What a difference a year makes. Around this time last year, NASCAR was booming with momentum. The Daytona 500 played host to a sold out crowd that was one of the biggest attended Great American Races in years. Las Vegas, Fontana and Phoenix would each follow with large crowds in attendance in the weeks following as well.
That’s though, when the bottom dropped out.
After that March 8 race at Phoenix a year ago, everything abruptly turned around. COVID was here on our shores and shutdowns began to combat this evil virus. We’re now coming up on the one year anniversary of that fateful week which left the world crippled in fear. The unthinkable happened then. The world stopped.
Now, nearly 365 days later, everything is coming back around full circle again and starting to turn back the other way. In terms of NASCAR specifically, fans are starting to come back once again too. It’s the complete opposite now as it was around this time last year.
Last March, NASCAR halted action for over two months. Their return in May looked nothing like they did when they paused the week following Phoenix. We had basically a new schedule, with enhanced safety protocols which included no fans in the grandstands.
The first seven races back were behind closed doors. That included the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend. Homestead, was the first to welcome some fans back but it was limited to around 1k. Talladega hosted a little bit more fans the following week before going back behind closed doors for Pocono, Indy and Kentucky.
The Bristol All-Star race was the biggest crowd at nearly 30k on that July night, with Texas going even bigger that following weekend. The next three weeks would go behind closed doors again including four of the final six of the regular season. Only Daytona at that point had held fans but again, it was a limited capacity.
The playoffs saw Darlington, Bristol, Talladega, the ROVAL, Kansas, Texas, Martinsville and Phoenix all host fans. Still, all were very limited.
That’s how we got here today. We’re two races into the season, the third on Sunday and many more to come. As we sit here in late February, it seems that every race though at the very least Memorial Day weekend will have fans in the stands. While it’s not full houses, the capacities are at least moving up.
Most races are between 20-30% capacity limits right now, which is a huge step. Instead of moving backwards like we were around this point last year, with fear that life may never look the same, we’re moving forwards with more and more fans being welcomed back as time goes on.
Here’s the plans for each race starting with this weekend though the Coke 600 on May 30.
- Las Vegas – seeking 20% (max guidelines) which would be around 25k. Tickets here
- Phoenix – seating around 20% (8-9k). Tickets here
- Atlanta – Tickets here
- Bristol – Tickers are sold out.
- Martinsville – Current max ix 1k but per release, “if current trends continue, then venues may be able to oprate at 30% capacity with no cap on the number of people permitted to attend starting in April.” Tickets here
- Richmond – Same as above since in the same state. Tickets here
- Talladega – No announcement yet on fans for 2021, but both races held fans last year. Tickets here
- Kansas – No announcement yet on fans for 2021 either, but fans held in October and tickets on sale already here
- Darlington – Fans allowed for the May race now. Tickets here
- Dover – Sporting venues limited to 250 people. This is the 1st race that could be affected.
- COTA – No official announcement yet on how many fans, but tickets are on sale here
- Charlotte – 30% capacity allowed. Tickets here
Sonoma is next after Charlotte, but with California being behind everywhere else, there’s no word yet on if Sonoma will be on the schedule or left off. Fontana was canceled this past year, so will Sonoma follow suit? They weren’t on the schedule last year and can they afford to host a race in June without fans?