COVID-19

What upcoming Cup playoff races NASCAR fans can attend

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Wednesday saw Kansas Speedway announce “up to 10,000” NASCAR fans will be able to attend its Oct. 18 Cup playoff race.

Eight Cup races remain in the season with Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway closing out the first round of the playoffs (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, not all tracks are allowing fans to attend.

Here are the fan policies for the remainder of the Cup Series playoffs.

 

Bristol Motor Speedway (Saturday)

Roughly 30,000 fans are expected. The track sold out its ticket availability. Fans will also be allowed for the Xfinity race.

 

Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 27)

The track announced Sept. 18 that no fans will be permitted for any of its races.

 

Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 4)

Reduced number of fans.

 

Charlotte Roval (Oct. 11)

To be determined. The track’s proposal is being reviewed by North Carolina’s government.

 

Kansas Speedway (Oct. 18)

Limited number of fans.

 

Texas Motor Speedway (Oct. 25)

50% of capacity permitted.

 

Martinsville Speedway (Nov. 1)

To be determined.

 

Phoenix Raceway – Championship race (Nov. 8)

Limited number of fans for all three days.

Kansas Speedway to host ‘limited number’ of fans for Cup playoff race

Kansas Speedway fans
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Kansas Speedway announced Wednesday that it will host a “limited number” of fans for its Oct. 18 Cup playoff race. A track spokesperson said it allow “up to 10,000” fans.

The news comes after no fans were permitted to attend any of NASCAR’s races at the 1.5-mile track in July due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oct. 18 event is the first race in the Round of 8 in the playoffs. The Round of 16 ends Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“At Kansas Speedway we have a tradition of fantastic playoff racing, and what better treat for our fans than to have them witness that in person,” track president Pat Warren said in a press release. “I know the drivers feed off the excitement of having the fans on hand, and we are enthusiastic for the opportunity to welcome them back to the track, offering a safe, healthy environment for everyone.”

To ensure social distancing between groups, fans who have already purchased tickets to the Oct. 18 race may be reseated to new locations, as comparable as possible to original seats, with new, lower ticket pricing applied. In addition, all fans will be screened before entering the facility and maintain six-feet of social distancing throughout the venue.

fans three and over will be required to wear face coverings at all times. Tailgating and coolers will not be permitted (clear bags up to 18″x18″x14″ in size will be allowed). Detailed fan protocols can be found at www.kansasspeedway.com/return.

Camping will still be available in the GEICO Turn 1, Turn 3, Turn 4 and Backstretch Terraces. Outside camping will be limited to the GEICO Martinsville, Phoenix, Daytona White and Daytona Blue Campgrounds. GEICO Reserved Infield, Richmond and Tent Camping will not be available for this event.  

NASCAR COVID-19 policy will not change for playoffs

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Regular-season champion Kevin Harvick isn’t taking any chances.

With NASCAR reaffirming this week that any driver testing positive for COVID-19 is not allowed to race until meeting standards to return, Harvick seeks to remain isolated the next 10 weeks for the playoffs.

“I travel by myself (to the track),” said the 2014 Cup champion. “I drive in the rental car by myself. I go to the motorhome by myself. I get back in the rental car, and I go home. 

“We don’t go to the grocery store. We don’t go to any social events anywhere. My son doesn’t go to school. He’s now homeschooled. So there’s really nothing that this whole situation hasn’t changed in our family’s life in order to try to create the safest environment that we can possibly create in our own little bubble, I guess you could say.”

He’ll remain in his personal bubble through the playoffs, which begin with Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

MORE: Friday 5: Brad Keselowski tells team “Why not us?” for title 

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NASCAR’s policy is the same as what it had in place for the regular season. Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon each missed a race after testing positive for novel coronavirus.

For any playoff driver, missing a race because of a positive COVID-19 test doesn’t necessarily end their title hopes but will make it more difficult to transfer to the next round. They likely would need to win to advance.

The NASCAR COVID-19 policy states that any competitor who has tested positive cannot return to competition until they have two negative tests more than 24 hours apart. If after 10 days, a NASCAR member is unable to produce two negative tests, their return status may be medically reviewed by a NASCAR consulting physician. 

The question becomes if a driver would attempt to hide any symptoms to continue their quest for the championship.

“We will control the things we’re going to control and understand that the drivers when they’re coming into the bubble are going to follow the same protocols that we’ve been following,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said.

Joey Logano, the 2018 Cup champion, says he will remain vigilant.

“Our safety needs to be the utmost concern, just for everybody, not just for ourselves, not in a selfish way but in a selfless way we need to be smart about testing,”he said. “Now, also, we need to be smart about who we see and how we do things and all that as much as ever. 

“As the world is starting to open up slowly and things like that, I think for these 10 weeks I probably still need to be smart about it because my season is on the line. I think we just keep doing the same things we’ve been doing. You wash your hands. You wear your mask. You social distance. Those are the things that you can do.”

