Texas Motor Speedway to admit fans for July 19 Cup race


Texas Motor Speedway officials announced Friday that fans will be able to attend the July 19 NASCAR Cup race there.

Speedway president Eddie Gossage announced the news via both a media release and a YouTube video (see above).

The rescheduled O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be the first major sports event in Texas open to fans since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the media release, “The grandstands and suites at No Limits, Texas will be open to race fans subject to social distancing requirements and additional protocols.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has issued guidelines that currently allow sports venues to hold up to 50% of seating capacity. Texas Motor Speedway’s current capacity is just under 130,000. The track is currently working on how many fans will be allowed into the track under state social distancing and other safety guidelines.

“(There is) no set number but many factors are involved,” a track spokesman told NBC Sports. “Still to be finalized (include) a safe social distancing seating chart for the grandstands, fans who’ve purchased tickets for the March weekend now have to figure out if they can come in July, state guidelines, the Texas heat in July, etc.”

Gossage said all tickets will be mobile tickets. Previously printed tickets for the originally scheduled race weekend back on March 27-29 are ineligible to be used. Fans holding tickets for that event are asked to reach out to the Speedway to have new tickets issued.

“We hope everybody comes to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on July 19,” Gossage said. “But if they’re not comfortable, we’ll gladly give them a credit, even a refund, to make sure we do right by them. Not a problem at all.”

Also, fans will not be admitted to other events slated for the rescheduled race weekend, namely Xfinity and Truck Series races both scheduled for Saturday, July 18. Each race will be run without practice or qualifying sessions and the starting lineups will be based on a draw system.

The state of Texas reported 3,516 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, exceeding the previous record of new cases set just one day earlier, 3,129 on June 17.

Gossage appeared on a media teleconference Friday afternoon and was asked if the governor’s office has told him that the Speedway may have to reverse course if positive test results continue to climb.

“No sir,” Gossage said. “Obviously, if something happens, we’re going to follow the directions from the state.

Earlier, Gossage said, “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.”

NBC Sports asked Gossage if he has compared notes about hosting fans with entities like the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, who are working on their own social distancing and accommodation plans for fans to attend their games in the near future.

“I’m sure they’re really happy it’s us because I think you always want the other guy to go first and you can learn from them,” Gossage quipped. “No, I haven’t heard from them or talked to them. The big thing is we’re outdoors. The Cowboys play basically indoors … they go basically playing the whole season without ever opening the roof.

“We’re just a completely different animal because we’re completely outdoors.”

Also, per the track release:

“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.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at goprn.com. …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.