Bristol race may signal how Southern 500 will be run
By Bobby Bryant
Southern 500 fans, watch closely how NASCAR handles its All-Star race in Bristol, Tenn., on July 15. It might signal how Darlington’s signature race will be run in September.
NASCAR has decided to let 30,000 spectators attend the All-Star race at Bristol Motor Speedway – a big crowd in these COVID-19 days, but small enough to allow for 6-foot “social distancing” in the stands. That’s about one-fifth of Bristol Motor Speedway’s capacity.
Social distancing also will be expected in concession lines; areas that get touched a lot will get sanitized a lot; stations for hand-washing will be in place. Rules for spectators will be fairly tight: Fans can bring one soft-sided clear bag with food and beverage. Coolers are banned.
But face masks reportedly will not be required.
Bristol Motor Speedway, however, spells out on its website the potential danger of mixing with large numbers of people, and tickets include a waiver saying that the spectator assumes all responsibility for any risks.
The waiver says in part: “Although preventative measures set forth by the facility are intended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit. By purchasing tickets to and/or attending this event at Bristol Motor Speedway, you acknowledge the risks above. … You acknowledge and agree that you are voluntarily assuming all risks of exposure to COVID-19. … ”
The Southern 500 is scheduled Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway. Tickets are on sale, but NASCAR has not yet announced final plans, such as how many fans may be allowed in the stands or exactly what COVID-19 precautions may be taken.
If NASCAR follows its Bristol plan for allowing in one-fifth of the facility’s maximum crowd, that means we might see about 10,000 spectators at the Southern 500. But everything depends on how severe the COVID-19 pandemic becomes.