Tracks Already Planning for Limited Fans in 2021

One of the lessons tracks learned in 2020 was to plan ahead for fan safety. With a COVID-19 vaccine soon to be available, some may have thought that tracks could operate as they used to. If tracks can return to their normal operations, it may not be until late in the season. The French Grand Prix, a June race yesterday announced that only 15,000 fans would be allowed to attend.

Daytona International Speedway yesterday announced that attendace at the Daytona 500 will be limited to those who have already bought tickets. Those fans’ seats will be reassigned to create social distance. Fans may turn in their tickets, I assume for credit, and those tickets will be sold to the general public until an unspecified attendance limit is reached. This is a procedure that many more venues may follow.

I received this somewhat cryptic message yesterday about the Rolex 24:

Rolex 24 logo Dear Mike,   Thank you for your continued support of Daytona International Speedway. As we look forward to the start of a new IMSA season and continue preparations for the Roar Before The Rolex 24 and Rolex 24 At DAYTONA Weekend, we are more grateful than ever to have the best fans in sports!

We continue to work with our local, state, and health officials regarding fan attendance during both IMSA event weekends. More specific information, such as event details, available fan experiences, and health and safety measures will shared in the upcoming weeks.   With the announcement that NASCAR’s reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott and 7-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson are joining us for this event, we look forward to carrying on the storied tradition of hosting the world’s best drivers for this grueling showcase of man and machine. The Rolex 24 At DAYTONA is sure to once again deliver the pageantry, thrills, and drama for all fans, especially those able to attend in person.   We hope each and every one of you is staying safe, and we look forward to seeing all of you back at the track, hopefully very soon.   Warm Regards, Alternate text

My attendance at the 2021 Rolex is doubtful. I did buy a ticket in order to retain my camping spot. Endurance races in general have many fans spread over a large area. What I saw on television from Sebring and Road Atlanta was a larger than safe number of fans at the track.

At the five tracks I went to this season, I felt safe for the most part. Each track seemed to be better prepared than the one before as far as fan safety and enforcement of protocols.

I think we will see fewer outright race cancellations this coming season, although races may still be postponed until later. Even as many people receive the vaccine, masks will likely still be required for another year. I don’t think pit or paddock access for fans will return in 2021.

The early events on the Indycar schedule may give us a clue to the state of fan limits. I know the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has several contingency plans for May in the works. I think the 500 will run as scheduled with a limited number of fans.

The main thing to keep in mind is that things should improve as 2021 goes on, but that 2022 may be the first completely normal racing season.

I will be back later this afternoon following a press conference at IMS regarding the Race for Equality and Change Program.