Stands will be 100 percent open at Southern 500 this year
From Staff Reports
For the first time since the pandemic began last year, the stands will be open at 100 percent capacity for Darlington’s Southern 500 race weekend next month. However, Darlington Raceway and NASCAR still will require face masks for anyone in enclosed areas during the weekend of racing Sept. 4-5. At a news conference in Columbia Aug. 17 with Gov. Henry McMaster, Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp indicated that should be no huge problem for the fans: “We ARE an outdoor sport,” he said. Though McMaster has banned public schools from requiring face masks for students, the governor said he has no objections to NASCAR’s policies. “That’s up to them,” McMaster said. “That’s a private entity. They know the arena, they know the fans, they know the customers.” Tharp called the 72nd annual Cook Out Southern 500 “one of NASCAR’s crown jewel events.” The race will be the opening round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. It will top off a weekend of racing, including the Xfinity Series’ Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 on Sept. 4 and the Truck Series In It To Win It 200 on Sept. 5. A guest at the Columbia news conference was Kurt Busch, winner of the 2004 Cup Series points championship. Busch called the Southern 500 “as big as Daytona.” The Lady in Black, he said, is still a treacherous contest. But, he said, you can rule it by being nice. “But Darlington, you have to be delicate and you have to have precision. You can’t be angry at all, you have to be very nice, and when you’re nice I think that’s when Darlington gives me my best results,” Busch said.