An estimated 20,000 fans watched Chase Elliot race to victory in NASCAR’s All-Star event in Bristol, Tennessee Wednesday, which marks the largest ticketed event since the coronavirus pandemic ground live entertainment to a halt earlier this year. The event took place at Bristol Motor Speedway, relocated from its initial venue in North Carolina due to the fact that one state would allow fans in the stands.
“The only place I’d be tonight,” said Betsy Taylor of Knoxville, Tennessee, quoted in USA Today. “Watching on television has been all right, but nothing beats being here. It’s not as much fun as when this place was packed, but right now we take what we can get.”
With a normal capacity of up to 160,000, the stands were sparse compared to the usual expectations for such an event, but ticket sales were limited to just 30,000 due to the need for social distancing and safety requirements put in place by government officials. An even larger crowd is possible this weekend, with Texas Motor Speedway hosting up to 50% of its 100,000+ capacity on Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Wednesday was “a great example of what can happen when sports, government and community work together for the fan,” says Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports, which owns Bristol Motor Speedway. “This event was a tremendous step in the right direction for America to bring live competition and fans back together for fun.”
To comply with coronavirus mandates, fans attending were seated in small groups spread throughout the grandstand and required to wear masks at any time they were not in their ticketed locations. All tickets and concession purchases were achieved with contactless systems. Similar measures are expected Sunday in Texas.