NASCAR Allows Fan Seating at Bristol's All Star Event
After four months of silence without fans in the stands, a roar of approval greeted NASCAR’s finest this week when a loyal group of racing fans were welcomed back at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. Although privately held venues like Bristol are not required to reveal the number of tickets sold, the track had received the go ahead to make 30,000 tickets available for the NASCAR Open and NASCAR All-Star events that were historically hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. History was made as the races marked the first time All-Star drivers competed on a short track for the non-points paying race for the winner’s purse of one million dollars. Moreover, the annual race needed their fan base back to help select the “Fan’s Favorite” driver (Clint Bowyer) who automatically received a free pass into the All-Star finale.
Just days before the popular NASCAR event, Indy Car had allowed a limited number of spectators to attend an event at Road America where social distancing is never an issue. Indy car fans were spread out under popup tents in lawn chairs across the 4-mile road course that weaves a path through the rolling hills of central Wisconsin near Elkhart Lake. Nonetheless, the Bristol facility offers an enclosed arena-like environment that typically holds 160,000 screaming fans. Moreover, known in racing circles as Thunder Valley, Bristol is the world’s fastest half mile and one of the historic venues on the NASCAR schedule each year. With the coronavirus on everyone’s mind, NASCAR fans honored mandates for wearing masks (required at all times when not in your seat), hand sanitizing, and social-distancing with assigned seats spread high-and-low around the high-banked oval.
At the conclusion of the final stage of the All-Star event, Chase Elliott created another special moment in NASCAR history as only the second father-and-son drivers to win the event. Following in the footsteps of “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” who became the first “Million Dollar Bill” in NASCAR history having won at Atlanta Motor Speedway the first time the All-Star and Open was raced. Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Jr. were the only other driver combination to take home NASCAR’s biggest purse. Even with the restriction on ticket sells at Thunder Valley, the 24-year old Elliott was a very popular win, especially with younger NASCAR fans. Likely the egregious violation of NASCAR’s innovative approach to bringing spectators back occurred after the checkered flag when gregarious fans rushed to the finish line fence in celebration of the evening’s success. The National Hot Rod Association will again allow limited ticket sales at this weekend’s Summernationals at Lucas Oil Speedway in Indianapolis.