Texas Motor Speedway is not going to make it mandatory for fans to wear masks if they attend NASCAR’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on July 19. At least not unless the state or Denton County makes it mandatory like Tarrant County has done to slow the spread of coronavirus.
But track president Eddie Gossage said they are strongly encouraging fans to wear masks if they attend next month’s race.
“Folks need to wear a mask. Good common sense,” Gossage said. “We strongly encourage people to wear masks. I will be wearing one, personally.”
Along with Gossage, the rest of the TMS staff, vendors and NASCAR personnel will be wearing masks during the race, even though, they are not being required for fans.
TMS is allowed to host up to 62,500 fans at next month’s race as the state is allowing outdoor sports venues to hold up to 50% capacity. TMS is not expecting to draw close to that many fans.
Gossage pointed to a recent study he saw where 85% of baseball fans said they would not attend a game this season, fearing mass gatherings amid the global pandemic.
“Most folks are leery to venture out to that extent yet,” Gossage said. “Don’t know when that will change. We’re going to sell tickets to everybody that wants one and we’ve got so much room it won’t be a problem.”
Gossage, though, said it’s “too soon to say” what the final attendance number will be when it becomes the first major sporting event to allow fans in the state.
Gossage is excited to see fans back in the stands and so are drivers.
As Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 Ford in the Cup Series, said: “A lot of drivers, from what I understand, have said not having fans has not made that big of difference. I’ve never been able to agree with that. It’s so much different. The energy level at our race track when we don’t have our fans there to be around it and to cheer on and tailgate and have that energy built up … having fans back is an awesome step in the right direction for us.
“It makes us excited that we know it’s getting back to a little bit more normal in our lives. It’s not completely that way, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
TMS hosted the state’s first major sporting event when it started its reopening process earlier this month with the IndyCar race on June 6. Since then, the PGA Tour restarted its season without fans during the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club June 11-14.