.
Keep track of the evolving access levels and reopening announcements with this track-by-track timeline:
Status: Grandstand seating limitations have been lifted, opening the door for thousands more race fans to enjoy an action-packed month of May at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Per an executive order announced May 14 in North Carolina, fans will no longer be required to wear masks or socially distance in outdoor venues. Following state recommendations, fans who have not been vaccinated are still encouraged to wear a mask.
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“From the outset of the pandemic, whether operating a drive-through testing clinic or hosting the state’s first mass vaccination event, this has been the ultimate goal — to get back to filling the grandstands for the biggest, most entertaining events in motorsports,” said Greg Walter, executive vice president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Status: The Northern California circuit announced April 8 its grandstands would reopen to fans for its NASCAR event weekend, working with local and state officials to observe COVID-19 protocols. The 2.52-mile road course did not host a NASCAR event during the height of the pandemic in 2020. On June 2, the track announced that tickets for its 33% capacity limit were sold out for Sunday’s main event, but that tickets remained for Saturday admission.
“We’re thrilled to be able to welcome thousands of race fans back to Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350,” said Jill Gregory, Sonoma Raceway’s executive vice president and general manager. “While we are operating at a reduced capacity for this year’s event, we’re still looking forward to hosting the first-class event that race fans here have come to expect. We also realize some fans will be disappointed, but the responsibility of putting on an event that is safe for our fans and local citizens is a top priority. We also appreciate the collaborative effort with officials of Sonoma County and the local health department to allow our fans to attend this event and get NASCAR back to the North Bay. We expect it to be the largest attendance for a sports event in Northern California since the pandemic shutdown 15 months ago. We can’t wait to welcome even more fans here next year.”
Status: The Fort Worth track announced April 8 infield camping would return for its NASCAR and IndyCar weekends, opening the east side of the infield to fans and keeping the garage area’s footprint separate on the west side of the track. That news came three days after the track indicated its Speedway Club dining and event space would reopen May 1-2 for its IndyCar doubleheader.
“We couldn’t be happier to welcome our great race fans back to the GEICO Infield Campground for two amazing weekends of the best auto racing in the world during our 25th Season of Speed,” said Eddie Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway’s president and general manager. “Infield camping at Texas Motor Speedway is an experience unto itself so we’ve missed the race fans being in the infield as much as they’ve missed being here.”
The 1.5-mile track has hosted multiple vaccination clinics on its grounds, and the Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle reported county health officials had given 371,546 vaccine doses through the speedway immunization site.
Status: Shortly after a May 4 announcement by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, the 2.5-mile track issued a statement that it would operate at 100% in the grandstands and camping facilities for its NASCAR weekend. The raceway indicated it would follow all state-issued protocols and NASCAR guidelines that are in place at the time of the event. A mask mandate is in place until 70% of Pennsylvania residents receive a vaccine, but there are no social-distancing restrictions in place at this time.
“We are thrilled and appreciative of today’s announcement from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf,” the track statement read. “As we have been doing, the Raceway will continue to follow the protocols and guidance set forth by our state and the sanctioning body of NASCAR at the time of our events.”
Status: The Hampton, Georgia, track announced April 30 its July date would be open with full-capacity grandstands for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak. The venue plans to follow the state and local health guidelines that are in place when the July race weekend arrives, using hand-sanitizing stations, plus cashless transactions and ticketing to limit contact.
“As we’ve seen millions across Georgia and the Southeast get vaccinated, public health restrictions have eased and that gives us the green flag to take a big step towards welcoming more people to enjoy race weekend,” said Brandon Hutchison, Atlanta Motor Speedway’s executive vice president and general manager. “Needless to say, we can’t wait to have thousands of fans join us for some thrilling NASCAR action this summer.”
Status: New Hampshire Motor Speedway is currently following the state of New Hampshire’s Universal Best Practices, which went in to effect May 8 and does not include capacity restrictions or a mask mandate. Fans will be encouraged to utilize hand-sanitizing stations, all tickets will be mobile and all transactions will be cashless.
