The July 15 NASCAR All-Star Race will move to Bristol Motor Speedway, marking only the second time in the event’s history it will be held away from Charlotte Motor Speedway, Marcus Smith announced on FS1 Race Hub.
Speedway Motorsports owns both Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO, said up to 30,000 fans will be permitted to attend the event. Jerry Caldwell, general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway said the facility can hold 155,000. The crowd allowed would be less than 20% capacity. Tickets are on sale now.
“As you see some areas open up, I think we start to concentrate on where could we have fans back,” he said about the rest of this year’s schedule. “Obviously, we want to keep the integrity of the championship in place and race at as many facilities as possible that were on the original schedule, but if we have the opportunity to make one or two additional adjustments where we could get fans back, obviously that is important for the sport.
“We want fans to be at the racetrack. We want new fans to be at the track. It’s also important … to our race teams. They’re involved in the sport, to bring their sponsors out and entertain customers. So if we can open some of those opportunities here toward the tail end of the season, we’re going to do that. Probably one or two adjustments to make.”
Tennessee has allowed fans at large attractions, including racetracks, since May 22. The announcement was made too late for Bristol to have any fans for its May 31 Cup race. Moving the event could allow the track to have fans.
“We are proud to welcome the return of live sports in Tennessee at the iconic Bristol Motor Speedway,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement. “The All-Star Race is a historic opportunity for our state and I look forward to seeing the World’s Fastest Half-Mile back in action.”
Last weekend’s Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway was allowed to have up to 1,000 military members and family members as guests, marking the first time since NASCAR resumed last month that there were fans in the stands. Up to 5,000 fans will be allowed to purchase tickets for Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Cup races at Pocono Raceway (June 27-28), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 5) and Kentucky Speedway (July 12) will be held without fans, those tracks have announced. That would make the All-Star Race, scheduled for July 15, the next event after Talladega to have fans with a move to Bristol.
The final four spots in the All-Star Race field will go to the two stage winners, race winner from the All-Star Open and the All-Star Fan Vote.
Voting for the All-Star Fan Vote is open at www.nascar.com/fanvote and the NASCAR mobile app. Fans may vote for one eligible NASCAR driver per ballot submission and submit one ballot per day per unique email address. Voting closes at 12 p.m. ET on July 14.
The All-Star Race debuted in 1985 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, moved to Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1986 and returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1987. It has been held every year since at Charlotte.
This year’s race was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic and rescheduled for July 15.
NASCAR to allow up to 5,000 fans at Talladega Cup race
NASCAR announced Tuesday that it will allow up to 5,000 guests for the June 21 Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.
The track also announced that there will be limited motorhome camping spots available outside the track along the backstretch. Tickets are open exclusively on a first-come, first-served basis to fans who purchased tickets or reserved camping for the event, which was previously scheduled for April 26.
Grandstand tickets will be $40 each. Tower tickets will be $50 each. There is no special pricing for kids 12 and younger for the Cup race. A maximum of six seats grouped together will be allowed. The track will automatically block sale of seats to ensure proper spacing for social distancing. All tickets will be delivered via Tickets @ Home. That will allow fans to display their tickets on their mobile device for non-contact entry at the gates or the ability to print tickets at home.
Daryl Wolfe, NASCAR executive vice president, chief operations and sales officer, said the 5,000-person limit at Talladega was a combination of “what do we feel like is the right stair-step approach” the percent of capacity and consultation with local public officials and medical experts and “what they were comfortable with as well.
“You mix all that together, assess what the right approach is and that’s the number we landed on.”
According to a 2018 annual report by International Speedway Corp., Talladega Superspeedway had a seating capacity of 78,000. A crowd of 5,000 would less than 7% of capacity. The Talladega race follows Sunday’s Miami Cup race, which will have up to 1,000 people in the stands.
Fans must adhere to social distancing of 6 feet. All spectators age 3 and up will be required to wear a face covering. Each spectator will be screened before entering the event gates. Initial screening will include questions regarding current health status and potential exposure, as well as a non-contact temperature check. Spectators also will be required to complete a waiver process.
No tailgating before or after the event will be allowed on track property. Spectators will be directed to specific parking lots. A sequenced ingress/egress procedure into the facility property/gates will be used to minimize large concentrations of people. More info is to come on specific times and entry locations for spectators. Entry and exit to the grandstands, along with routes to concession stands and restrooms via the frontstretch concourse will adhere to social distancing guidelines. No coolers or ice packs of any type will be permitted inside the entry gates.
Once in grandstands, fans will not be allowed to exit the property and return. Fans will not be allowed in the infield.
The track will have multiple concession stands open with grab-n-go pre-packaged items for $2 to $5 each. Those items include sandwiches, salads, chips, candy, snacks, soft drinks and beer. All transactions will be cashless. Accepted forms of payment: Debit, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
The track states that concessions and restrooms will maintain physical distancing and have more frequent cleaning across high touch locations.
