Texas To Allow Fans Into July Cup Race

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 21 2020

Texas Motor Speedway will open its gates to spectators next month.

FORT WORTH, Texas _ A yet-to-be determined number of fans will be allowed to attend NASCAR’s rescheduled O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 19.

The grandstands and suites at “No Limits, Texas” will be open to fans subject to social distancing requirements and additional protocols. Originally scheduled for March 29, the Cup race will be the first major sporting event in Texas open to fans since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott approved a plan Friday that will allow spectators into a facility with a seating capacity of 135,000. Abbott previously announced that outdoor sporting events could be held at 50 percent capacity.

“Gov. Abbott continues to lead the charge in returning live sports competition to Texas,’’ TMS President/General Manager Eddie Gossage said in a news release. “We’re very appreciative of everything he and his staff, as well as NASCAR, have done to work with us in allowing fans at Texas Motor Speedway for the July 19 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.

“Safety remains the primary focus for everyone who takes part in the weekend events, from fans to competitors, officials and track staff, so we continue to work with federal and state officials to comply with both Texas and CDC recommendations and requirements.”

The race on TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 2 p.m. (CDT). It will be the first major motorsports event run in the Texas summer heat.

Texas Motor Speedway’s modified protocols will include social distancing in the grandstands and concession lines; enhanced cleaning and sanitation in high-touch, high-traffic public areas; added hand-sanitizer stations; limited guests in suites and infield admission for race team and operational personnel only.

Friday’s announcement was played-out against the backdrop of a continuing spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in North Texas since the Memorial Day weekend. Tarrant County, which includes TMS, reported 232 new COVID-19 cases on Friday while Dallas County reported 394 new cases. Denton County, north of TMS, reported 74 new cases and Collin County reported 42 new cases _ a combined total of 742 new cases.

Gossage described the process of reassigning seats for the Cup race under social distancing guidelines as a “jigsaw puzzle.” TMS first has to reassign seating for fans who already have purchased tickets. The Dallas Morning News reported that while there are 25,000 to 30,000 tickets out for the race, fans still can request credit for future tickets or refunds.

“If everybody responds and wants to be seated two-by-two, that requires a lot more empty seats between them,” Gossage said. “If it’s groups of four and sixes and eights, and things like that, then it’s a little denser. So I don’t know how many it will be. And we’re not focused on any number. We’re just wanting to seat everybody properly, socially distanced apart so that everybody is safe and has a good time.”

Ticketholders for the originally scheduled March 27-29 O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 weekend and fans with other Speedway Motorsports ticket credits on file can utilize their credit for the July 19 race. No fans or camping will be allowed in the infield. A limited number of overnight RV camping spaces outside the track will be available for purchase. Due to high call demands, fans are encouraged to seek information and purchase tickets at www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

Fans will be allowed to bring food and unopened beverages in a soft-sided clear bag no larger than 14x14x14 inches. Standard coolers will be prohibited to limit interpersonal contact at security checkpoints. Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR will continue to adapt and improve procedures to ensure they are effective and can be scaled to support increasing the number of fans in the future.

TMS played host to INDYCAR’s delayed/rescheduled NTT IndyCar Series’ season-opening Genesys 300 on Saturday night, June 6, without fans _ a fact Gossage termed “depressing.”

“The only reason in my book any of us race is because the fans dig it,” Gossage said during a pre-race Press Box interview. “I’ve told old and young drivers we work for the fans. You’re not getting to race if it wasn’t for the fans, certainly not at this level. So we work for the fans. You can’t do this for long and keep it up. And so yeah, it’s depressing.”

Gov. Abbott termed fans returning to TMS “a great step” for the state’s sporting and entertainment industries. “As we continue to open Texas, it is essential that we do so in a way that keeps Texans safe and limits the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a news release. ”Texas Motor Speedway has put a tremendous amount of work, time, and energy into ensuring that this race meets all the necessary safety and health standards, and I applaud them for this effort.

 “As with any public event or gathering, I urge all Texans to make smart decisions to protect their health, including wearing a face mask, washing their hands and practicing social distancing. Texans are excited for NASCAR and are ready to return to the grandstands, and I thank Texas Motor Speedway for making sure that we do this in a safe and smart way.”

Meanwhile, the two NASCAR events rescheduled for Saturday, July 18, will be run without fans. The NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 (2 p.m. CDT on NBCSN) and the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Vankor 350 (7 p.m. CDT on FOX Sports 1) will be run without practice or qualifying sessions. Starting lineups will be based on a draw system for each event.

NASCAR is permitting up to 5,000 fans, and 44 motor homes, into the high-banked/2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama for today’s GEICO 500 Cup event. The race will be televised at 2 p.m. (CDT) on FOX Sports Network, with pre-race coverage starting at 1:30 p.m.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 21 2020
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