What if NASCAR held a race and no one showed up?
With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the sanctioning body has decided to do just that.
As of Thursday afternoon, the show will go on at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway—excluding non-essential personnel from the tracks. And that includes race fans.
NASCAR released the following statement:
“At this time, NASCAR will hold its race events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway without fans in attendance. These events will be restricted to competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race. We will work with public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events.”
IndyCar posted a similar statement regarding its season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg but added, “This protocol is being put in place to protect the health and welfare of the fans, drivers, teams, workers and officials, as we mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon, there were 1,412 confirmed cases of coronavirus in all but five stages throughout the U.S. and 39 reported deaths.
The NASCAR and IndyCar announcements came on the heels of decisions from the NBA, which elected to suspend its season following last night's games and, and Major League Baseball, which has canceled the remainder of spring training as of Thursday and will delay opening day by at least two weeks. The National Hockey League agreed to “pause” the 2019-2020 season. Every NCAA conference tournament were called off for this weekend as well.
The NHRA’s sportsman categories competed on Thursday—sans spectators—but the remainder of the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals have been postponed. Supercross canceled its Seattle event scheduled for March 28. There has been no word on whether Saturday’s Supercross in Indianapolis will continue as scheduled. ARCA has postponed this weekend’s Menard’s Series East race at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.
Atlanta Motor Speedway released the following statement on Thursday: “In consideration of fan and industry stakeholder safety, NASCAR events scheduled March 13-15 at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be held without spectators.
“Ticket holders on file for these events will receive full credit toward AMS purchases for grandstand seating, infield access, camping, fan hospitality and pit passes. the credit will be applicable towards any Speedway Motorsports NASCAR race in the remainder of 2020 or the 2021 season.
“We regret the inconvenience of these circumstances and appreciate your patience and understanding. Further questions should be directed to the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at 770-946-4211.
AMS is expected to open the truck garage at 11 a.m. on Friday. The first on-track activity is truck practice at 1:35 p.m., followed by Xfinity Series practice (2:35 p.m.) and Cup practice (3:35 p.m.). All three series qualify on Saturday with the green flag for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. The NASCAR Cup will start at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
For fans with tickets for Homestead-Miami Speedway, the track is expected to release ticket exchange details in the next two days.