Chase Elliott, who seeks his first championship, said NASCAR’s policy makes him cautious on what he does.

“I’ve thought about that some, for sure,” he said of NASCAR’s rule. “And just being smart. And trying to wash your hands and do all the things that we’re supposed to be doing from that standpoint. That’s really all we can do, right, are the things that they’ve put out there for us and try to be smart about who you’re around and the environment you are in.

“So, from my end, I’m going to certainly try to think about some of that stuff some more and try to be as smart as possible and hope for the best. I mean, that’s really all we can do.”

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Austin Dillon cleared to race at Dover

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Austin Dillon stated Thursday on social media that he has been cleared to race in this weekend’s Cup races at Dover International Speedway after testing positive for the coronavirus last week. The team also confirmed that Dillon has been cleared.

The positive test forced Dillon to miss last weekend’s race at the Daytona road course. Kaz Grala finished seventh in place of Dillon.

Dillon had two negative tests more than 24 hours apart, the team confirmed.

Dillon is the third Cup driver to test positive for COVID-19 this season. Jimmie Johnson missed the July 5 Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after testing positive. He returned the following weekend at Kentucky.

Brendan Gaughan, who is running a limited Cup schedule, tested positive in July. He competed in last weekend’s Cup race at Daytona.

In the Truck Series, Spencer Davis missed the Michigan race in August after testing positive. He was cleared to return for the following race on the Daytona road course.

Tony Stewart: ‘It’s time to get Kyle (Larson) back in the sport’

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Tony Stewart said Wednesday he feels “it’s time to get Kyle (Larson) back in sport” following Larson’s indefinite suspension by NASCAR.

Stewart made the comment in an interview Wednesday with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track.”

Larson was suspended by NASCAR and fired by Chip Ganassi Racing in April after he used a racial slur in an iRacing event. Larson discussed what he’s done in the four months since in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

“I made a mistake and I’m paying for it and I accept that,” Larson told the AP. “NASCAR is where I always wanted to be and I do believe I proved I can compete at the Cup level. I’d like to get back there and we’ll see if there’s a way. All I can do is continue to improve myself and let my actions show who I truly am.”

NASCAR confirmed Wednesday that Larson has inquired about reinstatement but not made a formal request.

Larson must make the request to be reinstated.

With Clint Bowyer in a contract year as driver of Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 14 Ford, Stewart was asked by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio whether Larson was an option for the ride.

“I feel like it’s time to get Kyle back in the sport,” Stewart said. “I think he’s paid his dues. I think he served his penalty as far as society is concerned. I think it’s time for NASCAR to let the kid have an opportunity to get back to where he belongs and that’s behind (the wheel) of a stock car.

“I think (Xfinity Series driver) Chase (Briscoe) has done such a great job with us. We have four great drivers in Cup cars now. We got Chase in an Xfinity car and definitely feel like that he’s getting himself into a position to where he’s going to be a Cup car very soon as well. We’ve got a full stable right now and I like the group of guys we’ve got, it’s just a matter of making sure we give them everything they need to get the job done.”

Since his departure from the sport, Larson has dominated the dirt racing circuit. He’s the first driver to win seven straight races in Stewart’s sprint car series.

Stewart also was asked about a report by Sports Business Journal that NASCAR team owners are advocating for a “significant number” of one-day shows for the Cup Series in 2021 due to financial concerns related to the pandemic.

Stewart said he’s “not opposed to it.”

“I definitely understand from the owner’s standpoint and I think it’s saving a lot of these smaller teams, it’s keeping them in business being able to just show up and run the race,” he said. “I think the results on track have been pretty good with it. When I found out (about the strategy of one-day events amid the pandemic), business wise I 1,000% agreed and understood. … I feel like the sport’s in a good spot right now. I definitely see why a lot of the owners want to go that direction. … I think what people don’t realize, even though we’re getting all these races in, the sponsorships that we have on these cars is not paying the bills like it was.

“The sponsors can’t activate at the race track, they can’t entertain their clients and customers at the track like they used to. So literally when you see the sponsors on the side of the car, we’re literally getting pennies on the dollar from these sponsors because a lot of these sponsors have had to cut back because of the pandemic as well.

“So everybody’s having to take, we’ll call it a haircut. Everybody’s having to take a little bit off. We can’t blame the sponsors for it, it’s just part of the pandemic. We’re all working with our sponsors, we’re all doing what we have to to take care of them. But from a business side we have to take care of ourselves too. I think NASCAR’s done a good job of doing these one-day shows.”

Stewart said one-day shows are not “the easiest thing for us to do” but financially, with teams not having to pay for three days of hotel costs, “it’s a very good thing for a lot of the teams to be able to just show up and race.”

Said Stewart: “Even when this pandemic stops and the fans are allowed to come back to the race track, it’s not going to fix the problems in the fallout from this pandemic for the owners and teams. It could take a couple of years before this gets back to normal 100%.”