BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL)- The world’s fastest half-mile will host NASCAR’s All-Star Race on July 15th. While it won’t be a packed house, the race has been given the green light to have up to 30,000 fans in attendance at Bristol Motor Speedway. The race was moved from Charlotte to Bristol after an increase in COVID-19 cases in North Carolina.
Local health officials, like Dr. Stephen May of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, hope the mass gathering doesn’t lead to a spike in cases in Northeast Tennessee.
“Yes, I am concerned. But I think they’ve taken appropriate safety reactions in their planning,” said Dr. May.
Some of those safety reactions from Bristol Motor Speedway include added hand sanitizer stations, limiting guests in suites, and social-distancing crowds in the stands and concession lines.
Dr. May praised the speedway’s safety plans.
“They’ve worked with multiple organizations. It’s not just [the Sullivan County Health Department]. It’s not just Nashville, it’s not just the CDC,” he said. “They’ve worked with their NASCAR organization, multiple different organizations have come together to formulate this plan. And of course the next challenge would be the execution.”
With 30,000 fans allowed at the stadium for the All-Star Race, the venue that can hold over 150,000 won’t be anywhere close to full.
“We’ve got low [case] numbers, which allows us to even consider such type of an event,” Dr. May said.
Dr. May said Northeast Tennessee is experiencing the lowest coronavirus case rates in the state. He hopes bringing fans back to Bristol won’t change that.
“The proof will be in the pudding. If we see a large spike two weeks after the race then we may be able to tie that back,” he said.
Those buying tickets on the BMS website will also see references to a waiver for assumption of risk due to COVID-19. It says in part: “Although preventative measures set forth by the facility are intended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit.”
The waiver on the BMS website lists other health guidance for fans attending. This includes possible temperature and health question screenings prior to entry. Mask-wearing is also encouraged.
Campgrounds around the track say they’re trying to help mitigate the spread by spacing out campers.
“We’re going to have handwashing stations, portable toilets, our showerhouse will be cleaned more often. All areas that get touched very often will be cleaned regularly,” said Aaron Earhart, co-owner of Earhart Campground.
Despite any risks, excitement over the race’s surprise move to Bristol can’t be stopped. Earhart said fans are already calling in to make reservations at the campground.
“We’re very happy to hopefully get some of our campers back here, some of our fans, and reunite with some of the Earhart Campground family we’ve been missing this year,” he said.