BRISTOL, TENN. – On Wednesday night Bristol Motor Speedway hosted the largest gathering of fans at a sporting event in America since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
About 30,000 people attended NASCAR’s All-Star Race and they had a list of rules to follow. It felt a lot like a normal race, just with fewer people. The cars roared under the lights of the track and if you kept your eyes on the cars you might not have noticed a difference.
Eric Bennett came in from Nashville to see the race.
“I’ve been looking forward to it since they announced that they’re having fans back. Being in the crowd being in the atmosphere, hearing the cars in person as opposed to just on tv it will definitely be a great feeling,” Bennett said.
But that was where the normalcy ended. NASCAR and the track required fans to wear masks, stay distant and limited the race to a quarter capacity. David Adcock of Shelbyville, Tennessee is a NASCAR die hard, but not a huge fan of the mask.
“I guess they have to do it because of a lot of pressures from a lot of other people. I don’t feel the need, just to be honest with you. I mean what are you going to catch out here,” Adcock said.
Plenty of other people, like Bennett, were happy to follow the rules. He said wearing his mask is worth the trade-off to attend a live sporting event.
“It’s hot, that’s for sure. I wish they came with a beer flap, it’s definitely going to help just nationwide, worldwide, just help get events like this back,” Bennett said.
For a place that hosts record crowds, it was strange to see the grandstand so sparse. But Inge Werts brought her family from Atlanta to their first race and she had no worries about coming.
“I feel pretty comfortable with it, with the amount of people they’ve put in, they’ve made a lot of provisions and I think that we all need to be wearing our masks to fight this,” Werts said.