Florida, North Carolina Officials Push for May NASCAR Return04/20/2020
Lawmakers in North Carolina are calling on state Gov. Roy Cooper to deem NASCAR Cup Series shops as essential while reopening Charlotte Motor Speedway in advance of a Memorial Day weekend event.
The pressure began mounting in the days following Florida Gov. Ron Desantis declaring a plan to reopen his state economy—specifically calling a plan to host empty venue sporting events such as NASCAR.
Homestead, Florida, mayor Steven Losner would like to host the first NASCAR race back at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which was postponed last month due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We would welcome the opportunity to be the host community for the first race, with or without fans,” Losner said. “The event would send a strong signal that things are better and reopening the NASCAR season here would be very symbolic of recovery as the track was envisioned for Homestead as one of the first anchors of our recovery from Hurricane Andrew.”
But even if Florida welcomed NASCAR with figurative arms wide open, team employees have not been deemed essential to return to work and prepare cars from the North Carolina race shops.
In a report filed from WBTV-CBS in Charlotte, state senators from Gaston, Cabarrus, Union, Iredell and Rowan counties in North Carolina joined together to call for the governor to reopen race shops and prepare for racing activities.
“NASCAR has already demonstrated it can safely run races without fans while practicing social distancing,” Sen. Paul Newton, of Cabarrus County, said in a press release.
“People are going stir crazy with very few live sports underway,” Union County Sen. Todd Johnson said. “And allowing NASCAR racing in Charlotte would be a good first step toward returning to some semblance of normalcy. Gov. Cooper should permit fan-less racing.”
State Sens. Kathy Harrington, Vickie Sawyer and Carl Ford also backed the plan.
A total of eight races have been postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. NASCAR most recently postponed the inaugural Martinsville Speedway night race scheduled for May 9 with the Commonwealth of Virginia under a stay-at-home order through June.
Speedway Motorsports president and CEO Marcus Smith told WBTV on Sunday night that he would prefer to run the Coca-Cola 600 with fans in attendance but didn’t reject the idea of contesting an empty venue race.
“Our desire is to run the Coca-Cola 600 with fans as originally scheduled on May 24, but we realize these are unprecedented circumstances and the parameters surrounding public gatherings remain a primary consideration,” Smith said. “We look forward to working with Gov. Cooper in an effort that will allow race fans to once again enjoy action on the track as we all work through these challenging times. For 60 years, this race has been a Memorial Day Weekend tradition at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and we want to do everything possible to support NASCAR, the dozens of race teams in North Carolina and the fans to get back on track. We will work with the governor, state and local government and health officials to make that happen.”
The most recent NASCAR weekend took place at Phoenix Raceway, with the series at Atlanta Motor Speedway when a national state of emergency was declared on March 13.
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