Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
Most team sports in the United States have not even returned amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but NASCAR has apparently already reached the stage where it can host tens of thousands of fans.
According to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), up to 30,000 fans were permitted to attend Wednesday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. The report noted “it appeared that at least 20,000 spectators were socially distanced throughout the grandstands, likely making this the largest sporting event in the United States since the winter.”
As a result, the stadium held driver introductions for a race for the first time since NASCAR returned from its hiatus May 17.
“It damn sure feels good to have the fans back at the track,” Clint Bowyer said.
Bowyer was only participating in the All-Star Race because he won the final spot in the 20-driver field via fan vote during the NASCAR All-Star Open that was held prior to the main event at the same speedway. Aric Almirola, William Byron and Matt DiBenedetto also earned spots during the first race by winning the stages.
NASCAR’s All-Star Race is typically held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the AP noted it was moved to Bristol “because Tennessee officials allowed Speedway Motorsports to sell a percentage of the seats.”
North Carolina would not authorize fans to attend.
As for the actual race, Chase Elliott was dominant throughout on his way to his first career All-Star victory.
He won Stages 2 and 3 before holding off Kyle Busch in the 15-lap sprint to the finish during Stage 4. Elliott took home the $1 million prize as a result.