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“We are thrilled to welcome race fans to ‘The Magic Mile’ to enjoy the many racing events we’ve got lined up throughout the season,” said David McGrath, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “The past year has given us the opportunity to host a variety of events that are outside of our typical wheelhouse, but we’re excited to get back to our motorsports and fan entertainment roots.”
Status: Watkins Glen International announced June 18 that the grandstand will be fully open to spectators for its NASCAR tripleheader weekend, a three-day slate that also includes the ARCA Menards Series. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted COVID-19 restrictions three days earlier. The track will continue to follow CDC guidelines to require face coverings at the track for unvaccinated spectators; officials at the road course also indicated they would continue to monitor protocols, working with health officials and local and state government.
“We are thrilled to welcome fans back at 100 percent capacity to Watkins Glen International following clearance from New York state government and health officials,” said track president Michael Printup. “Fans are our lifeblood and their presence at the track creates the aura and energy this sport thrives upon. We are appreciative of Governor Cuomo and his administration for their diligent work and collaboration to help us safely and smartly host fans as we look ahead to our IMSA and NASCAR events this summer.”
Status: The Brickyard has not announced its procedures or admittance for its annual NASCAR weekend, which will be fully contested on the oval/road-course layout for the first time. Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been approved for attendance of 135,000 in the grandstands for the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, a little more than half of its capacity. The track, which has hosted multiple vaccination clinics leading up to the 500-miler, plans to adhere to a county mask mandate but will no longer require temperature checks at entry.
Status: Full capacity for grandstands and the expansive campgrounds will be the order of the day when NASCAR returns to the Irish Hills of Michigan. The 2-mile facility will not have a mask requirement, but will work with health and government officials to monitor and adjust any needed COVID protocols. The track also announced an enhanced sponsorship for New Holland Agriculture North America and Henry Ford Health System, including title sponsorship of the Xfinity Series and ARCA Menards Series events.
“No race weekend is complete without fans and we are beyond excited and ready to welcome them back to Michigan International Speedway with no restrictions,” said MIS President Rick Brenner. “We are very appreciative of state, local and regional officials for the support and collaboration to welcome fans back for a safe and entertaining race experience. We are also thrilled to expand our relationships with New Holland and Henry Ford Health System, two organizations that have worked with us in the past to help enhance the at-track experience. With three races and countless entertainment options for fans of all ages, our goal is to deliver an unforgettable race weekend for everybody.”
Status: There will be no restrictions on the number of fans allowed to take in the action at the World Center of Racing. Fans will be treated to two races — the Coke Zero Sugar 400, NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale, on Saturday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. ET and the Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Friday, Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Florida track also announced June 2 that tent camping, the UNOH Fanzone and other spectator areas will be reopened.
“The fans are the lifeblood of NASCAR and the reason we race week in and week out. Their presence at the track creates the aura and energy this sport thrives upon,” Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher said. “Even with a limited capacity at the Daytona 500 the atmosphere was palpable, so we look forward to welcoming back all of our fans for what will be an electrifying environment filled with dramatic and unpredictable racing action.”
Status: Darlington Raceway serves as host for the start of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs over the fall race weekend on Sept. 4-5. There will be no restrictions on the number of fans allowed to take in the action from the grandstands for the famed Cook Out Southern 500 NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Sunday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. ET and Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
“Our loyal race fans have displayed their passion for NASCAR at Darlington Raceway throughout the pandemic, so this is a key moment in our storied track’s history to fully open our gates once again for the fall race weekend featuring one of the crown jewel races of NASCAR, the Cook Out Southern 500,” Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said. “Thanks to Governor McMaster and his administration for their collaboration in helping us take this step forward together as a state to welcome the best fans in motorsports back home to the track Too Tough To Tame.”
Status: Grandstand seating and fan areas will be reopened to full capacity for a three-race weekend at the .75-mile Virginia track, with the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Whelen Modified Tour in action. Hospitality areas, the midway and campgrounds will also be open without capacity limits.
