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NASCAR will start allowing fans back in stands Sunday; up to 5,000 fans will be allowed at Talladega next week

The green flag flies on a new season of NASCAR. (Nascarking/Wikimedia Commons)

NASCAR was the first sport to come back after a long coronavirus hiatus, and it’ll now be the first sport to welcome back fans.

NASCAR will allow 1,000 Florida service members to attend Sunday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, executive vice president Daryl Wolfe announced Tuesday. For next Sunday’s race at Talladega, NASCAR will allow 5,000 fans into the grandstand.

According to the announcement, guests will be “screened before entering, required to wear face coverings, mandated to social distance at 6 feet, and will not have access to the infield, among other revised operational protocols.” NASCAR has held five Cup Series races in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia since returning on May 17 but has raced in front of empty grandstands at all of those events.

The upcoming races in Florida and Alabama will be the first major American sporting events in front of spectators since mid-March.

“We have tremendous respect and appreciation for the responsibility that comes with integrating guests back into our events,” Wolfe said in a statement. “We believe implementing this methodical process is an important step forward for the sport and the future of live sporting events. The passion and unwavering support of our industry and fans is the reason we race each weekend and we look forward to slowly and responsibly welcoming them back at select events.”

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Social distancing appears attainable at both tracks, considering Homestead-Miami has a capacity of 46,000 seats and Talladega being able to hold between 80,000 and 175,000 fans, based on its configuration. For the Talladega race, NASCAR will also allow limited motorhome camping spots to be occupied outside the track.

Other sports leagues are beginning to look at ways to welcome fans back to their events in the coming months. The PGA Tour plans to have fans at the Memorial Tournament in Ohio mid-July. Major League Baseball is planning on letting teams decide whether they’ll have fans in attendance for games based on local and state regulations about large gatherings.

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