There will be no fans for the Saturday Xfinity race at Talladega.
Miami-Dade County has given Homestead-Miami Speedway permission to host up to 1,000 military personnel, first responders and their household members to Sunday’s Cup race there. Those admitted would not be charged and allowed only in the grandstands. They also would be required to undergo a health screening before entering, wear a cloth mask and comply with other social distancing guidelines. They’ll be the first fans to sit in the stands for a NASCAR race. There were some fans at the Charlotte races last month but they were in the condos outside Turn 1 and not allowed in the stands.
Other upcoming NASCAR races will not be held with fans, tracks have announced. Those are Pocono (hosting NASCAR races June 26-28), Indianapolis (July 4-5) and Kentucky (July 9-12).
Charlotte Motor Speedway, which hosts the July 15 All-Star Race, has stated it is in consultation with state and local health officials about if fans will be allowed at that event but no decision has been made.
Texas Motor Speedway, which hosts NASCAR races July 18-19, has stated it is working with state and local officials to determine the size and scope of fans who will be able to attend those races.
Kansas Speedway has stated that its races July 23-25 will be run without spectators but noted track officials are in consultation with state and local officials to determine if that could change.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which hosts a Cup race Aug. 2, said that it is unclear if fans will be allowed at its events.
NASCAR has not announced its revised schedule beyond Aug. 2.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper called it a “reckless decision” for a racetrack to hold what was described as a “unity race” last weekend as a way to avoid restrictions on mass gatherings. Gov. Cooper vowed that the state would take action this week if the county did not.
Ace Speedway, a 4/10-mile track located about two hours northeast of Charlotte Motor Speedway, has had crowds in recent weekends that exceeded the state’s mandate on social gatherings.
Gov. Cooper was asked Monday during a media briefing if there are loopholes that allow protests to exceed gathering limits for events such as the racetrack’s this past weekend.
“People shouldn’t run a money-making operation that puts in danger not only their customers but anybody who would come into contact with their customers,” Gov. Cooper said. “This is a reckless decision being made by the owners, pulling people together in that way that can cause the spread of the (coronavirus) virus.
“Alamance County (home of the track) is one of the counties that is having higher numbers than it should have. We look forward to taking some action on this in the coming week.
“It’s concerning that Alamance officials have not been able to stop this. We would hope that they could. But if they can’t, then the state will have to take action, which we will do this week if the local officials don’t.”
NBC Sports reached out to track officials Monday. They had no comment.
“And unless they can barricade the road, I’m going to do it. The racing community wants to race. They’re sick and tired of the politics. People are not scared of something that ain’t killing nobody. It may kill .03 percent, but we deal with more than that every day, and I’m not buying it no more.
“I’ve got a business to run and a job to do, and when I can’t run my business and I can’t go to my job and make a full paycheck, I’m in jail already. So getting behind bars does not scare me. I’m going to speak my piece, and we’re going to do something.”
The Journal and other media outlets reported that the General Cousel for Gov. Cooper addressed a four-page letter June 5 to Alamance County officials, including Sheriff Johnson that stated: “The recent races conducted by ACE Speedway, however, constitute commercial events, rather than gatherings filling under the auspices of the First Amendment, and therefore do not fall within that exemption. The Governor has broad authority to restrict commercial operations to address emergencies, like the public health emergency posed by COVID-19.”
Sheriff Johnson announced Monday that he would not issue the track a citation for all the fans it hosted last weekend, stating: “I have found through research and contacts with other Sheriffs in the state, that numerous speedways and Go (Kart) Tracks ran this weekend in North Carolina with no action being taken on those owners or even warnings given. This concerns me greatly to know that my citizens have basically been singled out for the same alleged violations that are occurring all over the State of North Carolina. … I have always tried to treat all persons with respect and dignity. Everyone should be treated equally. My understanding of the law and the conflicting orders issued by the Governor, leads me to question my authority on writing a citation to Mr. Robert Turner, owner of ACE Speedway.”
North Carolina has seen an increase in coronavirus cases. Gov. Cooper said Monday
Gov. Cooper reported Monday that there have been 36,484 confirmed cases, 938 new cases reported Monday, 739 people in the hospital and 1,006 people have died.
“Today marks our highest day of people hospitalized from COVID-19 since the pandemic began,” Gov. Cooper said. “Over the weekend, we saw our single highest day of new cases reported. We’re seeing more viral spread and these numbers are concerning.”
The county is averaging 30 coronavirus cases per 10,000 residents. Thirty-six of the state’s 100 counties have a higher case rate per 10,000 residents than Alamance County. Most counties surrounding Alamance County have a higher case rate per 10,000 residents than it did as of Monday, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
There are certain days most people never forget: their anniversaries, their children’s birthdays and for race car drivers, their first win.
These days Casey Mears may live 2,100 miles away from Charlotte Motor Speedway, but he was there in spirit for last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600.
