With nine days remaining in a statewide stay-at-home order in North Carolina due to the COVID-19 pandemic, five General Assembly Senate Republicans are calling on Governor Roy Cooper to partially reopen Charlotte Motor Speedway.
A press release from Senate Republican Press cited a similar policy established in Florida to open race tracks without fans, with the N.C. legislators wishing to follow suit. On Saturday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed the reopening of beaches and parks with the practice of social distancing.
While NASCAR has been on hiatus since the postponement of events at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 13, the Coca-Cola 600—scheduled for May 24—has been rumored as the first potential opportunity for having race cars back on the track.
Since the first coronavirus case in the United States was reported on Jan. 20, the number has escalated to more than 742,000 as of Sunday. More than 5,000 cases have been confirmed in North Carolina, with by far the greatest number (1,136) in Mecklenburg County of which Charlotte is the county seat.
Paul Newton, the state senator from Cabarrus County, home to Charlotte Motor Speedway, stated, “NASCAR has already demonstrated it can safely run races without fans while practicing social distancing. Gov. Cooper should allow racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway."
Sen. Vickie Sawyer, who represents Iredell County, home to many of NASCAR’s race shops, said, “We should be looking at every safe example of a way to partially reopen society, and fan-less NASCAR racing seems like a simple step that Gov. Cooper can take right now."
Gov. Cooper tweeted a video on March 26 featuring NASCAR champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon imploring race fans to use common sense during the pandemic. He added the caption, “These guys know a thing or two about going fast. But to stop the spread of the new Coronavirus, life is going to slow down for a little bit.”
On March 27, when North Carolina had 763 confirmed coronavirus cases, Cooper announced Executive Order No. 121 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Order, which went into effect on March 30 and is scheduled to expire on April 28, ordered residents to stay at home, reduce the size of gatherings to 10 people and allowed only essential businesses to operate while following social distancing guidelines through the duration.
On Wednesday, Cooper tweeted, “In our new normal, you may see more people wearing masks or having their temperature checked. A restaurant you go into may have tables that are only partially full. The only sporting events or concerts that you may be able to watch for a while will have no in-person crowds.”
Fan-free NASCAR races appear to be a talking point among the senators.
“People are going stir-crazy with very few live sports underway, and allowing NASCAR racing in Charlotte would be a good first step toward returning to some semblance of normalcy,” said Sen. Todd Johnson from Union County. “Gov. Cooper should permit fan-less racing.”
With Gov. Cooper expected to extend the current order, an amendment might be necessary to permit racing with or without fans at Charlotte.
"Opening Charlotte Motor Speedway to races without fans is a measured, practical step that can be taken now, and I urge the Governor to do so,” said Sen. Carl Ford from Rowan County.