By David Morgan, Associate Editor
With Coronavirus fears gripping the world and taking hold in sports leagues across the country, the status of events from coast to coast has been in flux in recent days.
On Thursday, it was NASCAR’s turn to make a decision on how they would handle upcoming races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway and the decision came down just past 1:30 pm.
For both race weekends, there will be no fans in attendance, with those at the track being limited to “competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race,” NASCAR said in a statement.
AMS officials put out a subsequent statement regarding the changes for the upcoming race weekend and how fans would receive their refunds.
“In consideration of fan and industry stakeholder safety, NASCAR events scheduled March 13-15 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be held without spectators.
“Ticketholders on file for these events will receive a full credit toward AMS purchases for grandstand seating, infield access, camping, fan hospitality and pit passes. The credit will be applicable towards any Speedway Motorsports NASCAR race in the remainder of the 2020 or 2021 season.
“We regret the inconvenience of these circumstances and appreciate your patience and understanding. Further questions should be directed to the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at 770-946-4211.”
With their decision, NASCAR becomes one of a few leagues to continue on without fans instead of cancelling or postponing their events. In the past 24 hours, the NBA, NCAA, NHL, and others have all suspended their seasons, while the PGA is continuing this weekend without fans.
A number of team shops, including Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, and Leavine Family Racing, have also closed their doors to the public.
Earlier this week, NASCAR announced other procedural changes that would be in effect for the foreseeable future including:
- Driver’s meeting will be held in open air locations and attendance will be restricted to drivers, crew chiefs, team owners and select officials and dignitaries.
- At track media availabilities would shift from a scrum to a press conference in the media center.
- Team haulers would be restricted to necessary personnel only.
- Driver appearances would be Q&A sessions in an open air setting.
- Drivers should pre-sign items for fans, carrying their own hero cards and Sharpies instead of handling them from the fans.
- A six-foot buffer zone would be in place around the driver introductions stage, the grid, and Victory Lane, as well as any at-track interviews (post-qualifying, post-race, and Infield Care Center).
As far as what happens past the March 22 race weekend at Homestead, NASCAR noted in their statement that they will “work with public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events.”
This weekend’s race schedule in Atlanta includes a NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series doubleheader on Saturday, followed by Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.