For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the state of Texas will see a sporting event with fans in the stands. On Friday, Texas Motor Speedway announced it will admit spectators for the NASCAR Cup Series‘ O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on 19 July. Those who had bought tickets for the race in March prior to its postponement are first in line to secure their grandstand seating.
“Texans are eager for sporting and entertainment events to return, and this is a great step towards that goal,” Texas governor Greg Abbott stated. “As we continue to open Texas, it is essential that we do so in a way that keeps Texans safe and limits the spread of COVID-19. Texas Motor Speedway has put a tremendous amount of work, time, and energy into ensuring that this race meets all the necessary safety and health standards, and I applaud them for this effort.”
In the wake of the pandemic, NASCAR has run much of its races without fans, but began easing up on restrictions for its June races. Last Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was the first race since the season resumption in May with spectators as a thousand military personnel and various special guests attended. The upcoming GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway will increase attendance to 5,000 with eligible attendees being those within a 150-mile radius. The NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, scheduled for four days before the O’Reilly 500, will admit up to 30,000.
The O’Reilly 500 was initially scheduled for late March before being postponed due to the pandemic and the city of Fort Worth, where TMS is located, consequently being placed under a state of emergency. In April, Abbott cleared the way for racing to return at the 1.5-mile track, with the NTT IndyCar Series kicking off its 2020 season there in June without spectators. IndyCar’s first races with attendance, the Iowa 250s at Iowa Speedway, will come on the same weekend as the O’Reilly 500.
Social distancing measures will continue to be in place for the race, while infield access will be closed off. Fans are permitted to carry food in clear baggage while coolers are banned to minimise contact at security checks.
“As with any public event or gathering, I urge all Texans to make smart decisions to protect their health, including wearing a face mask, washing their hands, and practicing social distancing,” Abbott added. “Texans are excited for NASCAR and are ready to return to the grandstands, and I thank Texas Motor Speedway for making sure that we do this in a safe and smart way.”
The Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races, which will be held the day before the Cup Series, will continue to have races without fans.