Mears won NASCAR’s longest race in 2007. He was in the right place at the right time, taking the lead from Denny Hamlin late in the race and hanging on for the final six laps – the only laps he led all day – for the win.
“It was definitely the high point of my career, for sure,” Mears told NBC Sports. “I remember everything about that night.
“The one thing – and it’s not a regret – but it’s unfortunate that it ended up being a fuel-mileage race because we had a very fast car that night and ran inside the top 10 and top five the majority of the night.
“We probably weren’t going to win it, but we had a good shot at a top five and were going to be in the hunt. (Crew chief Darian Grubb) made a great call and we won the race, which was amazing for several different reasons.
“I mean, obviously winning in Charlotte, the 600 is the longest race, winning on Memorial Day weekend, which is a huge week for my family and then also being sponsored by the National Guard at that time. It was just a big night.”
While the 600 was his only Cup win, Mears also recalls several other key moments of his career, including runner-up finishes in 2006 at the Daytona 500 and later that year at Kansas.
“That night at Charlotte was a huge part of my career but some of the stuff that I feel like we earned on speed which was really cool were, we sat on the pole at Indy, did well at places like Chicago, Pocono and Michigan, being competitive and leading laps at places like Atlanta and Homestead, going back and forth with Tony Stewart at Atlanta one year.
“Some of those big moments in my career weren’t necessarily the only parts that stand out. The moments I remember the most were when we had competitive race cars and when we were on the verge of getting those wins and getting real close.”
Mears lives in the Phoenix area with his family. It’s also where he met his wife, Trisha.
“We always said that when the NASCAR things slowed down, we’d like to be back out this way,” Mears told NBC Sports. “So we picked up and moved the kids and came out to Phoenix. We’re loving it, and I’m really enjoying spending a lot of time with them. I’ve also been fortunate to reconnect with some of my off-road racing buddies since I’ve been out here.”
Mears may be gone from NASCAR, but he’s still taking part in other forms of racing part-time, including off-road competition like the NORRA Mexican Baja 1000 last year with Lynn Chenoweth. Casey’s father Roger drove for Chenoweth back in the 1960s and 1970s, and also is part of Robby Gordon’s Stadium Super Trucks Series.
“I also hang out with (NBC IndyCar analyst and former racer Paul Tracy) and drive his Lamborghini sports car, just taking it on the track and sliding around, just having fun,” Mears said. “If opportunities come around, I’d love to race some more.
“I really, really enjoyed racing out in the desert, doing off road stuff. I’d also love to get involved in some sports car stuff as well if there’s an opportunity.
“I love what I’m being able to do right now, just dabble. Playing in Robby’s series, that’s been a blast and picking up random off road, desert opportunities. But racing’s racing, it always boils down to the dollars and cents and sponsors or finding some guy that just wants to go racing and spend some money and have fun. It’s few and far between these days.”
Even though Mears has moved on from NASCAR, he admits he misses it.
“I was fortunate to get to do it for about 15 years,” Mears said. “I lived that life and it really becomes almost the opposite. Your family and friends end up being all the people on the road and people at home become extended friends and family, you’re on the road so much.
“For sure I miss a lot of the people that you saw week in and week out. I definitely miss the competition. I don’t think I’ll ever not miss being in a race car because, like so many others in the sport, I didn’t really get to go out on my own terms.
“For so many people, the sport decides it for you before you’re ready to decide not to do it. I think I’ll always have that desire to want to get in a car again.
“But the one thing that helped me make this decision to move to Phoenix is that I didn’t want to be one of those guys that lingered in the sport either. I didn’t want to be with a back marker program and not be able to be competitive and that’s kind of probably what would have happened. I would have stuck around and would have gotten into something I probably really didn’t need to be in.”
Mears made 489 career Cup starts, his last full-time season being in 2016. He came back for a start last year for Germain Racing in the season-opening Daytona 500. He started 40th and finished 40th, involved in a crash just past the halfway point.
Mears also made 107 Xfinity Series starts, earning his lone series win in 2016 at Chicagoland Speedway.
He still keeps his hand in NASCAR somewhat, just not on a steering wheel. He does promotional work for Phoenix Raceway and visits his former chums each time NASCAR comes to town.
He also keeps in regular contact with close friends and former teammates and bosses including Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Chip Ganassi, Rick Hendrick, Bob Germain and Doug Barnette.
But moving on from being a race car driver, pretty much the only thing he had known for more than 30 years since being a kid growing up in Bakersfield, California, gave Mears pause.
“This move really forced me to figure out what’s next in life,” he said. “I’m 42 years old and although I’ve done well and been very fortunate, but I need to do something.”
He’s looking at a variety of business opportunities in the Phoenix area, primarily in the automotive industry.
“I feel very fortunate to have the career that I’ve had in the sport,” Mears said. “I drove for a lot of real good teams and programs and learned a lot from a lot of people.
“The people I got to race with and learn from just from the business standpoint is going to help me later in my career with whatever’s next. I had some great opportunities and will always miss it, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to the future and what’s next.”