“Our loyal race fans have shared their unwavering support for NASCAR at Richmond Raceway throughout the pandemic, so we are grateful to open our grandstands to full capacity for the first time in two years,” said Richmond Raceway president Dennis Bickmeier. “As we continue our 75th anniversary celebration, the cheers from the grandstands and FanGrounds will make this race weekend a momentous event that will once again bring us together.”
Status: Grandstand seating and fan engagement areas will be fully open for the tripleheader weekend that features cutoff races for the Round of 10 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs and the Round of 16 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as well as the regular-season finale for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. There will be paperless transactions for tickets and concession purchases. The five Bristol Motor Speedway-operated campgrounds will also be open for the weekend.
Status: Las Vegas Motor Speedway confirmed on June 10 that the track will operate at 100% capacity after Clark County’s restrictions ease, which went into effect on June 1. The facility hosted roughly 15,000 fans for its NASCAR weekend in March, and its postseason races last September were held with no fans in attendance.
“We’re beyond thrilled that we’ll be able to open the grandstands to full capacity this fall,” said LVMS President Chris Powell. “We’ve been working to get back to normal for several months now, and knowing that we won’t be turning fans away because of social-distancing requirements has energized our entire staff. We can’t wait to welcome our race fans back to the speedway.”
Status: The 2.66-mile Alabama venue announced June 2 that its frontstretch towers and grandstands would be fully open to spectators for its NASCAR tripleheader weekend. There will also be no limitations on the garage experience, infield concerts, plus RV and tent camping on the grounds.
“Since 1969, our incredible fans have helped shaped Talladega Superspeedway into what it is today – an experience like no other,” said Talladega Superspeedway president Brian Crichton. “Nowhere is the passion in any sport felt more than it is at Talladega, and we have hundreds of thousands of fans from over the years to thank for that. Camping here is iconic, and the Talladega Garage Experience featuring Big Bill’s has set the tone for the future with a fun, unrivaled experience, In June of 2020, we helped our sport bring a limited number of fans back to the track after the pandemic started. Now, we are ready to welcome back all our fans, and new guests to the sport as well. It’s just plain fun for the entire family, coupled with the most exciting, competitive racing on the planet. Talladega Superspeedway is back!”
Status: There are no restrictions on the number of fans allowed to take in the action from the grandstands. Fans will be treated to three races – the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. ET and on Saturday, Oct. 23, the Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 2 p.m. ET followed by the Reese’s 150 ARCA Menards Series championship race at 6 p.m. ET.
“Fans have expressed their overwhelming desire to get back to the racetrack so we are thrilled to welcome back all of our fans as we celebrate our 20th anniversary season during the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Playoffs weekend,” Kansas Speedway President Pat Warren said. “We saw some great NASCAR racing throughout our spring race weekend, and we look forward to what’s in store when the NASCAR Playoffs and ARCA Menards Series championship return Oct. 23-24.”
Status: The Virginia short track stated June 2 that no capacity limitations will be placed on grandstand seating for its fall NASCAR weekend, which features the next-to-last race of the season in all three national series. Hospitality and suite areas, plus campgrounds will all be fully reopened for the October events.
“When Martinsville Speedway hosts the penultimate races of the NASCAR Playoffs, our gates will be fully open to welcome our loyal fans back for a race experience unlike any other in motorsports,” said Clay Campbell, Martinsville Speedway president. “We are grateful to our fans for their dedication throughout this unprecedented time, so we look forward to welcoming them back and hearing the full roar of the crowd in the grandstands this fall.”
Status: The 1-mile Arizona track announced June 2 that there would be no restrictions on the number of fans admitted to the annual championship festivities. All three NASCAR national series and the ARCA Menards Series West will crown champions during the three-day weekend. NASCAR and track officials will continue to work with government and health officials to adjust health and safety protocols as necessary.
“Our loyal and passionate fans have shown tremendous support for Phoenix Raceway and our entire sport throughout the pandemic, including the inaugural NASCAR Championship Weekend at our facility last November,” said Julie Giese, Phoenix Raceway president. “We are ecstatic to have the opportunity to celebrate the crowning of four champions in front of a packed grandstand and to showcase to the world what this community of race fans in Arizona is all about.”