NASCAR seeks drivers to promote vaccinations; not requiring them to be vaccinated

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NASCAR President Steve Phelps says the sanctioning body will ask drivers to promote vaccination for the coronavirus but is not mandating that competitors be vaccinated.

Phelps said that requiring competitors to be vaccinated is “a bit of a slippery slope.”

But he made his feelings clear.

“It is important, in my opinion, that people get vaccinated,” Phelps said Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. “I’ll say that for me, personally. We will continue to monitor and change our policy as necessary in order to make sure that people are safe.”

Bubba Wallace and Denny Hamlin have both publicized receiving shots.

“I’m not trying to shove it down people’s throats,” said Wallace, who has partnered with Novant Health to address vaccination hesitancy. “I’m just saying, ‘Hey, I’m comfortable taking this route to get us back to a normal capacity in all aspects of life.”

Some other drivers have stated recently that they were unsure if they would get vaccinated or that their decision was personal.

Phelps said the sport looks to have drivers more engaged with the public on the issue.

“As it relates to the driver corps, I think you’ll probably see more and more, and we’ll ask the drivers frankly to try to promote the vaccination process,” Phelps said. “I think it’s really important.

They have a voice. That voice carries a lot of weight. To the degree that we can help with folks who are uncertain about whether they want to get the vaccine, I think it would be critical to have those with the loudest voice within the sport talking about their vaccinations.”

NASCAR will allow a limited number of team/driver guests and media into the garage area next month at Darlington Raceway with the stipulation that those individuals are vaccinated.

NASCAR has set up a clinic for industry members and their families to receive the first of two vaccination shots this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Drivers and team members are required to state if they have been vaccinated in questionnaires that are part of the screening process before each race weekend. Phelps said that “the number of people who are in this garage that have been vaccinated continues to steadily rise.”

Phelps did not reveal that number.

An IndyCar executive said earlier this month that about 90% of team personnel had been vaccinated for COVID-19 before the April 18 season opener at Barber Motorsports Park.

Jimmie Johnson, who is competing in the NTT IndyCar Series this season, has stated on social media that he has been vaccinated. The Associated Press reported Sunday that St. Petersburg winner Colton Herta is among the series drivers to be vaccinated.