The return of fans to NASCAR events will continue to grow, as Texas Governor Greg Abbott approved Texas Motor Speedway’s plans for opening to as many as 50% of its 135,000 seating capacity for a race rescheduled to July 19th at the venue.
“Texans are eager for sporting and entertainment events to return, and this is a great step towards that goal,” Abbot told reporters. “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. 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.”
Safety measures for fans who wish to attend the race, which was originally scheduled for late March, will be extensive. Along with social distancing in the grandstands and in lines for the concession areas, there are plans for numerous hand sanitizer stations, as well as enhanced cleaning protocols in high-touch high-traffic areas. The track will use 100% digital ticketing, and all transactions will be cashless.
Masks, while encouraged, will not be required for patrons.
Determining the fan capacity is a bit of a moving target for race officials. For starters, the venue will sort through approximately 30,000 existing ticket orders, verifying who would still like to attend and then spreading those groups apart to provide appropriate social distancing. Track manager Eddie Gossage likened this process to doing a jigsaw puzzle.
“If everybody responds and wants to be seated two-by-two, that requires a lot more empty seats between them, Gossage says. “If it’s groups of fours 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.”
All of this depends on Abbot’s continued authorization for such events in Texas. The state has seen increased numbers of positive coronavirus cases in the past week, including a high of 6,177 reported Wednesday, according to statistics kept at worldometers.info.
Should optimum density be reached, there could theoretically be over 60,000 in attendance at the race, more than double the amount that will be allowed at the NASCAR All-Star race in Bristol, Tennessee four days before the race. That had previously been scheduled to run in North Carolina, but was relocated to allow fans to attend.